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Ashtanga Yoga Columbus Opens for Practice

Nancy Alkire Nancy Alkire Ashtanga Yoga Columbus Opens for PracticeTaylor Hunt has opened a yoga studio dedicated solely to Ashtanga Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga Columbus in Clintonville. Photo by Alana Becker.
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On January 1, 2015, Columbus joined Toronto, Los Angeles, and the New York metro areas in having a yoga studio dedicated only to Ashtanga yoga. Located at 4684 Indianola Avenue just south of the intersection with Morse Road – yes, it is near the hydroponics store, Ashtanga Yoga Columbus (AYC) offers yoga students and teachers a space devoted to the practice of Ashtanga yoga.

“I decided the time was right for an Ashtanga-only studio,” said Taylor Hunt. “We had a community. We were ready for our own space.”

A devout student of Ashtanga for over 6 years, Taylor Hunt is the only Level 2 yoga teacher in Columbus authorized by the famous K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) in Mysore, India. Until recently, Taylor led the Morning Mysore program at Yoga on High. One reason Taylor finds Ashtanga such an appealing practice, is that, “Although Ashtanga is a set series of poses, it can be tailored to fit each individual’s needs.”

Taylor Hunt practicing yoga.  Photo by Jessica Hunt.

Taylor Hunt practicing yoga. Photo by Alana Becker.

“A lot of yoga places now are trying to be buffets,” he says. “They offer so many different classes — trying to have something for everybody, but another way to do yoga is to have the practice fit the person.”

Many of Taylor’s students agree that he has expanded their abilities. “I teach everyone – young, old, skinny, overweight – anyone can do Ashtanga yoga and benefit from it.”

Taylor and his wife, Jessica, have had a long relationship with yoga, and it transformed their lives. After five years of practicing with Joannie Delph and other Ashtanga teachers in the Midwest, Taylor discussed going to India with his family.

“My dad said, ‘If you don’t do it now you will regret it forever,’” he shared. “I thought — is this my dad? So I went. …He did fire me after the third trip, but I got re-hired.”

“It was so impressive being in Mysore,” Jessica adds. “People give up so much to go there. I lost my job, too, but the people there and the place is so amazing.”

“Practicing next to people who are so experienced, it just takes your own practice to another level,” says Taylor.

In India, one of the biggest moments for Taylor was being asked by the son of Ashtanga’s founder to be a teaching assistant. “He told me at the end of one day, ‘Tomorrow you will assist.’” At the yoga school, or shala, Mysore classes start pre-dawn and students cycle through self-paced practices. “I would work with 200 plus students for over 7 hours at a stretch.”

That experience in Mysore, India helped Taylor conduct many sessions of Mysore-style yoga classes at Balanced Yoga and Yoga on High. Taylor’s discipline then and now includes starting his own yoga practice 6 days a week at 3 AM to finish and be prepared to assist students who start arriving at 5 AM. A number of students who grew to like Taylor’s classes were his allies in starting his studio.

“I knew that we had the support from our community to get open,” he says. One of his teaching assistants, Brandi Braun, found the studio space on Craigslist.

“It was a mess,” says Taylor. “It was a former karate studio, full of broken mirrors and dirt. But I could see it as our space.”

He was encouraged by David Robson of the Ashtanga Yoga Centre in Toronto to try crowdfunding to finance the renovations. “Some people were willing to give their backs – we had great work parties – but I knew that some people would want to show support in other ways.” Only days after putting up their page on Indiegogo, Ashtanga Yoga Columbus met its $3000 goal.

Classes started on a very chilly New Years Day. Twenty-two people came out pre-dawn to practice, and things have been going well ever since. Ashtanga Yoga Columbus will soon add evening classes in addition to the Morning Mysore classes and a Primary Series led class on Fridays 5:30 to 7 AM

It should be noted, that Ashtanga yoga is available at other yoga studios in Columbus. It has been taught at Yoga on High since 2001. One of YoHi’s founders, Martha Marcom, traveled to India and learned from the renowned K. Pattabhi Jois himself. The current Ashtanga teachers at Yoga on High, including Tom Griffith and Linda Chun, have been instructed by luminaries in the field such as Tim Miller, Richard Freeman, David Swenson, and Maty Ezraty. YoHi has multiple Ashtanga workshops every year including an upcoming one with the “demi-god” of yoga anatomy David Keil. This summer, as last, they will host Youtube phenomenon Kino MacGregor to a packed house.

Balanced Yoga in Clintonville also offers Ashtanga classes. “We have an Ashtanga class variant every day,” says studio manager, Andy King. One of Balanced Yoga’s leading teachers, Joannie Delph, not only studied at Jois’ institute in Mysore, but also makes regular trips to India to study at Yogabones with Rolf Naujokat and his partner, Marci. Besides the daily scheduled Ashtanga classes, Balanced Yoga often hosts visitors such as Matthew Darling and has their in-house instructors workshop topics like jumping back, chanting, or Ayurveda.

Note: Ashtanga classes are not held on “moon days” – see the website for the calendar. Starting February 5th, there are Mysore classes Tuesdays and Thursdays 6 to 8 p.m.taught by Brandi Braun. Workshops at AYC are in the planning stages. Activities like chanting and discussions, similar to those held at the KPJYI, are also being discussed. For more on Taylor Hunt and Ashtanga Yoga Center Columbus, visit TaylorHuntYoga.com.

Author’s notes on Ashtanga Yoga:
If you think yoga is gentle stretches to the sound of flute music, then you don’t know Ashtanga yoga. From the 20 yoga pushups expected in the first 7 minutes to a corpse pose (for very advanced students only) that is like rigor mortis, Ashtanga is a vigorous set of increasingly difficult poses done in set sequences. It originated in Mysore, India and many notable American power yoga teachers such as Beryl Binder Birch and Bryan Kest studied there under the founder of Ashtanga yoga, K. Pattabhi Jois. Mysore-style classes are self-paced which means the students go through Ashtanga poses under the guidance of a teacher who give students verbal and sometimes very physical encouragement. For example, it is not unusual to see an instructor sit on a student’s back to deepen her seated forward fold. There are also led Ashtanga classes where an instructor calls out the poses, but even if you are used to a rocking Vinyasa flow class, Ashtanga yoga is a physical challenge. Ashtanga yoga can be for everyone, but too much zeal can lead to injury, so be careful. Those who favor yoga classes with music and goofy poetry will find the silence of a Mysore class very different, but like many things that are challenging, Ashtanga yoga can be very rewarding.

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