Recovery and Healing

I started teaching in treatment centers for drug and addiction recovery back in early fall of 2015. And, I remain a part of those communities today. The practice of Ashtanga yoga has personally transformed my own life in so many ways and I feel compelled to share what I have learned with others in hopes that yoga will work it's magic on them as well. It is truly a path towards healing the physical, mental and emotional body. And, brings more awareness around the choices we are making for ourselves and whether or not they are serving us. I will never know the extent of their struggle or how much strength they need to overcome the disease they are fighting, but I have been privileged enough to see growth in their process through this timeless and effective practice. I am blessed to witness their hard work and willingness to transform themselves and get the help they need. The individuals in these centers are working so hard to make their lives better. By teaching them a yoga practice, they now have an ongoing tool for their recovery as well as a road to healthy living and wellness.

I began teaching just once a week, which over time would turn into three days a week at the treatment center. Over the past 17 months, I have truly built some incredible relationships with these individuals. And we have covered a lot of ground within the practice of Ashtanga. We spent the first few months doing a short class of asana practice and the remainder of the time discussing the 8 limbs of yoga with an emphasis on the Yamas and Niyamas, which lay the groundwork toward better living. Reviewing these key aspects gave them a bit more perspective on the power of yoga and how it can be a positive tool for their recovery process and path toward healing.

As time went on, their physical practice began to grow as well as their mental and emotional capacity to handle more instruction. And so slowly the class became a heavier focus on asana. This is when we really began to dive deeper into the transformative power this practice can have on the individual and their recovery process. Also, it was during this time that the practice began to bring up some more serious or uncomfortable feelings, emotions and past traumas. As I began to witness the intensity of their individual situations I realized the importance of creating a “safe” place for them, free of judgement and creating a relationship of trust.

We began to take time out of class to write about what was coming up for them in practice and then giving them the option to share that with the group, keep it to themselves or discuss it with their counselor. Truly, I want them to know that it is a safe place for them and that they can be as open and honest as they need to be with me at all times, so when things come up that are hard to deal with they know they can talk to me. This provides an opportunity for me to show them the power of yoga and how the practice can help them change their response to some of their behaviors or old patterns, how to positively redirect their emotions and overcome negative impulses. Probably one of the biggest benefits of yoga in the treatment centers has been in encouraging them to share the things that come up with their counselors so that they are able to process what is happening in the yoga room with constant help, guidance and support.

Within the past few months, I have been floored to see the amount of transformation that has taken place in these individuals. Their mental, emotional and physical capabilities have made giant leaps. They are able to stay on their mats without talking for nearly an hour, where as in the beginning it was difficult to hold their attention for 5 minutes. The way they walk into the room has changed, from slouched shoulders to standing up tall. The way they talk about themselves has gone from critical to loving and encouraging. The choices they make about what they put into their bodies has even changed. They have gained incredible amounts of stability and balance. And they laugh and smile at themselves instead of beating themselves up for not being able to do something. They come to class ready to learn, instead of ready to take a nap. They are excited about their practice and because of the set sequence of postures they are able to see the progress they are making and how their hard work pays off. They can see their recovery process on their mat.

The next phase of working with them was introducing Mysore style. It took a long time to get to this point, but it was my long term goal all along. I felt that they needed to have a practice of their own. I began to ask the treatment center if I could come in and spend more time with them. I felt the need to be there more in order for me to really begin to help them and teach them a daily practice. We have been doing Mysore style classes 2 days a week now and a led class on Fridays and the results have exceeded my expectations. This style of teaching and the Ashtanga yoga practice in particular has proven to be incredibly beneficial to someone in recovery. I am able to work with each person on an individual basis addressing everyone's needs. They can move at their own pace giving them a sense of being “in control” of their own bodies and ultimately a feeling of gaining back control of their life. Something within them began to change, I started to notice an increase in confidence yet also humbleness. The aspect of memorizing the sequence creates a sense of empowerment within them. And the amount of focus that has been cultivated in them will be hugely beneficial as they make their way back into the working world and for some of them college.

They became yoga students. They wanted to learn. They were showing up on time and look forward to the class. I wanted them to feel empowered and independent, to know that they can make it happen. They can make all their dreams come true. And most of all that they could find love for themselves on the yoga mat and they could overcome the disease by creating a daily practice that supported their road to health and recovery.

Sometimes I wonder who is learning more.... me or them? Truth is, I have learned so much from them and I feel honored to be a part of their growth and transformation, and to be accepted into their lives as a teacher, friend and role model. 

Written by a Trini Foundation instructor

Willingness to Try Something New

The opportunity to practice Ashtanga yoga for the last three months has been a big challenge and very rewarding. I am full of gratitude for the teachers, sponsors, and friends I've met along this path that have quite literally saved my life.

My addiction isolated me. I hated my life, myself, and just wanted to run away. Accepting help was practically impossible. Eventually, I got desperate enough to keep coming back, to start those 12 steps, and try every day, I got happier, and life is opening up again.

This practice is so similar in that way, the discipline of regular practice, facing my weaknesses, being vulnerable and asking for help, the willingness to try something new. Don't you know how undisciplined I am? What a broken person I've become? I'll never be able to do that. I can't. Yoga, recovery, spirituality, etc... won't work for me...

It has worked. I feel like I'm really walking in the right direction, it's a very strange feeling!!! I'm also not alone anymore. Very grateful.

Written by Chris S., a Trini sholarship recipient in Napa, CA

Surfacing Old Wounds

I moved to Columbus, Ohio to enter drug and alcohol treatment a little over 2 years ago.  I didn't know what to expect, but I remained open to trying new things to better myself.  I decided it was in my best interest to be healthy in all aspects of my life, so when I was offered the chance to try Ashtanga yoga at Amethyst, a local treatment center, I jumped at the opportunity.  I practiced once a week for nearly nine months while in treatment, then I was told about a scholarship through the Trini Foundation that I could apply for to practice more often and in a different setting.  I loved that the practice was making me physically stronger, and something in my heart was compelled to try.  I applied and was accepted for the scholarship.

I began practice at Ashtanga Yoga Columbus about three months ago.  I was very intimidated when I first started.  I thought I didn't have the right clothes, the right mat, or the right body type to be practicing yoga.  I wasn't even aware that I had all of these insecurities within myself.  The Ashtanga yoga practice brought to the surface age old wounds that I had buried and denied for years.  I stuck it out when every fiber of my being wanted to run.  It has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done.  My head and my heart are more connected and I am able to be kinder to myself.  I am aware of my feelings and I believe yoga did that for me.  I wonder if and how long I would have continued on before these things emerged.  I am physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger than I've ever been in my life.  I look forward to seeing how my practice and I evolve in the years to come.  I can't imagine my life without the practice and I am eternally grateful to the people who made this all possible.

Written by Amanda, a Trini scholarship recipient

Ashtanga Yoga Is the Thread Holding Me Together...

Ashtanga yoga is the thread holding me together in early sobriety. First, it gives me a safe base where I am not judged and I do not judge anyone else. It gives me purpose each day. Since cravings or triggers can happen at any time, I now have a priority that stands taller than my addiction. Yoga has also brought up curiosity in my mind. I question the poses, breathe, and focus. For the first time in a very long time, I am not afraid to learn about religions or spiritual matters and explore what my soul craves. Each practice feels like solving math problems with my whole body. It is hard and frustrating, but feels fantastic once something clicks. There is no end result. It is a lifestyle. Lastly, yoga provides a healthy community. We are all on our own paths, but we stand together with the same goal – to be better people.

It has been seven months since I checked myself into rehab. I had hit rock bottom and felt isolated and alone. I felt used up and worthless after working in a nightclub for two years and thinking my only thing of value was my body. But something in me knew there was a way out; I just cannot do it alone. My therapist gave me Taylor Hunt’s book, Away from Darkness. A dim light began to grow inside me. I was hopeful.

It took me almost a month to get the courage to go to a class, but I did it. It was so intimidating. I am a performing artist with a degree in dance…how embarrassing that I can’t do these poses. Today, I got up at 4:45am for a led class. That used to always be my bedtime. I am only four months in and I am stuck on Marichyasana D, but I am no longer discouraged. I am so proud of myself for not running away. I have beautiful people who say hello and ask me how I am doing. This is still such a new community and lifestyle and of course I fear it. Will I keep coming? Am I capable of this kind of discipline? I take it day by day. One thing I do know is that I have changed. I am moving closer to the path I am meant for. Even on the bad days, I know I have found a very strong thread.

Written by an Ashtanga Yoga Columbus student in recovery

Trini Foundation Press Release

The picture of a yoga practitioner today is often in stark contrast to that of someone who once battled drug addiction. Social media feeds are filled with pictures of fit bodies doing seemingly difficult postures amid beautiful scenery. It’s easy to make assumptions about a person’s life and background from such photos. Taylor Hunt, local Authorized Level 2 Ashtanga yoga teacher, business owner (www.ashtangayogacolumbus.com), and author, is breaking down those boundaries and redefining perceptions about yoga’s ability to change people’s lives. Hunt’s recently published book, A Way From Darkness (www.awayfromdarkness.com), chronicles his decline into the depths of drug addiction and offers an inspiring story of redemption as yoga helps him turn his life around. It’s a shockingly brave and honest account that leaves the reader feeling empowered to conquer personal struggles, whether they involve addiction or other difficulties.

Hunt, along with other members of the yoga community in Columbus, recently started a 501c3 non-profit organization called the Trini Foundation (www.trinifoundation.org) to help other addicts. The foundation’s mission is to support the recovery process through the transformative practice of Ashtanga yoga. Hunt explains his decision to establish the Trini Foundation:

As I learned more about yoga, I discovered that the principles of recovery and the principles of Ashtanga yoga are highly complementary to each other. Combined, they provide an effective tool for self-transformation. Because my life has been profoundly affected by yoga, I want to share the practice with as many people as possible. I am no longer ashamed of my story. The more I talk with others about it, the more I realize that we have all struggled with something. I don’t want anyone to feel like they are alone.

In addition to yoga classes, the Trini Foundation partners with wellness professionals to provide the resources necessary for those struggling with addiction to successfully navigate the road to recovery.

Over 23 million Americans struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. Yet, only 10 percent are getting the help they need because of social stigma surrounding the disease, as well as a lack of resources. Hundreds die each day as a result. Ohio has been hit particularly hard by the drug epidemic.

Since the Trini Foundation was established earlier this year, there has been an overwhelming response to the organization’s programs. Yoga classes are being established at local treatment centers and recovery programs to share a message of hope.  Several scholarships have already been awarded to students who are interested in furthering their yoga studies to support their recovery. All Trini Foundation’s programs are supported by contributions from the public.  To donate and learn more about opportunities to get involved, please visit www.trinifoundation.org or email info@trinifoundation.org.

Why did we choose the name "Trini Foundation?"

We are often asked why we chose the name Trini Foundation. Trini is the Sanskrit word for "three." Asana, which refers the physical postures, is the third of eight limbs in Ashtanga yoga. We begin with asana as a technique to quiet our active minds.

The foundation’s mission is sharing Ashtanga yoga with those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, and bringing the transformative practice into underserved communities. In addition to teaching Ashtanga in treatment centers, prisons, and halfway houses, the foundation works with professionals to help those newly sober gain the skills necessary to successfully integrate back into society. The foundation also makes the practice accessible to all through scholarship and outreach programs.

Therefore, the practice of Ashtanga yoga becomes the entry point into a new way of living. 

The Trini Foundation is formed!

As Taylor sat in India finishing his memoir, A Way From Darkness, he contemplated the next chapter of his life and his path serving others. The natural progression seemed to be starting a foundation to share the practice of Ashtanga yoga, which had transformed his life, with others in need. Here is an excerpt from the afterword of the book…

The first day of 2016 was also the one-year anniversary of Ashtanga Yoga Columbus (AYC). I’m feeling very grateful to have such a supportive group of students and teachers who make it possible for me to do the work that I love and to spend time with my teacher in India. I had plenty of doubts when I first opened the shala, but we’ve had an amazing first year. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to teach some of the coolest people I know, people who I not only call students, but also friends. They are committed to helping me sustain the community and build on the larger vision of what AYC can offer to Columbus.

As part of that vision, Jess and I have decided to establish a foundation dedicated to sharing Ashtanga yoga with people who are struggling with addiction and with individuals in other underserved communities. We understand that not everyone has the resources to practice at AYC, so we want to extend the reach of our teaching to include a more diverse population. Our experiences have taught us that change is always possible and that yoga is a healing practice. We want to share a message of hope with as many people as possible. It’s part of our ongoing twelfth step work. 

So, we got to work setting up a non-profit, the Trini Foundation, to share Taylor’s vision with the world and help others struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction.