Author Taylor Hunt is teaching people struggling with addiction a new tool for recovery: Ashtanga Yoga. His charity works with treatment centers, halfway houses, and prisons.
Taylor Hunt recently broke his anonymity and published a gritty memoir of his drug addiction, A Way from Darkness. The way out, he found, was the 12-step program coupled with Ashtanga Yoga — a dynamic series of physical poses and breath work — which he now teaches at the center he founded in Columbus, Ohio and around the world.
Now, he has quit his successful business and started the Trini Foundation, a charity that supplies free Ashtanga teachers to rehabs and free lessons to people struggling with addiction. So what is it about Ashtanga that transforms lives? And how does it dovetail with the 12 steps? The Fix decided to find out.
What is the Trini Foundation?
We are teaching people struggling with addiction a new tool for recovery: Ashtanga Yoga. We are working with treatment centers, halfway houses and prisons. Some people come in off the streets and right into yoga and the 12 steps. They might be two months sober or two weeks sober.
It’s also happening at our home studio in Columbus where we provide free memberships for people struggling with addiction. It was pretty cool because it changed the feel of our entire community to have those people join us.
How does it work?
We raise funds for our scholarship program that currently runs in Dallas, Atlanta, Chatanooga and Napa, as well as Columbus.
Our clients go through an interview process first and we ask them to commit to training at least three days a week. We check up on them every month.
About 20 scholarships have happened. They cost about $80 per student, per month. So far, 70% of them have stayed for the ten months we have been operating.
We also supply Ashtanga teachers to rehabs. The foundation pays their salary but the rehab gets them and a bunch of mats for free.
How do you train your yoga teachers to deal with drug users?
I travel around the U.S. teaching workshops; every weekend I’m somewhere. So, I have these yoga schools that know me and I have been able to train teachers at these schools to become part of Trini.
They come to Columbus and learn with us for an entire week. They practice yoga with us every morning and, in the afternoon, we teach them about anatomy and how to specifically train ex-drug users.
What is the difference between training ex-drug users and regular yoga students?
Our teachers must be sensitive to trauma because, when you practice Ashtanga, latent emotions can show up. You see people cry on their mats sometimes. For people struggling with trauma, it must be a supportive community. There must be an open dialogue between the teacher and student.
We have online forums to facilitate that, and so our clients can communicate privately with their teachers or the Trini Foundation community. A lot of our teachers are ex-addicts, so they know what the sponsorship role looks like and how to translate that into the yoga community.
Are you replacing the 12 steps?
I think Ashtanga and the 12 steps support each other. The steps gave me an opportunity to look society in the eyes and yoga made me a better person. The steps helped me get better with my past and yoga helped me become secure in myself and live my passion. I don’t think one without the other is as good as both.
We ask everyone in our program to have a 12-step sponsor, and we tell them to work the program but it’s not mandatory.
For more information on the Trini Foundation and how it helps provide yoga services to recovering addicts, head over to the full article How To Make the 12 Steps More Effective: Add Yoga at The Fix.