Memphis native Olivia F. Scott knows all too well what its like to feel burnt out. With a successful marketing career in New York City, and ascending to the C-suite, Scott still felt like something was missing. She no longer felt connected to herself spiritually.
After going through a divorce in 2014, Scott was craving spiritual connection. She found the meaningful grounding she was looking for through Kemetic yoga. The practice, originating from Kemet, Egypt, focuses on movement and breathing.
Scott wanted other women to feel the connection she felt through Kemetic yoga and started Freedom at the Mat. The mission is simple — to provide women with resources to practice self-care through yoga-inspired movement, meditation, journaling, affirmations, and mindfulness.
We had the chance to speak with Scott on her journey to feeling connected again, what Kemetic yoga entails and her favorite travel destinations.
How did Memphis and New York inspire your love for wellness and entrepreneurship?
We know how to create in Memphis. There is an undeniable hustle spirit. People’s desire to fight for more, champion for more, and to create is really a part of our culture [in Memphis].
My mother was insistent that I leave Memphis at a young age. I was gone for about 26 years. During that time, lived in Missouri, Chicago, and New York. Two years ago, I moved to New Orleans, to get the connection back to the south.
Tell us about your journey to wellness and yoga
When it comes to wellness, there was always a connection to spirituality. The Black church is a humongous part of Memphis.
As I continued to ascend in my professional career, it still was not fulfilling. I felt a lack of connectivity after a while.
In 2014, I went through a divorce and I was burnt out. Between the high-ranking levels that I ascended to, and my divorce, I was tired. I knew I needed my grounding.
That is where yoga came in. I tried yoga for the first time in 1996, in Chicago, but it didn’t work for me then. I then did Bikram yoga in New York City and didn’t like it. I swore off yoga. However, when I reluctantly walked into a class in New Jersey led by a Brazilian instructor, my views on yoga changed. I connected with it for the very first time in a meaningful way. I developed my practice with her [yoga instructor] for about 2 to 3 years. I went to India and got my teacher training and finished it in New York.
Rounding that out, I was in a yoga class, and at the time I was going through an issue with a boyfriend. I decided that day to leave my issue “at the [yoga] mat” that day. When I got home, I was inspired to write out a program plan for women communing at the mat. I wanted women to make the mat their refuge.
Being in New York City, there isn’t a lot of space. I thought about yoga mats being women’s place to escape. That’s how Freedom at the Mat was born.
The mats we sell are intentionally designed to be beautiful and colorful. We want them to be the go-to space in your home. Our YouTube page provides affirmations, meditations, yoga classes, and readings.
All of the content is a labor of love and is free for women to access globally.
Can you tell us more about Kemetic yoga?
There are many types of yoga and the number grows every day.
Kemetic yoga is a series of postures that were developed in Kemet, Egypt. It is a yoga practice that allows us to move the breath through our bodies. There are a lot of standing and extending movements. The series of postures imitates and mirrors the ancient Gods and Goddesses of Kemet.
This form of yoga has been practiced in the U.S. since the 70s. It’s lesser known, but it’s a practice that speaks to the Black experience in particular.
How can women who have never tried yoga before, ease into the practice?
I encourage women to find their presence on the mat. Find your stillness. There is a feeling of being grounded that comes when you sit still.
Whether it’s on the ground or sitting still elsewhere, place your palms on your thighs and connect with yourself. Commit to stillness and inhale and exhale.
We are making ourselves busy through work, television, and our cell phones, and we don’t take the time to just be.
After you find the stillness, I invite you to start listening to very basic beginner yoga. Find a style that feeds your spirit.
Don’t focus on perfecting the movements, just focus on moving your body. Yoga is a union of the body, mind, and spirit. If you connect to your spirit and breath, you are doing yoga.
There is no judgment at the mat. We are here to free ourselves.
How do you balance your marketing agency and Freedom at the Mat?
Freedom at the Mat is a ministry for me. It’s what I love. It doesn’t feel like work to me. When I sit down and record the videos, it’s my self-care. Sometimes I record multiple videos at a time. I also have a team that helps me. Ultimately, I have systems in place that helps me run Freedom at the Mat.
I’ve been in marketing for 27 years. That is the work that consistently defines me. It helps me afford to create the content for Freedom at the Mat.
My personal mantra is to be a blessing. Freedom at the Mat is my heart work. Marketing work is the work that God provides to me to help me keep Freedom at the Mat going.
What are some of your favorite places to travel to?
Bahia, Brazil! Bahia, Bahia, Bahia. That’s my number one in the entire universe. I can’t even handle what happens to me spiritually in Brazil.
Outside of Bahia, I thoroughly enjoy Bermuda.