Wellness Through Yoga—On and Off the Mat
In desperate need of work/life balance at a former job, Katie Bean found healing in yoga—and is now on a mission to show students, faculty, and staff the benefits of the practice. “It’s so much bigger than tree pose.”
As the director of the office of prevention and advocacy, Katie Bean focuses on the health, wellness, and safety of members of the Ursinus community, working to prevent harm on campus and advocate for students’ needs.
In addition to the programs and initiatives she implements, Bean also oversees two students groups: the Peer Advocates, trained student leaders who seek to educate on the topic of sexual misconduct and offer one-on-one support to any peer in need going through the Title IX process; and UCrew (Ursinus Cultivating Respect Education and Wellness), a group that aims to create a culture of non-judgment regarding substances on campus by promoting healthy, sober lifestyles and encouraging safe practices for those who do choose to use alcohol or substances.
Since arriving at Ursinus in 2019, Bean has also incorporated a personal passion into her work: yoga. As a certified yoga teacher—a status earned after 200 hours of training—she brings an understanding of holistic health and wellness to her work with students.
“There is a lot of cultural appropriation of yoga, and I recognize I am a white woman in the West talking about an ancient Indian practice with wisdom tied to Hinduism,” said Bean. “I am not the expert, but I am a student of yoga and love sharing how I live my yoga practice.”
When COVID-19 led to restrictions on in-person events last year, Bean decided to offer yoga online, including a “rise and stretch” morning routine and a session targeted to those who spend many hours sitting at a desk each day. Knowing that not everyone is comfortable doing group classes, she decided to continue her online offerings so that students, faculty, and staff can stretch privately in their own space.
This semester she has also hosted a workshop that combines yoga with journaling, and one that introduces beginners to yoga and meditation.
Bean first turned to yoga 10 years ago on the advice of her doctor. “I was physically in a lot of stress and a lot of pain. I developed migraines and a stomach ulcer, and I actually broke down in stress hives—twice,” said Bean. “It was a great example of how mental health impacts physical health.”
“Stress, hands down, impacts our mental health, physical health, spiritual health, and could impact our financial, academic, and professional health as well,” said Bean. “Nothing is in a silo. Yoga is one of the types of therapies or techniques that really addresses all of the areas at once … That’s one of the things I do try to promote when I teach classes or share this with students, faculty, or staff: I’m talking to them about how yoga is a philosophy and an approach to life as well as physical stretching that can help the body as well as meditation that can help the mind.”
For Bean, yoga is a lifestyle and a way of living. She practices yoga throughout the day by the way she interacts with others, and she finds value in applying lessons learned on the mat to situations off the mat.
“One of the first things I really took off the mat was this idea that in class you’ll hear all the time the teacher say, ‘Eyes on your own mat. We’re all going to look different here. All of our bodies are different, and we’re in different places.’ So she’ll tell you how to do the pose, but we all are in different places. And you take that off the mat, and that’s a really good lesson to remember: We’re all different. We’re all in different phases of our lives, and don’t compare yourself to others.”
Lessons like those from teachers can have lasting impact, which is why finding an instructor who feels like the right fit is so important. When Bean first started practicing yoga, she tried many different studios and teachers. She recalls finding her current teacher, Kate Goodyear at Nectar Yoga Studio in Phoenxiville, “love at first mantra.”
“At the end of class, she sang a mantra that really hit me. That mantra really felt like home: ‘Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.’ Her translation was, ‘May all beings everywhere be happy and free from suffering; and may my thoughts, words, and actions in some way contribute to that peace and freedom for all.’”
Learn about Katie’s upcoming classes by following @ucpreventionandadvocacy on Instagram.