This story was first published in our January 2019 issue.
Ten years ago, Antonio Stovall was suffering from depression and was prone to suicidal thoughts. Today, he is a champion for holistic living. People often think about the physical aspect of health, Stovall said. “In reality, we are more than just a body. Holistics deal with the physical, emotional, spiritual, financial… I teach others to approach their health from that lens.” Stovall was born in Roanoke and reared in an area of the city that has experienced a great deal of drug addiction, sickness and prostitution. He had difficulties expressing himself growing up. When times got tough, Stovall said he would emotionally shut down. Doing so might have had detrimental effects to his mental health. When a person does not know how to release his or her feelings, things start to build up, Stovall said. “That’s when anxiety and depression creep in.”
During a low period in his life, Stovall was watching television when he happened to catch a commercial on natural cures. He wondered if there were similar treatments for depression and began researching the subject on the internet. He found that a natural treatment was mindful meditation, which he began to practice. The deeper he delved into meditation, the more Stovall said his stress, worry and anxiety began to subside. Stovall says meditation teaches the individual to detach from certain emotions, thoughts and traumatic experiences. “It helps you to see that trauma is not truly who we are, it’s there to teach us a lesson.”
Today, Stovall is the owner of Ancestral Perspective, whose mission is to educate the black community on its pre-slavery cultural identity. Ancestral Perspective achieves that goal through books, DVDs and workshops on meditation and Kemetic Yoga. Kemetic Yoga or Ka’at Ibi, is an Egyptian system of yoga that connects breathing to slow movements of the body. Kemetic Yoga puts the practitioner in a meditative state, he said. Stovall teaches Kemetic Yoga and meditation at the Gainsboro, Kirk Avenue and Salem branches of the YMCA of Virginia’s Blue Ridge as well as at the Ignite Training Facility in Salem. He is passionate about meditation, which he said, could bring healing to the black community. “As a people, we’ve gotten to the point that we think sickness is normal and healthy, when in reality, it’s not normal,” Stovall said. “I feel that if we really want to raise the quality of our lives, we need to pay attention to mental health.” Stovall’s interest in meditation led to an interest in Zen Buddhism, and later martial arts. Stovall currently provides instruction in a form of martial arts called Wing Chun. He has taught Wing Chun at the Gainsboro YMCA. He also has offered Wing Chun classes at the Gainsboro branch of the Roanoke Public Library. Internally, Wing Chun teaches practitioners how to relax and be confident. Externally, it teaches self-defense, Stovall said. “With Wing Chun, it’s all about you,” Stovall said. “You’re within yourself, and you try to find harmony and balance.”
The holistic lifestyle also extends to what Stovall – a vegan – allows to enter his body. The decision to pursue a wholly plant-based diet was a gradual process that began several years ago when he began to develop health issues. Also observing the health issues faced by some members of his family, Stovall began researching ways to eat better, which led to the gradual elimination of meat and fish from his diet. Ten years ago, being a vegan almost seemed to be taboo in the black community, he said. “Now it seems like our people are starting to wake up to that style of living.” Aiming to be a model for a healthier way of living, Stovall is in the process of developing a new venture called Self Mastery Now 101, which provides a blueprint on the ways to achieve a holistic lifestyle through acts such as fasting, detoxification, breathing and meditation.
According to Stovall, the goal of holistic living is to find balance in every aspect of a person’s life. “Living this lifestyle, it just makes me feel better,” Stovall said. “If you feel better, you live better and you interact with people better. When you know how to take care of your body and your mind, you can understand your purpose and your gifts.”
Since the printing of this story in January of 2019, Stovall has seen his business grow. Today, he is teaching classes online, at the YMCA Express at Gainsboro and offering one-on-one holistic health coaching. He is partnering with Total Action for Progress (TAP) by teaching and mentoring young adults on Holistic Living (YALE & YOUTH BUILDER). Through Roanoke’s William Fleming High School, he has been provided the opportunity to teach an African-American male studies course.
This also is his third year organizing “Man Heal Thyself,” a 21-day detox for men. This program was started by one of his teachers, Queen Afua, an internationally known Holistic Wellness practitioner who wrote: “Sacred Woman,” “Heal Thyself” and “Man Heal Thyself” to name a few. The detox focuses on Holistic living for men, particularly black men who tend to neglect their health for reasons that include lack of education, systematic racism and more. This program is designed to bring more awareness to those problems.
Since the onset of COVID-19, he has seen an increase in the number of people seeking his services. The pandemic has increased the stress level for many who are looking for alternative ways of eating. Stovall says his holistic lifestyle will continue to be in high demand as people continue to adapt to our new way of living.
Stovall also is planning for the future. He is working on a book about his life that will focus on overcoming trauma meditation and how he has worked to bring Holistic Living awareness to family and community. He also is working towards his certification in Koru Mindfulness. It is a program founded by a psychologist at Duke University.
One tip Stovall offers for healthy living is to build a strong immune system by eating dark leafy greens, getting enough sunlight, consuming super foods (sea moss), stress management (Kemetic Yoga and Meditation), laughter and having a strong support system that inspires us to be better. These are some of the tools he uses and teaches to others so they can continue to evolve and prosper in life.
“This pandemic has taught me a lot about myself. And what I would like to share with others is this is the perfect time to look deep within ourselves and figure out our purpose and gifts. Let go of any anger that we may have on our heart towards others and ourselves.”