Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mary Dunn - A legendary Iyengar Yogi

Over the last many months I have been contemplating starting a serious of blog posts to highlight Iyengar Yoga masters and teachers, their yoga practice, their style of teaching and how they impact their students. By bringing to light these highly skilled yoga masters, I feel folks who come to this blog will be inspired to practice Iyengar Yoga.
We know the three legends in Pune, Guruji, Geetaji and Prashantji under whose guidance many many of these amazing people have become legends of their own. I have mentioned several of my teachers both in Oregon and Pune, but there are so many legends I am coming across as I read about them, or communicate with them via email, that I feel compelled to write about them.
Highlighting them in a post is my way to honor and respect them for the contributions they make to share their knowledge and teachings of yoga with others.
As I was researching some of the Iyengar yoga sites, I came across Mary Dunn's blog. She started this blog sometime last year when she found out she was suffering from cancer.
Mary has been on a courageous journey ever since. She has had to face the pain of multiple surgeries over the last year, chemo and all the challenges that come with facing such grave illness. But as she mentions in many of her posts, she has kept up with her yoga practice and even attended a retreat right after her surgery in January.
Throughout this experience she has continued to write in her blog to keep her friends and students in touch and inspire them. She certainly inspired me as I myself faced my own life challenges during the same time. Reading her blog posts gave me strength and inspired me to be true to my yoga practice and to remain calm and centered. I was most touched by two posts. In the first one from Dec 2007 where she writes :
We reflect on the year at this time, and it has been a big one, with both big challenges and great joy. There was a celebration at the Institute of the Iyengar Yoga Association of New York’s coming of age. As part of the festivities, I was honored to learn that, among other things, I was “the champion of stiff people.” In the spirit of the year’s end, I want to enlarge my championing-- and will work on that in the coming year.
I am one of the stiff ones, so these words simply hit home. Along with big challenges there are great joys and we should not forget those great joys as she continues to live in those joys. Mary has been a practitioner and teacher for a very long time. Her mother was a follower of Guruji probably even before I was born. She was instrumental in the formation of three Iyengar institutes in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. She is the director of the Institute in New York. Reading through the hundreds of comments on her blog I can tell she is truly a legend in the Iyengar Yoga community and Yoga at large and has trained and inspired thousands to practice yoga.
Mary is a yoga master and its truly an honor for me to write about her. Her most recent post on August 18 was quite touching. She writes:
Before I left Memorial behind today, I had a wonderful call from Prashant Iyengar and was able to speak with him and with Guruji. Then, my daughters, a wonderful friend from California, and I made our way Elizabeth’s home in Westchester. The Bronx River Parkway broadens into a woodland ribbon of park meandering from the Bronx into Westchester. Trees, birds and little wild creatures welcomed us into the timelessness and cycles of nature.
Soon I was settled into a bright, cheery, second-story room nestled in the trees. Everything is here and thought through for my comfort and care. I spent the evening enjoying the memories and thoughts that come from rereading your cards and letters. I wish I could thank you and respond individually to what you wrote. Know that I smiled and sometimes laughed out loud learning about what is new with you and your thoughts about life --- each thought a treasure and gift to me. Know also that your unwritten prayers and ideas are reaching me and warm my heart as well.
These words touched me deeply as I was reminded of my late mother, when she became very ill. She didn't get a chance to come home, to be with family but rather had to suffer the pain, sometimes alone in a nursing home. She had to suffer from tubes stuck into her body in an ICU when she became terminal. I could never said goodbye to my mother. My children could never said good bye to their grandmother and that hurt me tremendously. I was depressed for two years and it took me a long time to forgive myself for putting her through that pain, even though she was sedated .... It was one of the reasons that compelled me to seek out yoga to bring some peace and closure.
As I read that post, I was comforted that Mary is with her family and her grandchildren in the comfort of their home, listening to the birds chirp in her room nestled in the trees, as she courageously fights the battle with cancer. I am heartened to read the hundreds of comments her well wishers, students and friends have written to warm her heart and make the pain less bearable.
I learn't a very important lesson today. Life is too short to be stuck in pain, anger and suffering. We prolong our own suffering with negativity, conflict, ego and vindictive behavior. It hurts our body, mind and soul. Legendary yogis like Mary Dunn can withstand the pain with a smile, continued dedication to their yoga practice and all the while continuing to inspire others to warm their hearts and in that stand and being they in turn warm their own hearts. Thank you Mary, you are truly an inspiration. May you continue to be blessed with your wonderful smile, courage and compassion. I don't know you personally, but I know I am connected to remind me of my mother.
Please visit Mary Dunn's blog and honor her by leaving her a comment like the many birds who sing in trees by her bedroom window. She is truly a living legend.
The Yogi
Note: I have borrowed Mary's picture and comments from her blog without permission. Its my sincere hope that she will not mind.

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