Holistic health and sound meditation practitioner Dante Baker supports clients on their health journeys with his training in yoga, reiki, detoxification, Qi Gong and more. We caught up with Baker about his wellness journey and how he has adjusted his practices throughout the pandemic. Note: This interview is part of our 20 Masters of Mindfulness, Movement + Connection roundup, which ran in our Winter 2021 issue. Read more here.
Tell me about your journey and how it brought you to your current role.
Growing up, I saw health and spirituality very differently than most of my peers in school. When I moved from Columbia, Maryland to Reston, Virginia in the middle of my fifth grade year, I was having a bad allergic reaction to tree pollen. At first, we tried a few allopathic medicines, but my body was not responding well. Next, we went to see a homeopathic doctor, and within a month of taking his recommended homeopathic remedies, I ultimately got rid of my allergies. Over time, I started to include herbal remedies and diet changes to eradicate seasonal allergies altogether without taking medicine. At 19, I started working at the YMCA as a personal trainer, kickbox instructor and exercise instructor. During my time there, I connected with a massage therapist who inspired me to go to massage therapy school.
To deepen my understanding of how energy moves within the body, I studied with Tui Na Dr. Akmal Muwwakkil and Qi Gong Master Dr. Nianzo Li to learn Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong’s fundamentals. In 2012, I connected with different yoga instructors around the DMV area to offer yoga and sound healing workshops. As I watched each teacher lead the workshop’s yoga portion, I felt inspired to teach my workshop. The first 200-hour yoga certification I took was an immersion in Mexico by South Okanagan Yoga Academy, based in Canada, in 2014. In 2020, I completed my 300-hour yoga certification from Beloved Yoga in Reston, Virginia. Beloved Yoga expanded and deepened my understanding of yoga to a point where I have moved beyond teaching asana and simplified complicated yogic philosophy to fit our modern lifestyle.
How are you practicing and prioritizing self-care, especially mid-pandemic?
In every movement base class that I taught, I would participate with the student. Even though I was active during my free time, I did not put a consistent effort toward increasing my physical health. At the beginning of the lockdowns, all of the studios I taught at canceled my class. Since I could not rely upon my previous schedule to move my body, I chose to increase my activity level independently. I started to invest in my health by buying workout equipment, working out at specific times in the day, tracking my workout progress and eating more healthy, calorie-dense foods to pack on muscle. From March 2020 to January 2021, I have increased my strength, muscular size and overall weight to my desired goals. The most important thing that helped me stay consistent in my workouts was to notice how much stress was relieved and how much more calm I felt afterward.
What does self-compassion mean to you, and how do you incorporate it into your practice?
My definition of self-compassion to me means acknowledging the feelings arising inside you and giving yourself the right amount of attention, self-care and love that you need at the moment. One of my daily practices is pranayama (breathing exercises). It helps me process stuck energies and negative emotions and release negative thought patterns. Generally, our bodies can quickly go into fight or flight mode by our thoughts and feelings alone. If we can slow down our breathing pattern, we can turn on the parasympathetic (rest and digest nervous system) to calm our bodies and minds.
We only control our thoughts, speech and actions, and everything else is out of our control. We can only influence our external world. No one had complete control over a virus breakout and the government locking down the country. The biggest lesson I needed to learn was how to process all of my frustration after my entire livelihood shifted. I needed to let go of my old business goals and find new ways to offer my services at a distance. I had to be optimistic about what I was serving society online, take care of the well-being and believe that things will change for the better.
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