Nekita Sullivan was born and educated in the Palmetto State of South Carolina. She is a graduate of Clemson University, Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston), and American Intercontinental University. She is a certified health education specialist, licensed physical therapist, certified hand therapist, certified yoga teacher, and yoga alliance certified yoga continuing education provider.
She has 20 + years of experience as a health and wellness professional for seniors, kids, adults, athletes, special needs, and more. She is also the owner of Yoga Therapy Bar a holistic yoga physical therapy studio in downtown Clemson which exclusively offers a specialty of yoga and physical therapy to improve physical and mental health and wellness.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- The difference between yoga and yoga therapy
- Yoga therapy to manage physical stress such as pain or mental stress such as anxiety
- The most common pain or physical stressor in America
- Holistic stress management plans
- Mental health mindfulness programs
- Educate our kids to manage their stress
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business. And this is going to be a fun one. Today, on the show, we have Nekita Sullivan with Yoga Therapy Bar. Welcome, Nekita!
Nekita Sullivan: [00:00:29] Hi, how are you today?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] I am doing great. I am so excited to be talking to you. But before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about Yoga Therapy Bar, how you’re serving folks.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:00:40] Absolutely. Yoga Therapy Bar is a specialty. I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Certified Yoga Teacher. So, what I do is I use physical therapy and yoga together. I blend them for yoga therapy specialty. So, instead of just having a generic yoga class, I actually use yoga for therapeutic means. So, if someone has issues with back pain, neck pain, headaches after an injury, I specifically use yoga and physical therapy together to give them a better outcome.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:01:20] So, most Americans, eight out of 10 Americans, have back pain, low back pain. So that is usually the most requested injury for people that I see. So all of my yoga poses will be intentionally targeted towards improving low back pain instead of just getting a hodgepodge of yoga poses.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:45] So, now, what was the genesis of the idea to kind of do this mash-up between physical therapy and yoga? How did you kind of conclude like, hey, maybe there’s a way to combine these two to get the best of both worlds?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:01:59] Yes, because they both have such unique offerings. But when you blend the two together, it superpowers them. So, not only do you get the benefits of just physical therapy, you can use it in addition to yoga, which gives you a holistic service so you get the benefits of the physical stress relief but you also get the benefits of the mental stress relief with using the meditation and the breathwork in addition to the physical asanas, is what they’re called poses. It’s just a great and unique experience, and I get so many people who come to me and say that their doctor wanted them to try either yoga or physical therapy to help with their illnesses and injuries. So I decided why not let’s use them both because we can no longer approach our health from just a physical standpoint or a mental standpoint because we’re all in one. Our physical affects our mental. Our mental effects are physical. So as a holistic offering, I use them both to affect our entire body.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:16] Now, when you started the business, was it always focused on combining the both? So you’re talking to, I would imagine your clients are people who have some sort of pain or stress that they’re looking to deal with in this kind of unconventional manner?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:03:34] Yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:34] Or, whereas like a yoga studio might be like, “Oh, I like yoga. That’s the way I exercise.” So they may not be coming for a specific pain, they just enjoy it. So, it seems like it’s a slightly different client.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:03:46] Yes, it can be, but I get both. I get people who come just for yoga. And when they find out that I am able to tailor it to their particular needs and customize it, it’s like a bonus for them. So at the beginning of every class that I have, that is a group class, I will ask everyone in that class if they have any specific preferences, if they have any injuries, anything that I need to be attentive to, anything that I need to be precautionary of, because I will modify all of my poses for people who need some sort of precautionary modification. Or, what I can do for people who have specific needs is I offer them some one-on-one treatment. And that way, when I’m with them by themselves, we specifically work on whatever they need help with so they have my undivided attention.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:47] And then, yoga is a practice that uses a lot of props and ways to help a beginner kind of get in the right position for the pose. Are you using those props and more in order to help from the therapeutic standpoint?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:05:03] As a physical therapist, I have the expert ability to be able to provide those types of services with and without props, which is what makes me a little bit more unique than your typical yoga teacher. I do use stretch straps for people who need a little bit more assistance. I also have yoga bands, balls, pilates balls. But I try to get people to get comfortable with using their own body, their own body weight before they start adding tools. Because as a beginner, yoga can be a little intimidating. So it is so important for me to get people to be comfortable with just moving their bodies before I start adding tools. But tools are a good addition and supplement when the time is right.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:04] Now, a lot of organizations and corporations are adding wellness programs for their employees. Is this something that an organization can take advantage of with your firm? Is there some corporate program that you offer?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:06:20] Yes. Absolutely. I am actually in the middle of doing some corporate services for contracting because there are so many firms, corporations, the government, the military right now who are looking for wellness professionals and independent health practitioners to make videos and to join their wellness platforms that are virtual and the apps. Because due to the pandemic, a lot of people are having restrictions with accessing health care. So, they’re now trying to provide health care via virtual wellness platforms and apps so that they can reach people all over the world.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:07:06] So, for example, the military is trying to provide more corporate wellness apps to reach all of their employees that are stationed throughout the world. You’ve got people like BMW, Mercedes, a lot of these large corporations who are teaming up with apps and wellness platforms to be able to provide virtual services for all of their thousands of employees. So, the world of health care and wellness, for yoga teachers, for physical therapists, for other health practitioners is expanding so that we can meet the need and the demand for virtual services and telehealth services.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:54] Now, how would you kind of, I don’t want to say persuade but maybe open the mind of somebody who has never done yoga? Maybe, they have certain feelings about it. They’re not sure. How would you kind of ease them into practice like yours so that they can kind of get some relief from some of the stress and some of the pains that they’ve been probably dealing with than just accepting as this is the way it is when there can be a way out of this?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:08:24] Yes. And I try to get everyone to recognize that their level of comfort is always going to be different from someone else’s. So, a good way to ease into yoga is to start with just a couple of poses, two or three. And there are poses that combine movements for your entire body. For example, one of the most popular is child’s pose. And if you can do a child’s pose correctly, you can almost affect every joint in your body.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:09:03] So, I always get people to start off with maybe one or two, maybe even three poses, and just so they can feel what it feels like to get their bodies in different positions. And then, you can progress up to sequences. Maybe, let’s try poses that last for a duration of five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. Let’s try a class for 30 minutes. And then, eventually, we work ourselves up to an hour, if you like. And what we can do for that entire hour is modify anything that we need to modify based on how your body feels. You need to know when to pull back, when to do a little bit more. And that’s why it’s great to actually have an instructor to help you modify and make changes so that you don’t hurt yourself or cause yourself any sort of negative experience with learning something that’s new.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:05] Right. And I think that especially – I think for people who have been hesitant to try yoga for whatever reason and they’ve just accepted that “oh, I’m not flexible,” or “this is just the range of motion my neck has, and that’s just the way that it is,” or they’re dealing with a lot of stress, I think they’re missing an opportunity just to learn about it. And, I think there are some baby steps they can be taken whether it’s just, like you said, just sitting in one pose and just breathing and just feeling what that feels like and understanding the power of your breath and then just feeling your muscles kind of give in a little bit if you can stay in that pose for a beat or two and it just changes kind of your perspective of the world I think if you can open your mind to this.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:10:55] Yes, yes. And that’s part of the power and part of the magic of yoga. Because it’s not just a physical – it’s not just a physical experience with the breathing, with the meditation, with you responding to your body and listening to how it reacts to these poses, will take you in a different place. It’s a totally different way of exercising than what you’re used to. But you’re absolutely right. You have to be receptive to trying something that’s a little bit different. That’s probably going to make you feel a way that you’ve never felt before. But also you have to be kind to yourself and know that if you have restrictions, for example, like you said you can’t turn your neck but so far in one direction, that’s not going to be fixed in one day.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:11:49] So, you can’t give up on flexibility for something that has bothered you for 10 years and expect for it to just magically go away after doing it for two or three sessions. You have to give your time – your body time to adapt to doing something new. And most people respond to yoga by saying I’m not flexible. That’s a very common response. But flexibility is not usually something that we just magically have. It’s something that you have to actually work for and challenge yourself to accomplish.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:12:29] Yoga teachers are just not naturally flexible. Some of us may have some flexible body parts, but we also practice yoga in order to improve our flexibility. So, you have to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to improve and progress over time, but also know that that progression is going to be determined by how much consistency and how much commitment you’re willing to give yoga.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:00] Yeah, amen to that. And it’s a challenge, I think, for a lot of entrepreneurs, especially in that everything is go, go, go, faster, faster, I have to get there faster. And then, that sometimes moves into their exercise and fitness and wellness programs, and they think everything has to be a hit class in order to get benefits, where yoga is that kind of breath of fresh air, where you’re like, “Okay. Let’s just relax a little bit and breathe and just slow everything down.” And that is, I think, so necessary in today’s world because there are so many stressors whether it’s physical or mental that yoga and yoga therapy addresses.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:13:41] Yes. That is so true. One of the things that the pandemic has layered upon us is stressors, stressors, stressors, physical and mental. So you’ve got people who are fatigued, mentally exhausted, depressed, anxious, all of those mental stressors. Then, you’ve got all of these people who are now working from home, spending all these hours sitting in a chair behind a desk, even our students who are now having more neck pain, more back pain, more headaches than ever before. So, you’ve got all of these physical and mental stressors. But you have to approach them from a holistic manner in order to affect both of them. So, you can’t just fix the physical and leave the mental because it’s eventually going to affect the other. You can’t just address the mental and then leave the physical because the mental is going to eventually affect the physical.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:14:46] And that’s why Yoga Therapy Bar is such a different approach to yoga because I affect stress management from the physical and the mental side. You have to have both, and that’s the magic of yoga. It allows you to be able to affect both your physical health and your mental health. So, I try to get people to understand that they’ve got to approach it from both perspectives or else the other is going to eventually overcome and take the other, and there’s going to be that recurrent cycle that you just can’t seem to get rid of.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:27] Now, can you walk the listener through what is one of your programs or one of your stress management plans look like? What is it – what can they expect? Because a lot of times people have a fear of the unknown so they don’t even take that first step. So if you can kind of paint a picture of what happens if they raise their hand and say, “You know what? I’m interested in Yoga Therapy Bar,” what would the program look like? What are some of the maybe the pre-work they have to do or what do they have to do to get ready to experience this?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:15:57] Yes. So, I always try to get them to understand what it is they really want. Some people may think, “You know what? I really want to challenge myself from the yoga perspective,” or, “I’ve got an injury, back injury, that I’ve been dealing with for years, so I may need more of the physical therapy component.” So, I’m going to combine both.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:16:22] So if we need to truly affect an injury like low back pain, I’m going to give you more of a focus on the physical therapy perspective at the beginning. And we are going to blend the yoga in as well so that we affect the physical, we get a little bit of the mental end. And when things start improving and you start progressing, we balance them out. So we’re getting some physical therapy and yoga at the same time. So no longer will you get more physical at the beginning and just a little bit of the mental from the yoga, we’re going to balance them out so you’re getting the physical therapy along with the yoga postures, asanas, along with meditation, along with breathing exercises. And I also give a home exercise program through a virtual app that you can either access from your telephone, through text, or through email. So, it’s not your typical yoga experience. You get a lot of meat and potatoes with yoga therapy.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:33] Now, for the people who aren’t familiar with yoga, is there any like special equipment? Do I need – if I’m going to do this at my house, do I have to, now, all of a sudden, buy all this stuff? Or is it something that I can practice, you know, just with stuff I have around the house?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:17:51] Yes, very much can practice with anything you have around the house. Even with some of my group classes, people will come with yoga mats. Some people will come with towels, but I would definitely like to advise everyone to get a yoga mat. That’s really the only piece of equipment that you need. You can do it in your home. You can do it at your office. You can do it outdoors. I even have chair yoga classes that I do for people who are seniors, for people who are at work and don’t have access to a yoga mat, for people with special needs who are in wheelchairs and who cannot get on the floor. So that’s another great thing about yoga is there are so many different ways you can modify it. You can even do it in a chair.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:43] Well, I mean, can you share? Is there something you could share? I know we’re not on video, but is there something someone could do right now that’s listening in a chair? What’s something they could do that would maybe relieve some stress or maybe help them a little bit?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:18:58] Very simple. This is one of the basic things that I tell everyone who’s sitting at their desk for hours a day, or for someone who sits in their car and has very long commutes. So what’s happening when we sit most of the day is our spine, our back is curved. It’s flexed. And it does not like to be in one position for a very long period of time or else it will start producing pain signals. So, one of the things that you absolutely have to do if you’ve been sitting for a long day is put both of your feet flat on the floor. You’re going to put both of your hands behind your head and clasp your fingers together, and you’re going to sit straight up. So what you’re trying to do is extend your spine. And with your hands behind your head, you’re going to pull your elbows open, which is going to extend everything, open up your rib cage, and allow your lungs to take a deep breath. That’s just basic extension.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:20:07] If you have the ability to do that in your office, you’re going to do it standing up against your wall so that you can get your head, your elbows, and your hands up against the wall and make your spine very straight. And to oppose that extension, what we’re going to do is take our hands down, by our side, by your knees and see if you can actually make your fingertips touch the floor. That’s going to give your spine a full flexion, a full bend, a full curve, so you’ve gone from complete spine flexion with bending to complete spine extension with putting your hands behind your head and opening up. If you don’t have the ability to do that standing, you’re just going to do it from your chair. And that gives your spine just a little bit of risk from being in the same position for too long, which it absolutely hates.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:08] And then, that’s something you do for, you know, one time? Is there like, you do it 10 times, you do it for 30 seconds? Like, how long do you have to do it to see some benefit?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:21:20] Okay. So, this is where your individual listening to your body comes in. You don’t want to do anything that’s going to give you excruciating pain or send pain traveling. Okay? So, that’s how you’ll know how far you need to go. But you’re always going to want to aim for doing something about five to 10 repetitions if you can. And if you’re able to have that much time to do five to 10 repetitions with each position, you want to be able to hold it for approximately five seconds. So, you’re going to try to do five to 10 repetitions, and with each position, you’re going to try to hold it for about five seconds. That’s just a good generic start.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:11] Well, Nekita, thank you so much for sharing your story today. Can you tell us a little bit about why it was important for you to get involved with GWBC?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:22:21] Absolutely. They do a great job of supporting entrepreneurs, especially women entrepreneurs. During the pandemic, they have sent out so much information to support and inspire and encourage and provide resources, and that’s why I am so thankful and so grateful for them because otherwise, I may not have been able to receive some of that information and also network and communicate with women that I had met all over the country.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:58] Now, if somebody wants to learn more about your practice or if there’s an organization out there that would like to implement some of your programs into their wellness program, what’s the best way to get a hold of you? Do you have a website?
Nekita Sullivan: [00:23:10] I absolutely do. It is, of course, www.yogatherapybar.com and you know we’re living in this technological world, so it is so very easy to catch up with me by email. My email is info, I-N-F-O, @yogatherapybar.com. That comes directly to me. I’m also on Facebook and Instagram with the same handle, Yoga Therapy Bar. So, there are so many ways to get a hold of me and take a look at some of the cool things that we’re doing, trying to help people manage their stress from a mental and physical perspective, a holistic offering. You got to approach the whole body.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:59] Well, thank you again for sharing your story. You’re doing such important work, and we appreciate you.
Nekita Sullivan: [00:24:04] Thank you so much for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:07] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see y’all next time on GWBC Open for Business.
The Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®) is at the forefront of redefining women business enterprises (WBEs). An increasing focus on supplier diversity means major corporations are viewing our WBEs as innovative, flexible and competitive solutions. The number of women-owned businesses is rising to reflect an increasingly diverse consumer base of women making a majority of buying decision for herself, her family and her business.
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