Mar. 18—Taylor Hunt's journey certainly hasn't been an easy one. Years back, the Ohio native found himself deep in the throws of a heroin addiction, one that offered little hope of a future.
But in the depths of despair, Hunt found yoga and the ancient practice played a pivotal role in helping him claw his way out.
It's a story that he shares in his book, "A Way from Darkness," a raw and powerful tale of his path to sobriety. In one excerpt, Hunt offers an unflinching look at his early recovery and beginnings of his yoga practice.
"I can feel the pain in my arms as I drive. They hurt all the time and still bear the marks of heroin addiction. They are covered in needle scars from using them as human pincushions while I shot up as many as 30 times a day," he wrote.
"I have permanent black lines as thick as cables running down my left forearm and across my elbow. My muscles are in a state of atrophy and I look frail, damaged."
But over time, yoga — particularly Ashtanga Yoga — helped him to heal. The system, developed in Mysore, India, has changed Hunt's life. And over the years, he returned to the source to practice with the lineage holder, Sharath Jois. Hunt received a level two authorization to teach Ashtanga Yoga directly from Jois.
Today, he has his own yoga school, Ashtanga Yoga Columbus in Columbus, Ohio. Hunt has traveled extensively to share the practice, as well as his personal story of recovery. He also heads the Trini Foundation, a nonprofit that uses yoga as a means of helping addicts maintain sobriety.
It's a story that he will soon share with the Golden Isles. Hunt has been invited by one of his local students, Ayla Wilson, to come to the area for a two-day workshop April 2 and 3 at CrossFit St. Simons.
On Friday, he will offer what's called a Dharma Talk, sharing his story. On Saturday morning, Hunt will lead an Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series class, followed by an afternoon session on transitions within the practice. Each can be attended individually or grouped together.
Hunt says it will be a comprehensive way to become familiar with Ashtanga Yoga and the method of teaching.
"Ashtanga Yoga is a system from Mysore, India, and the really unique thing is how we teach it. There are two different ways — in a guided format or in what is known as 'Mysore style,' which is named after the city. In that format, it is basically being taught to the individual," he said.
Ashtanga Yoga offers a set sequence of postures, beginning with sun salutations, standing poses, seated, backbends and finishing. Each series builds, layering more challenging postures through the Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A and Advanced B sequences. Students are given postures at their teacher's discretion and progress under their guidance.
In a Mysore class, each student does his or her own practice as the teacher moves through the room offering aid and adjustments. In a led practice, the teacher verbally leads students through the sequence in a group format. Led classes are set to a Sanskrit count, similar to dance. Each count is linked to breath and movement called a vinyasa.
Regardless of the format, though, Hunt says the outcome remains the same.
"Along the way, the student becomes stronger and more flexible," he said.
While the Ashtanga method often takes years to learn and develop, Hunt's workshop will offer practitioners of all levels the chance to experience a bit of this tradition.
"It will give them a taste of what the practice is like and what it has to offer," he said.
And even beyond the physical benefits of improved strength and flexibility, Hunt points to the mental peace the system cultivates.
"The biggest thing for me is to share my story about getting sober and how the practice offered a way for me to deal with my anxiety and depression. It gave me an ability to understand by body," Hunt said.
"It also helped me see all of the mental stories I told myself about myself. I think that today that's really relevant, especially considering what everyone has been going through with the pandemic and the range of emotions being felt. The practice is intense yet also meditative with the movement and the breath. It gives you a way out of that mind chatter that can bring people down."
Hunt's hope with his St. Simons Island workshop, as with his other programs, is to inspire hope and share a practice that quite literally helped to save his life.
"From my standpoint, I'm just trying to give back for everything that it's given to me," he said.