How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy Ashtanga Yoga
Yoga can be so wonderful —albeit there can be controversies with it— and exploring different styles can be lots of fun. For a city our size, Columbus, Ohio has an unusually large number of opportunities to practice a yoga style renowned for its physical challenge —although modifications are possible— yet uniquely meditative properties.
“It has a wonderful combination of overall benefits,” says local Ashtanga practitioner Trisha Hoffman. “The Ashtanga practice is easy to modify for all levels and for what you feel like doing that day.”
Thanks to Columbus’ yoga pioneer Martha Marcom at Yoga on High and dedicated teachers like Joanie Delph and Taylor Hunt who followed her and now have their own studios, we have a wealth of Ashtanga yoga in Columbus.
Several yoga studios in Columbus have a variety of Ashtanga yoga classes including the unique “yoga lab” of a teacher-assisted self-practice. Many yoga studio owners such as Trisha Hoffman of Namaste in Love, Russell Lepley of Flux+Flow, Burgendie Miceli of Yoga Happiness, and Debra Penzone of LIT Life + Yoga, practice Ashtanga yoga. Local yoga clothing entrepreneur, Jered Seibert of Warrior Wear even found that Ashtanga helped him achieve success in Bikram yoga competitions!
One of the Ashtanga world’s internationally known teachers, Taylor Hunt, has his home base here and has inspired a new generation of teachers. This month, a special Ashtanga yoga teacher training program starts in Columbus at a Yoga Alliance credited studio.
Ashtanga is the root of all the power yoga/vinyasa flow styles found in so many yoga studios today such as GIVE Yoga. GIVE Yoga holds an Ashtanga class every Friday evening led by lovely Toni Kervina who also leads Ashtanga classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at LIT Life + Yoga.
Mindy Ratcliff leads spunky Ashtanga-like classes at Pulse Fitness and Deb Reichert Fitness & Yoga. There is a friendly class with music at Namaste in Love usually led by the owner, Trisha Hoffman. Michael Love does a very thorough class at Bexley Yoga on Wednesday evenings; if you can’t travel internationally to take Gregor Maehle’s Ashtanga classes, Michael Love is here for you!
There are also led Ashanga classes at Ashtanga Yoga Columbus, Yoga on High, and the very special new studio from Joanie Delph. These last three also offer many hours of teacher-assisted self-practice where you can explore yoga’s asanas at your own pace. There are less than 20 yoga studios in North America dedicated solely to Ashtanga yoga, but Columbus has two!
Yoga on High is the oldest general yoga studio in Columbus and has had an Ashtanga program for almost 20 years. Their Ashtanga teachers have over 80 years of yoga experience amongst them. Aside from the teachers who do Ashtanga classes they have Anne Weidinger and Sally Walsh Roberts whose strong Ashtanga practices inform their vinyasa flow classes. Gail Larned and Adam Wetterhan have excellent led classes, and Wetterhan also conducts a daily Ashtanga yoga program for inmates at Marion Correctional Institute. Not only does YoHi has a deep bench of experienced Ashtanga teachers, but they are also creating new ones!
This year, Yoga On High is offering an Ashtanga teacher training program which will be one of the first of its kind in the U.S. Yoga on High holds workshops with some big names in Ashtanga yoga such as Mary Taylor, Tim Miller, and Kino MacGregor (see more about her below). Yoga On High’s teachers all have formal training in anatomy, and it has a regular anatomy workshop with yoga anatomist, David Keil. At YoHi, Dr. Linda Chun (an MD with board certifications in internal and alternative medicine), Correna Starbuck, Tom Griffith and Karen Volpe hold self-practice sessions where you can learn yoga at your own pace rather than rushing through poses trying to keep up with a class; currently, these classes are called “Mysore” but that may change due to some controversy.
Back in the day, Ashtanga yoga students studied with a master teacher at home. This year, Joanie Delph started teaching Ashtanga yoga in her home and ILLIO (It Looks Like It’s Open) gallery at 13 E. Tulane Rd. Yoga teachers and students in Columbus and India have admired Delph for years for her selfless devotion to Ashtanga yoga. She regularly goes to Goa, India to study with long-time teachers there, and she also offers Ayurveda treatments which she learns in India. Delph has a deep understanding of the healing powers of yoga, so she thoughtfully and safely gives to her students in Ashtanga yoga.
“Joanie Delph is a light of a teacher,” says professional photographer Courtney Hergesheimer Figeroa who has photographed many yoga teachers in the area. By the way, as she doesn’t have the usual studio overhead, Joanie Delph’s yoga is one of the best bargains for yoga in town!
If you go to an Ashtanga yoga centers from Australia to the UK and say you are from Columbus, OH you are likely to hear, “Where Taylor Hunt is!” Hunt opened Ashtanga Yoga Columbus (AYC) in 2015. Since then, Hunt has not only grown the community there, but also traveled the world teaching via his ties to the famous K.P. Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (recently re-named, see below) in Mysore, India. Hunt and several of the AYC teachers have certificates from KPJAYI where they have studied with the world-famous Sharath Jois.
If it is your goal to go to practice with Sharath Jois in India, Ashtanga Yoga Columbus is the place to practice. With his wife and very loyal teachers, such as Dawn Blevins, Hunt has created a yoga family from his base on Indianola Avenue. He has inspired some students not only to teach yoga at AYC but to open studios.
The owner of Gahanna’s Namaste in Love, Trish Hoffman, notes, “There are a plethora of reasons to practice Ashtanga yoga, you can better gauge your progress as you revisit the same poses.”
The co-owner of Flux+Flow credits Ashtanga yoga with healing a serious injury and practices at AYC. Some people say that, “Ashtanga Yoga keeps me sober.”
Hunt published a book about his experiences with substance abuse and how yoga put him on the path to recovery. Hunt raises money for the Trini Foundation which he started to provide access to Ashtanga Yoga to support recovery.
Not all is lotus flowers and happy stories in the Ashtanga world. The #metoo movement brought many skeletons in the yoga closet to light. Local yoga podcaster Burgendie Miceli created an episode about #metoo and yoga titled “When Our Heroes Disappoint Us” (episode 15). In the past three years, Ashtanga was rocked by stories about a now deceased teacher from Mysore, India, K.P. Jois, sexually abusing students during yoga classes under the guise of adjustments. Many well-known teachers who studied with him such as Kino MacGregor, Mary Taylor, Beryl Bender Birch, and Gregor Maehle have been interviewed and published thoughtfully on this subject.
Recently, the grandson of K.P. Jois, Sharath Jois, made some statements of contrition about his grandfather, and he re-branded the K.P. Jois Ashtanga Yoga website to Sharath Jois Yoga. Some leading yoga teachers are distancing themselves from the Jois lineage altogether. Some yoga celebs who achieved yoga renown with an Ashtanga practice have left Ashtanga behind, for example, Alexandria Crow who currently teaches the anatomy-based Yoga Physics in Columbus and internationally. Some people have left yoga altogether.
Yoga Alliance does have resources concerning sexual abuse on their website. Locally, some studios such as Yoga On High have started using consent cards so that students may opt in or out of hands on assistance. Some local teachers are discussing dropping the Mysore name from the teacher-assisted self-practice classes. The uproar in the Ashtanga world has sparked discussions about patriarchy and power imbalances in yoga that will probably be helpful for yoga in the long run.
There is a whole lot of Ashtanga yoga going on in Columbus. There are many fine led classes by respectable teachers. Unlike many yoga markets our size, Columbus has three places —Toronto only has two!— where you can do teacher-assisted self-practice in a “yoga lab” which many may find leads to a deep and thoughtful yoga practice.