Amidst the tumult of a semester with unprecedented restrictions, routines and expectations, Bowdoin Wellness Services has been nurturing a sanctuary of tranquillity and community through weekly yoga sessions, led by Assistant Director of Wellness Services Kate Nicholson.
These sessions, mainly attended by first-year students, take place on Tuesdays and Fridays in Room 213 on the second floor of the Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness. They first took place over Zoom before moving to an outdoor, in-person format. Now, with the arrival of cooler weather, they have moved back indoors.
Despite the location changes, students have appreciated the stress-relieving sessions.
“The calming, nurturing atmosphere that Kate brings to the class has remained constant,” wrote Madison Evasius ’24 in an email to the Orient. “You are always warmly greeted and welcomed. I can come from the most hectic, stressful day and upon entering class, my mind is instantly at ease.”
Nicholson, a yoga instructor who has practiced yoga for over 15 years, shared the benefits of yoga, especially for students navigating today’s many transitions, both personal and political.
“We spend so much time on campus or in college in our heads, thinking so much … that [we struggle with] challenging sleep, … run-down immune systems [and] rumination, for example,” she said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “When we can simplify life and bring it into a felt sense of the physical body, we can kind of ground the substance of ourselves. And that is really, really, really important right now.”
Nicholson added, however, that these benefits are not exclusive to yoga.
“[All these] benefits of yoga, around the physical body, can be true if you go take a hike, can be true if you take a really beautiful walk or jog around the trails,” said Nicholson.“To take [movement] and translate [it] into activities and ways that you enjoy being with yourself, to being with others, and [to] being in your body, is what’s important.”
Nicholson also offers “wellness chats,” which students can sign up for through email or the CampusGroups app. She explained that these are opportunities to talk about subjects from “What’s it like to be on campus?” to “I’m really struggling with my sleep,” to “I’m feeling overwhelmed and anxious.”
For off-campus students, Nicholson urged them to reach out to her office if there is any help needed in navigating mental wellbeing.
“I would hope that they would reach out and make that gesture to plug in and connect because we certainly very much want to … support and ensure that the Bowdoin community is here for them, no matter where they are,” she added.
Whether it be yoga, meditation or discussion, Nicholson emphasized that it is crucial that students acknowledge their needs and prioritize their well-being. Mindfulness Over Matter, Peer Health and Active Minds are some student organizations that provide resources to students regarding mental health. The latter two can be found on Instagram, along with @bwellbowdoin, which Nicholson runs.
“My hope is that … students don’t dismiss their well-being at the expense of all of their work. There will always be a cost for that,” Nicholson said.“College isn’t only about suffering throughout your work. … We would like for you to enjoy yourself, to have fulfilling relationships. … Your hearts and your bodies matter as much as your brilliant minds.”
The Wellness Services offers a range of programs besides yoga that cater to the mental health of students this semester. These include bi-weekly discussions on Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. about food, the body and eating; “Meditation Labs” on Sundays from 8 to 8:30 p.m. and “Body Talks” with Health Services on Tuesdays at noon. All events are conducted virtually, where questions that students have about COVID, sexual health and other topics are answered.