Lighting the Way

Richard Jonas

Mary Dunn, beloved teacher of yoga students and yoga teachers for 30 years, has been chosen to receive the IYNAUS Lighting the Way award for distinguished volunteer service to the Iyengar Yoga community.

Longtime Senior Teacher at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York, Mary was also a founding director of IYNAUS and a founding member of the three Iyengar Yoga institutes in the United States – in San Francisco, San Diego and New York, where she remains a shining inspiration for the activities of the Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York. Her tireless efforts led to the opening of the new Institute, commemorated during Mr. Iyengar's visit for his Light on Life tour.

The life of Mary Dunn was celebrated in a Valentine's Day weekend event at the Institute, which included classes donated by visiting teachers Laurie Blakeney, Chris Saudek, George Purvis, Mary Reilly, and Patricia Walden; reminiscence sessions, slides, videos, and music; laughter, tears, and plenty of the sweets Mary loved. Teachers, students, and friends talked about Mary's enthusiasm, her humor, her brilliance as a teacher, her light-up-the-room smile. Funds raised went to the Mary Dunn Fund, a committed pool of resources to continue Mary's lifelong work for the spread of Iyengar Yoga and excellence in its teaching. Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to IYAGNY, 150 West 22nd Street, 11th floor, New York, NY 10011; please indicate
"Mary Dunn Fund" on checks.

Certified as Junior Advanced, Mary said that Iyengar Yoga was the place where her life interests and life work came together. In her teaching she drew on her education at the University of Wisconsin in English, history, and philosophy, and on her interests in communication, the arts, and music. With a unique teaching style-enthusiastic and motivating, grounded in a thorough knowledge of the method, intelligent and humorous-she trained generations of students and teachers worldwide.

Mary began studying with B.K.S. Iyengar in 1974; her mother, Mary Palmer, brought Mr. Iyengar to the United States for his first sustained teaching here. Mary maintained regular study with the Iyengar family throughout the years.

Diagnosed with advanced peritoneal cancer in the summer of 2007, Mary maintained a blog in which she discussed her treatment and shared her thoughts. The many messages of support and caring posted there buoyed her, she said. She taught at the Institute until her final months.

Mary, 66, died peacefully in her sleep September 4, 2008, at the home of her daughter Elizabeth Dunn Ingles, in Scarsdale, New York. She is also survived by her daughter Louise A. Dunn of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania; her mother, of Ann Arbor; her brother, Adrian Palmer, of Salt Lake City; her former husband, Roger Dunn, of Scottsdale, Arizona; and four grandchildren. Mary's family held a memorial service at the New York Institute in September 2008.

Please go to for a special tribute, "Mary Dunn: A Life in Yoga," including tributes from Guruji, Geetaji, and Senior Teachers. It is posted as a .pdf to download and read.

The Lighting the Way award, given by IYNAUS to commemorate contributions from a member of our community which have greatly furthered our mission of disseminating the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar, has been awarded once before, to Senior Teacher Joan White.


Photo courtesy of Lynton Gardiner