“If you say ribbit, you jump higher!” said yoga teacher, Donte Quinine, to his all levels yoga class at Bala in Fremont. I hunched down at the back of my mat, said ‘ribbit’ and jumped forward to frog. I jumped higher and laughed! Donte’s humorous approach in his yoga teaching and his elegant movement in practicing yoga prompted me to ask him for an interview for Seattle Yoga News to aid in their quest to highlight outstanding yoga teachers in the Seattle yoga community. Behind this humor and the easy-going personality he brings to all his classes, Donte is a wise and skilled educator, leader and contributor to the community. In response to my query about his ribbit technique, Donte told me, “humor is the entry way to the heart. Once the heart is open, now the person is available…” for learning.
Originally from LA, Donte spent the first part of his childhood in one of the roughest parts of town: Southcentral. He grew up playing sports, and eventually ended up playing basketball. He attended the University of Oregon on a basketball scholarship and played professionally for a couple of years with a few minor league teams and in Argentina. He taught college courses and will be doing so again this winter. His yoga teacher training includes his 200 hour program from Core Power, Street Yoga teacher training, Yoga Behind Bars teacher training and Off the Mat Into the World Leadership Training. Donte clearly shares yoga and the powerful tools of yoga practice with people to strengthen themselves and to improve their lives.
Cathy Geier: What led you to practice and study yoga?
Donte Quinine: I took my first yoga class about seven years ago. I was working in the athletics department at Seattle Pacific University, and one of our coaches hired a yoga teacher to work with our athletes. I decided to drop in on a class and afterwards I felt amazing! I’ve always had tight hips and hamstrings and they felt better than they had in a long time. I was really into weight lifting at the time so my muscles were always sore. I continued to try yoga randomly, but I didn’t take it too seriously.
Five years ago I started practicing on a regular basis. I was going through a divorce and a friend recommended that I do some yoga as a way to relieve stress. I found a Living Social deal and started practicing at Kula Movement. I went from practicing once a week to almost daily over the course of a couple of years. My body felt better than it ever had and I felt deeply connected in my life for the first time…mind, body and spirit.
Cathy Geier: Why did you decide to enter a yoga teacher training program and teach yoga?
Donte Quinine: I had been teaching communications courses at SPU and I started incorporating pranayama and meditation to help my students learn how to calm themselves before they engaged in public speaking. I’ve always loved teaching, so the natural next step for me was to enter a teacher training program. I didn’t set an intention to teach at studios right away. I wanted to use my knowledge of yoga as a way to give back, so I got involved with Street Yoga, Yoga Behind Bars and Off the Mat Into the World. I’ve always believed that the highest use of our gifts and talents is to share it with those who have the most need, so it felt like a great fit for me to be involved with those organizations.
I teach yoga because I love helping people discover that their true nature is to be healthy, joyous and vibrant! I’m an urban yogi, but I teach universal truths that have been shared across all cultures throughout the ages. Driven by the belief that yoga should be accessible to everyone, I offer energetic flows with many options to increase or reduce sensation to meet the needs of every practitioner. The energy that I build throughout class is complemented by my grounding voice and compassionate nature.
Cathy Geier: Just returning from a small Eastern Washington town, how do you retain the warmth, closeness to people and easygoing lifestyle in our busy Seattle?
Donte Quinine: While living in Wenatchee for two years, I taught leadership classes at the college and I taught yoga at Ila, the first yoga studio in town! We had a small, but amazing group of yogis over there. Their yoga community was like family, so it felt very special.
Every time I get in my car in Seattle I’m reminded of why yoga has exploded in urban areas! Life in the city can be so busy, yet we all have a deep longing for stillness, community and serenity. Yoga provides a perfect sanctuary for students to step into those ‘small town’ virtues and as a teacher I believe that my job embodies that which I want my students to embrace. When students walk into my class, I want them to feel like they are coming home for dinner. I can’t cook soul food, but I teach yoga to feed the soul.
Cathy Geier: Tell us about your Street Yoga Teacher training; about the classes, student needs and how staff supports the yoga program?
Donte Quinine: Driven by a deep desire to use yoga as a vehicle for social change, I completed teacher training programs with Off the Mat Into the World, Street Yoga and Yoga Behind Bars. All of the training programs were tremendous and I met many outstanding socially minded yoga teachers. I ended up teaching a Sunday morning class for Street Yoga with teen boys in a chemical dependency treatment program. As you might imagine, the boys were reluctant to try yoga. When I first started teaching it was an optional class, and I had a hard time getting the boys to get on the mat. After a few weeks of nagging them, I was able to build trust and more boys joined the class. The results were tremendous! There was always a counselor present during class and after seeing the results over several weeks, yoga became mandatory for all of the residents. By no means was it an easy group to teach. They challenged me to be real and authentic, and I challenged them to stick with the practice and stay on their mats.
Cathy Geier: Share with our yoga community some principles of the leadership training you teach in community colleges that will be useful for yoga teachers to embrace in their teaching and career development?
Donte Quinine: Leadership is all about how we hold space and show up in relationship with other people. It is a discipline that requires us to be mindful in our actions and hold awareness around how our behavior impacts our environment and all of those in our sphere of influence. In my TEDx talk, I discussed how leadership is collaborative rather than dictative. When I teach leadership in classrooms and workshops, I often ask my students to ponder these four question: Do I model the way for others by leading by example? Do I inspire others to find their own voice and challenge them to move beyond their comfort zone? Do I empower others to become everything that they were created to be? Do I encourage others to live authentically from their heart? I would encourage every yoga teacher to ponder these questions and reflect on how they show up and hold space for their students.
Cathy Geier: Tell us about your new teaching positions.
Donte Quinine: I love teaching and I’m blessed to have many opportunities to share my offerings. Along with teaching yoga, I teach and mentor low income students during their internship with Year Up, a wonderful non-profit that seeks to close the opportunity divide. I teach communication classes at Seattle Central College and I’m working on a schedule for the UW Mindfulness Project. I have a few workshops and keynote speeches coming up in 2016 I have a retreat on “wholehearted living” July 15-17, 2016 at the Skalitude Retreat Center in Carlton, WA. For more details about my schedule or the retreat, I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks and gratitude to Donte for taking time to share his journey and experiences in yoga that he has infused into his leadership and community involvement. As I began this interview, I found through our communication that Donte has much valuable wisdom to offer our community. I considered asking him several more questions! I look forward to taking some of his upcoming workshops and more yoga classes from him.
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