FEATURE: YOGA AND ADDICTION RECOVERY
Slaying the Pink Elephant
Taylor Hunt is serious business. He’s a
Level 2 Authorized Ashtanga teacher,
one of only about 100 in the world. He’s
at the helm of Ashtanga Yoga Columbus, teaching as many as forty students
a day in Ohio’s capital during the week
and traveling all over the country--and
sometimes world--on the weekends to
teach workshops. He practices six days
a week, no matter what, and he expects
his students to do the same, coining the
hashtag #bringyourasstoclass. And he
could recognize that there was a problem, but you didn’t know that there was
Hunt is the proud parent of Makayla
and Isaiah and husband to Jessica, and
the whole family travels to India for two
months every year to study with Sharath
Jois, the living master of Ashtanga. Along
with Jessica and Dawn Blevins, one of his
assistants, he launched the Trini Foundation, a nonprofit that supports recovering
addicts. He’s also an author. In February, he released A Way From Darkness,
a memoir that’s moving readers to tears
and receiving rave reviews.
TH: Well, the last time, I wanted it even
less…Before going in the last time, I lost
all of my convictions, all of my morals…and I was doing stuff that was not
healthy and bad for society.
His life wasn’t always this full. A decade
ago, Hunt was hanging out in crackhouses, shooting up heroin and speedballs, and selling guns illegally. The first
time he injected heroin, he stopped
breathing for four minutes. He’s lucky to
be alive. Emma Hudelson from Indiana
Yoga Magazine sat down to chat with
Hunt in his home, surrounded by the
sounds of his children playing and their
new French Bulldog puppy barking.
EH: You just finished a book that tells
your whole story of recovery. Can you
give me the short version?
TH: There is no short version. It was years
of me coming to terms with figuring out
that I needed to change. It started with
moments of clarity…I remember crushing up Oxycontins [on the sink] and the
pill slips out and goes down the pipes,
and I rip the whole sink apart to find
it. There’s something wrong there, and
when I first went into treatment, I had
never heard that there was a solution.
EH: In those moments of clarity, you
INDIANA & YOGA MAGAZINE ISSUE I
TH: Yeah. As I had those moments,
it reached a pinnacle where I was like,
ok, what’s the solution? Or is there one?
And I was going to kill myself as a result
of not knowing the answer.
EH: I know it took you a few tries to get
sober. What was different for you the
EH: Such as?
TH: Hanging out at crackhouses and
selling guns to people who shouldn’t
have guns…I was part of a bunch of
people that were just bad. One lady was
stealing, one was a prostitute, one was a
pimp, one was a burglar, one was running a drug ring out of the crackhouse.
I wasn’t doing any of that, but I was involved in it by witnessing it and being in
I’m frail…I didn’t want to live, but they
were forcing me to [get treatment], so I
thought, “I guess I’m going to do it.” After I was chemically withdrawn from the
drugs, I had another moment of clarity,
where I realized that I did want to live.
EH: What was different between that
moment of clarity, where you decided
you wanted to live, and the other ones,
where you only recognized that you had
TH: I had a solution at that point. I knew
that I could surrender to something.
I’ve heard people say surrender to win
and that never made sense to me, but
in that instant, it did. I surrendered to a
program that I didn’t really want to do,
but I surrendered to it and I did what
people with good sobriety said I was
supposed to do. Once I aligned my behavior with what they were telling me to
do, I was able to get better.
And I kind of live my life like that, too.
I pay attention to what other people are
saying… I think we need to listen more
and talk less.
EH: You found Ashtanga within your
first year of recovery?
EH: So how did you end up walking
through the door [of a treatment center]?
TH: During my first serious attempt
at sobriety, yes, I found it at about six
TH: I was kicking and screaming as [my
family] drove me up there. I was pinned
in a corner: you either do this or you
lose everything. Family, house, all this
stuff. I reluctantly went in.
EH: What did you get out of that first
class that made you come back?
The disease at that point had such a
grip that…it seemed like it was better to
do what I was doing than to change. I
didn’t feel worth it…They’d tell me that
I needed recovery and I would be like,
it’s probably better if I’m no longer here.
They pack my bag and set it on the curb,
and I walk in. My arms are beat up
from all of the needles. I’m skinny, I’m
not eating, I can’t go to the bathroom.
TH: It worked. The first class, I got done
and I was angry…I had no frame of
reference for what yoga was supposed
to look and feel like. I definitely didn’t
think it was going to bring up my perfectionism, my compulsive or competitive nature, and it did. Like I said to my
sponsor, “I don’t know if I should do
this. It made me feel too vulnerable.”
And he said, “So basically, you’re telling me it worked too good?” And he
laughed, because he knew.
EH: How did it make you feel vulnerable?