“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees."
Mary Pappas-Sandonas holds a Level III (Intermediate Junior III) Iyengar yoga teaching certificate, is a Certified Yoga Therapist, International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), holds a Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology, cardiac rehabilitation, is a Reiki Master and a nutritional health coach. With 30 years of intense study, practice and teaching, Mary is committed to honoring the Iyengar lineage and sharing the inspired teaching, subtle details and transformational wisdom of yoga as taught by renowned yoga master BKS Iyengar and his family.
Mary began her studies in yoga in 1991, and continued with her senior teachers John Schumacher and Patricia Walden in 1992 and 1993, respectively. She first met and studied with BKS Iyengar in 1993, and Geeta and Prashant Iyengar in 1996 at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in India. With deep gratitude to her teachers, her practice and teaching continue to be inspired by her studies with the Iyengar family in Pune, India (Abhijata Iyengar) and with the extraordinary senior teachers in the US and world-wide. Mary has been teaching at Unity Woods Yoga Center since 1996 and has served on the board of the Iyengar Yoga Association of the Southeast (IYASE). Mary came to yoga for the physical aspect of the practice but quickly became deeply interested in yoga philosophy and its spiritual path and its profound applications to living an equanimous, balanced and centered life.
Mary’s compassionately energetic and methodical teaching style, coupled with her keen eye for observation, joyful presence, and emphasis on precision are inspiring to both beginning and advanced students. With attention to detail, enthusiastic support with individual feedback, and the infusion of the philosophy of yoga applied to modern day living, Mary weaves lighthearted humor into her classes and cultivates a sense of curiosity, playful yet deep self-exploration, and empowered confidence while challenging students in the asanas (postures) within the sanctuary of their yoga practice. Mary also integrates within her regular classes and customized private sessions her knowledge of therapeutic methods as well as years of scientific study and allied medical health training and experience. This approach results in building a safe and very special community within a sacred space, where participants use yoga with precision and joy in their personal exploration of the physical, mental and energetic parts of their being—diving deeper inward to the wisdom of the heart where they can be guided to live from their truth with healthy bodies and flexible minds.
While working toward her undergraduate and master’s degrees, Mary conducted research in psychology/neurobiology of dopaminergic pathway ablation and collateralization and the effects of exercise on dysthymic depression while at the University of Pittsburgh and at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. She worked in clinical and out-patient medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation programs, (Phases I-3) involving patient and lifestyle education, assessment and monitoring during exercise sessions and led stress reduction programs using yoga’s therapeutic applications. Mary has led workshops within the hospital setting and for corporations and organizations on stress management through the practice of yoga. She has authored two highly acclaimed yoga DVDs, reviewed in Yoga Journal (Yoga for Weight Loss and Yoga for Pregnancy and Fertility). Mary created and led yoga therapy group classes for a fertility center in the Washington DC area. As the lead yoga therapist, Mary created and directed two individual yoga therapy programs in an integrative primary care facility as well as in a hospital-based integrative medicine department. Mary brought the therapeutic benefits of yoga to patients participating in an interprofessional-multidisciplinary diabetes intervention program, and co-led behavioral health and yoga therapy group classes and created a co-curriculum involving behavioral health training and yoga therapy for the American Psychology Association. As the hospital yoga therapist in integrative medicine, Mary created “Huddle Yoga” within the hospital setting, to provide mini-yoga sessions, meditation and breath work to the nursing and support staff by traveling to their patient floors to actively promote self-care for the staff while at work, reducing stress and positively influencing quality of care. In designing and leading these programs, Mary collaborated with medical professionals to provide supported patient care of diverse health challenges through the contributions of the complementary therapeutic benefits of yoga. She continues to offer private instruction for individuals seeking yoga therapy and students who wish to dive deeper into their yoga practice.
Mary aspires that each student leaves her class feeling joyfully centered and undaunted in their heart, spacious and serene in their mind, and expansive and grounded in their body.