Winter Haven yoga teacher Prima Burney is ‘opening the door’ for others to navigate life and healing through her wellness and herbal alchemy business, Open Door Wellness. Using her own life experiences and talents to help her clients, Burney aims to solidify Open Door Wellness as a positive force in the community.
Born in Winter Haven, Burney lived in Jacksonville with her grandmother until she passed away. At six years old, she came back to Winter Haven and didn’t venture out again until she was on her own, back to Jacksonville. She graduated from Polk State College and went into the healthcare field with the desire to be a social worker. “I thought that was going to be my life, and then my life decided that I needed more help than I could give other people,” she laughed.
She got married and had three children. She returned to Winter Haven in 2007, after her divorce. “I definitely didn’t want to stay, but it’s been this growth and this evolution,” she said. “As Winter Haven has grown, I’ve found myself, I’ve found a home, I’ve found my niche – this place that I’ve gained, this community that I never expected.”
Burney’s mother came to Winter Haven from Jacksonville to join a church. As all teenagers do, Burney began to forge a path of her own. “It’s kind of this long journey to find who I was and where I fit in the world. That’s why Winter Haven never felt like home until I found that part of me and connected to who I was. It has been this amazing journey that I don’t think I would trade for much else.” Burney credits her own life journey and “not always feeling like I belonged where I was” for her drive to help others. “I didn’t know who my father was until I was about 16, and when I found that out, that was part of what broke my world apart,” she said. “I wanted to provide support to other teens who had always kind of felt on the outside.”
After having her second child two months premature, Burney knew she wanted a change. Cooking had always been a passion, and the door opened to the next transitional stage of her life. She earned a degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando and remained in the culinary field for 15 years.
She hasn’t strayed far from the underlying elements of social work, though, saying, “Everything that I’ve done as far as my career, I connect with people. People feel free opening up to me, so I spend a lot of time exploring other people’s lives with them.”
From the Kitchen to the Yoga Studio
Her sister had practiced yoga for years and encouraged Burney to try it. A smile flickered across her face as she remembered, “She tried to show me in my mom’s living room.
“I started going through those transitions in life again where life was going upside-down. I got divorced, became a single mother, and my life just started to come apart.” She had been attending yoga with a friend who encouraged her to find a yoga studio near her, that it would help her settle the troubles she was facing. Inside Out Yoga was running a three-week unlimited special. “I took them up on that offer, and it took all three weeks for my mind to quiet. But when it did, I thought, ‘Okay, there’s something to this.’” She’s kept with the practice ever since, noting it is the one thing that always “brings me back to center no matter what.”
Burney completed YTT (Yoga Teacher Training) last year and now works as an instructor at Inside Out Yoga in Winter Haven. “Jody, from day one when I walked in the door, has been this magnetic, mentoring energy in my life. She made me feel comfortable. One of the things, as an African American, it doesn’t always feel pleasant to walk into a space and be the only one, and not have people look like you and not know how you’re going to fit in. Jody, always, always made this space something that was a safe zone for me,” she said of Inside Out yoga teacher, Jody Reece. “It’s been this thing that has its own energy and its own direction, and I’m just going along for the ride,” she said of her yoga journey.
Slow Flow is the style of yoga she prefers. “I like to take it and make sure that we’re giving attention to our breath, that we’re focusing on our movements, that we’re focusing on holding the poses so that we have time to get out of our head and into our body,” she said. Burney teaches an early bird class, gentle yoga, and hip hop yoga at the downtown studio.
Open Door Wellness
In 2019, Burney did shamanism training in Lakeland. Part of that class included Ayurveda. According to John Hopkins Medicine (hopkinsmedicine.org), “Ayurveda, a natural system of medicine, originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Thus, Ayurveda translates to knowledge of life. Based on the idea that disease is due to an imbalance or stress in a person’s consciousness, Ayurveda encourages certain lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to regain a balance between the body, mind, spirit, and the environment.”
“The lightbulb went on,” Burney said. “I was burnt out. I was on my own wellness journey; I was doing yoga, I was taking this shamanism training class.” She remembers thinking, “This is the bridge between my own journey and where I believe I want to go.” Training in Ayurveda, Burney began testing out spice blends with the crew she was training with and got a positive reception. “I started using the tea blends from Ayurveda for myself. In my years of going through culinary, going through my own transitions pretty much wrecked my digestion with stress.”
She began using CCF tea, containing cumin, coriander, and fennel, and was encouraged by its transformative effect on her life. “The herbal alchemy was my play on bringing in some of the Ayurveda into Western herbalism,” said Burney. She wanted to be respectful of Ayurveda’s origins while including aspects of Western herbalism. “Herbal alchemy is about bringing in herbs and spices and finding how they fit into a plan for your body and your composition,” she explained. “It’s simply about putting them together in a way that could alchemise any problems or any support that you need in your life – that’s my approach to it. […] That comes into looking at the energetic properties of each herb, each spice, the best way to consume that which may be in a tea, maybe in a spice blend, maybe in a tincture.”
Through her business, Open Door Wellness, which started in February of last year, Burney offers certified organic herbal products, yoga, energetic work, and herbal wellness sessions. Patrons of Open Door make an appointment through her website for a one-on-one consultation. “A part of what I do is listen to what you’re saying so we know we’re in the right direction — so tracking what really is at the core and the center of what’s going on. A lot of times, we feel that things are physical, but they are actually emotionally rooted in our bodies and causing these physical issues,” she said. “Some of that is sometimes just sitting down having a fireside chat, sitting one on one, creating some sacred space and just allowing time for you to download and listen to yourself.”
Burney debuted her initial line of products at Indigo Moon in Bartow. She followed that by attending a few markets until everything closed in response to the pandemic. During that time, she designed her own website. “Since everything has opened back up, we have become a member of the Winter Haven Farmers Market, which we consider our home. It is where we aim to be every Saturday to get our name out there, have conversations, and be a part of the community, which is the ultimate goal when opening Open Door Wellness – being an influential, positive part of the community.”
Open Door Wellness regularly attends the Winter Haven Farmers Market and Buena Markets in Lakeland. Burney’s market offerings include her prepackaged blends available in bags and tins. Custom blends are available upon consultation. The goal for Burney is to one day have a multipurpose wellness brick and mortar. Perhaps sharing a space with other wellness practitioners where customers can receive spiritual and energy work, select their own herbs, and have custom blends on demand. “I would like to grow the herbs that we are using to make our products,” said the herbal alchemist.
“One of the things that I asked myself in trying to figure out where I wanted to go was ‘How can I use my creative talents and skills in order to help my community?’ Between the yoga and the herbal alchemy, I feel like that’s what my purpose is.”
Open Door Wellness