Katie Burke, or “Katie B Happyy” as she prefers to be called, is a master yoga instructor and personal trainer who’s been teaching classes at Core Power and other yoga studios for years. But her reach is far beyond the yoga studio these days. She’s started an initiative called “b_inspired” and plans spiritual empowerment/yoga retreats across the world in places like India, Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, Italy, Spain, China and Colombia.
Through her program, she challenges thousands of participants to combine physical strength with emotional depth in a transformative experience.
Katie B has lived in Pacific Beach since 2006. She grew up in a New Jersey farm town called Kingwood. It was there, she said, she watched her mother slowly die of breast cancer. Katie was with her mom, when she took her last breath.
She describes the experience this way: “The Latin root of the word inhale is inspira, to inspire. We inhale (inspire) and exhale (expire) hundreds of thousands of times a day and rarely think about this automated biological response. At 14 years old, I watched Kathy Burke, my badass 43-year-old mama, take her last breath. I knew that cancer had taken her breasts, but I didn’t know it would take her life. As a strong Jersey woman, I never realized she was actually going to die.
“Silly, huh? But watching her chest rise, and then watching it fall, and never rise again, switched something on inside my little adventurous heart. I remember thinking, ‘That’s it? That’s all we are? One final exhale?’ ”
That was the beginning of Katie’s search for something more — something more deep, more spiritual. That quest led her down a path to train as a master yoga instructor. But it was another life-challenging experience that led her toward planning spiritual transformative retreats for others.
In August 2015, at age 27, half of her face suddenly became paralyzed with Bells Palsy. Her doctor told her only 80 percent of patients heal from it.
Katie takes up the story from there: “My right eye was stuck open. My lips stuck about an inch apart. I looked like I got a botched Botox job on just the right side of my face. I could feel everything, but nothing was moving. When the ER doctor told me I had Bells Palsy, the word ‘palsy’ hit me like a ton of bricks. I was the healthiest person I knew, right?
“I have giant horse teeth and a big mouth. My smile is huge. But my paralysis forced my successful public figure — yogi self, Katie B Happyy — to only have half a smile! Where I had for years depended on my youthful flexibility and athletic outer shell, I now felt cheated by my body. I had to hold my lips together to even drink or eat.
“Broken in so many ways, I cleared my schedule of everything that wasn’t teaching. I went to healers, acupuncture treatments, chiropractic adjustments, massages, and just relaxed. Bells Palsy is an inflamed nerve, so I was trying to de-flame everything. Instead of hiding from the public eye, like so many afflicted do, I chose to keep teaching, beautifully broken.
“I cried with my students when they reacted to my face; I showed up with my whole heart asking for help.
“Something shifted. Because I was doing a lot less, somehow more flowed in. My ‘super yogi’ persona fizzled away, and yet I related to so many of my students on the mutual plane of despair. For the first time ever, my retreats filled. I gained thousands of devoted followers who wanted to cheer me on, and I replied to them all. My sole focus was healing and my students — and the universe — gave me more financial gain in my retreat business than ever before. No Instagram ad could have gotten me the same surplus as me simply being present with people and asking about them.”
Katie did get her full functions back, and now she is going full speed ahead. Planning eight international trips for groups all over the world is a full-time endeavor, but she still manages to teach eight classes a week at Core Power while traveling to 12 countries a year.
Those who attend her retreats describe them as life-changing experiences. Cancer survivor Sara Keleher talked to PB Monthly about her experience at the Cancer Warriors Retreat that took place in April in Ensenada, Mexico.
“We enjoyed three amazing beachfront yoga sessions with Katie (it’s about more than the yoga!) but the most powerful part for me was the three self-growth workshops where she coached us to dig deep into our past, present and future,” Keleher said. “She has the ability to create an environment that feels safe for everyone to share and open up at. I’m enjoying the inner peace and calm I brought home as I reintegrate back into mom life.”
Another attendee, Lyn Dienhart, described that same retreat this way: “It was the perfect combination of spirituality, movement, fun, adventure, crying, laughing, nature, dancing, relaxation and stillness.”
Now, at age 31, Katie B is writing a book about her experiences, as yet untitled. Getting it published is one of her biggest dreams for the future.
“I know that many people struggle with their ability to speak their truth and talk about their perceived flaws and vulnerabilities,” she related. “I am free to speak authentically and openly and freely. I have seen that my vulnerability allows others to be vulnerable, too. I’ve been blessed with many experiences that some would see as negative; but I’ve had the opportunity to see them as gifts. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and publishing a book would be a big achievement in my mind. I want my story to be shared in a book, as it’s a gut feeling a book will be a pivotal part of what I am building.”
—To learn more about b_inspired retreats, go to binspired.life You can also find Katie B Happyy on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.