One of my earliest memories as a child is riding a little yellow school bus to preschool in Paraguay while my mother and grandmother waved goodbye. I remember feeling the blanket of love, support and security they provided me as the bus rolled down the dusty road.
This feeling of love never left me, even as we soon left my extended South American family for the United States. My parents presented the move as a big adventure for my brother and me. They had found exciting new jobs as university professors in Mississippi, then Detroit and finally Maryland.
My first memory here was in kindergarten where I was dressed in my best clothes from Paraguay. I did not speak a word of English and needed to go to the restroom. Unable to communicate with the teacher, I stood up, walked to the front of the class, and out the door fully confident that I would find the washroom, somewhere down the hall. My parents were determined that we not lose the blanket of love and support we felt in South America.
No matter where we moved, my parents worked hard to instill in us the value of hard work, focus, and commitment--grounded in compassion and spirit. I look back on the years of my upbringing as growing new roots in the United States, learning English, and yielding to a new culture without forgetting my Paraguayan heritage.
Given my family background, it is no wonder that I am a teacher committed to movement, yoga and meditation. Both my father and mother spent their entire careers teaching and were heavily committed to living spirited lives. My mother was my first and best meditation teacher. When I was little, she would read passages from various scriptures and theologians, then we would sit and meditate. Well, actually she meditated while I watched her and wondered what was going on inside her.
I spent much of my childhood singing, acting and dancing. At college I did all three, finally focusing on modern dance. I danced in several companies for many years. The dance theater and studio Dance Place in Washington DC became my home away from home. I was keenly attracted to how the co-directors of the studio Carla Perlo, Deborah Riley and Lesa McLaughlin not only taught their classes but treated community with such kindness and respect.
In 2000, I walked into the doors of Willow Street Yoga Center seeking to feel my body again after taking a respite from dance to have two babies. The former founder of the studio Suzie Hurley was my first yoga teacher. She inspired me to become a yoga teacher with a thought that has stuck with me ever since. It is to seek within myself and my students the one spirit that runs through all of us as strength -- to become light, to become a better human being and to contribute to making this world a better place.
I was first certified through Anusara Yoga and served on the Certification Committee till 2012. I am a E-RYT 500 Certified Yoga Teacher with 10 years of experience training students for certification. I have co- lead numerous immersion programs, workshops, and local and international retreats.
Most recently I have committed to advancing my training through the study of Ayurveda and have completed my certification in Functional Range Conditioning ( FRC) as a mobility specialist.
In addition, I have a private practice where I work with students seeking to advance their personal practice or who have special conditions.
Some specialties include working with students with Multiple Sclerosis and with musicians. I have given workshops sponsered by the MS society and taught yoga classes at Georgetown Hospital to students with MS. I have also taught yoga to musicians and dancers at the University of Maryland as well as worked with musicians from the Peabody Conservatory.
My family is my foundation and blessing. My yoga practice is an open book for study and reflection. My students are a great source of inspiration and learning - thank you!
Teaching yoga is a gift that I treasure wholeheartedly. I am deeply grateful to all my teachers and students
"I have studied with Maria for 15 years. She continues to research, invent, and synthesize her approach to teaching yoga. The common thread in her exploration and sharing is that it is always transformative. I always feel changed for the better at the end of class." Jane
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that interferes with the highway of messaging from the brain, down the spinal cord, to the tips of the fingers and toes. This disruption of nerve signals can cause a wide range of symptoms including problems with walking, balance, thinking, speaking and coordination. In some people, the disease may be mild and sporadic. Others experience progressive symptoms. While there is no cure for MS, I have seen the the beneficial affects that yoga, mediation, and breath work can have no matter the stage of the disease.
What can yoga do for a person with MS? It can improve physical function and quality of life by enabling students to become stronger, more flexible, and less prone to falling due to loss of balance and coordination. When linked to breath work and meditation, yoga can lessen MS students tendency toward anxiety and depression by calming the nervous system and connecting to ones heart. There is no question that living with Multiple Sclerosis is both difficult and time consuming, but yoga can help students gain a greater sense of confidence, connection and participation in managing and living a spirited life beyond MS.
I work with students who have minor MS symptoms to ones who cannot walk or move their arms. I have given classes to MS students at the VA hospital and at Georgetown hospital as well as given workshops with the National MS Society. I also work with students privately in their homes.
Musicians tend to spend long hours practicing and playing beautiful music with their bodies in asymmetrical positions. What is called "repetitive motion syndrome" can undermine a musician’s ability to play due to hand, arm, neck, shoulder and lower back pain. A musician’s health can be further undermined by the need to keep perpetually late hours and carry heavy equipment. I know this first hand because both my daughter and former husband are professional musicians.
From my experience, the practice of yoga can make a world of difference to musicians by restoring neutral body alignment as well as strengthening and stabilizing vulnerable joints. The breath work that accompanies the asana (physical poses) reduces fatigue by breaking up tension patterns in the body and improving oxygen flow throughout the body.
The poses don't have to be difficult or time consuming to be effective. A few specific poses and strength building practices can open the body’s ability to perform optimally and one good breathing practice can reduce a lot of tension and anxiety.
I usually give musicians a set of asanas they can do in their practice room. The poses do not require a yoga mat. They include wall and chair poses as well as simple hand/wrist openers and forearms strengtheners. Eventually, you might want to have a yoga mat and props in your practice space because of the benefits yoga provides.
- Peace Joy and Love