Milford engineer turns to the yoga mat for encore career


By Deborah Burke Henderson, Contributing Writer

Mary Green of Milford is enjoying her encore career as a yoga teacher after her earlier work in engineering.
Mary Green of Milford is enjoying her encore career as a yoga teacher after her earlier work in engineering.

MILFORD – For the average person, it might seem a stretch to move from educational training and professional work as a biomedical engineer onto the yoga mat, but Mary Green’s lifelong interest in health and wellness has brought her right here, albeit through a circuitous route. 

“It’s been a kind of dot-to-dot experience,” Green quipped with a smile.


Childhood introduction

Green recalls an introduction to yoga when she was just eight years old. Although she refused to attend a class with her mother, she and her younger brother did try to copy the contorted postures pictured in “The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga,” a 1960 how-to book that was kept on the coffee table. Some of the postures made such an impression that Green has been practicing yoga, on and off for decades, but most seriously engaging in the work in her mid-twenties.

As the fifth of six kids growing up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Green was fascinated with the creative process and building things, starting with her brother’s LEGO blocks. She credits her mother’s artistic nature and supportiveness as key influences in allowing her to develop this innate passion of making things—even when things got messy—which has also carried throughout her life.

“I was always drawing, painting and creating silly cartoons,” Green recalled. “I loved being funny and making my siblings and friends laugh.”


Drawn to both art and engineering

Green credits her older brother, an engineering student at the time, with engaging her interest in math and problem-solving skills while she was in middle and high school. Later, when facing decisions about college, she felt drawn to both art and engineering and wondered how she might combine the two. 

“Classes in biology, anatomy, and physiology intrigued me and stimulated my passion for the workings of the human body and health and how technology might support that in terms of wellness,” Green stated.

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering from Syracuse University, Green established herself in the health industry. Green worked initially as a medical research assistant in an eye-care unit at a Boston hospital and then as an engineer for a medical device company where she worked on innovative optical technology creating devices for lab instrumentation. 

“The company I worked for had a terrific fitness center and provided offerings in yoga, tai chi, and aerobics,” Green noted. “At the time, I was more interested in fast-paced exercise, but I kept coming back to yoga.”

It was there that she met her future husband, a fellow engineer. They started a family and after the twins were born, Green chose to become a stay-at-home mom. As their children grew, she discovered the Kripalu Center in Lenox, Mass., and took workshops and trainings in yoga and mindfulness. 

“I had an ‘aha’ moment there, realizing these teachings could be the perfect segue to maintain my passions and continue helping others,” Green stated.


Becoming a yoga teacher

Mary Green’s chair yoga classes typically attract participants from 60 to over 90 years old.
Mary Green’s chair yoga classes typically attract participants from 60 to over 90 years old.

She went on to receive certification from Kripalu as a yoga instructor. Additionally, in an eight-week curriculum at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, she experienced Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MSBR) technique which she found to be transformational.

For the past 16 years as a mat-based yoga instructor in workplace, educational, and community settings, Green has encouraged people to take care of themselves through mindfulness and mindful movement. 

“Movement implies you are in your body,” Green stated. “I offer guidance and instruction about making different shapes with our bodies, and always doing so with awareness of one’s own experience, noticing the sensations each movement brings.”

Ten years ago, the Community Center in Ashland hired Green to sub for a chair yoga instructor, and shortly thereafter, she took the position over. A typical class has 25-30 participants, ranging in age from 60 to more than 90 years old.

“I sing Mary’s praises,” Bea Riordan said. “She is very welcoming and makes you feel good, no matter what your ability. I have been coming for nearly two years and find relief from my chronic back pain while I am here.”

Fellow chair yoga enthusiast John Palmer, in his mid-eighties, admits he spends an inordinate amount of time sitting at his computer but finds this class a great relief.

“Mary’s got a playful personality and keeps us smiling,” said Palmer who started attending in mid-December. “After completing just five consecutive classes, I noticed improvement both in my flexibility and balance.”


Value in community and friendship

“Open and grounded, that’s how we should walk in the world,” says yoga teacher Mary Green of Milford.Photo/Submitted
“Open and grounded, that’s how we should walk in the world,” says yoga teacher Mary Green of Milford.

Beyond the crucial benefits of dynamic stretching and strengthening one’s overall muscles and joints during her hour-long class, Green sees great value in the community and friendship these seniors experience.

“It warms my heart to see these folks care for one another,” Green said. “They are warm and welcoming with each other. It is a community of like-minded people who are discovering new ways to care for their bodies, find stillness, and experience life-affirming attitudes.”

Green notes that the benefits of chair yoga are the same as a traditional practice: people physically get stronger, become aware of the breath and their bodies, and experience the psychological benefits of discovering a calmness in moments of stillness and gentle movement. 

Recently, she was asked to teach a class in mindfulness and meditation at the center, and ten chair yoga students immediately signed up. 

“Even in the first session, I realized this practice will help still my racing mind and help me pay better attention to my body,” Steve McCormick said. “I thank my wife, Carol, for getting me here, but I’m here to stay.”

How does Green do it all? She credits her own daily practice.

“My favorite time of day is early morning when I engage in some stretching movements and find stillness in a short meditation. I also make time to do a quick sketch, all of which sets my compass for the day. That and a good cup of coffee gets me going.”

Green’s advice to her students: “Open and grounded, that’s how we should walk in the world.”



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