Yoga instructor Dan Carter started his studio, Danimal Fitness, at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, his studio has grown and now includes a full teaching staff and schedule of classes. Read on to learn more about the philosophy that informs Carter’s practice and why he encourages making space for a break. Note: This interview is a part of our 20 Masters of Mindfulness, Movement + Connection roundup, which ran in our Winter 2021 issue.
Tell me about your journey and how it brought you to your current role.
I decided to pursue my teenage dream of becoming a yoga teacher after a friend of mine died in a car accident back in 2014. At that point, I stopped focusing on what I was supposed to do with my life and started pursuing what I wanted to do with my life, and that was becoming a yoga teacher. In 2016, I left my production job at Discovery Channel and became a full-time yoga teacher. For a while, I taught for other studios and focused on honing my skills. But when the pandemic hit and quarantine began, I was able to put my media training and yoga teaching to use in building an online fitness studio. Over the last year, Danimal Fitness has grown from me teaching a few yoga classes a week to a full online fitness studio with a full teaching staff and 20 classes a week, [ranging] from power yoga and pilates to drag queen-led bootcamp classes.
How are you practicing and prioritizing self-care, especially mid-pandemic?
Prioritizing self-care has only become a reality for me in the last couple of months. Building an online fitness studio from nothing did damage to my body and mind. However, the first yogic ethical principle is nonviolence, which is essentially synonymous [with] self-care when you dig deeper. I knew I needed to practice what I teach. For the last few months, I’ve truly been listening to my body. I cancelled all my Sunday classes and now use it as self-care Sunday to light some candles, foam roll, do a mask, take a bath, drink mint water, read something that makes me happy and most importantly, do no yoga at all. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in years.
What does self-compassion mean to you, and how do you incorporate it into your practice?
I think RuPaul put self-compassion best when she said, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?” Honestly, I sometimes think she’s a yogic philosopher herself. With yoga and fitness, that means making a practice of it: waking up early or putting off work for a minute to make it to the mat. But it can also mean the opposite. There are days we need rest, meditation or sometimes, a hard drink. Most people think yoga is a series of poses, but it’s actually more of a lifestyle. The foundational texts of yoga barely mention any poses at all. They mostly discuss how to live your life. I like to think that the whole Danimal Fitness team takes people as they are, encourages them to make time for their practice and recognizes that when someone doesn’t make it to the mat, they’re doing the yoga they need.
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