She saved many lives: “I could still walk out the front door, but they couldn’t”

Yoga tutor and disability advocate, Mary Madhavi, was named one of Cardiff’s Covid-19 heroes after moving her “YogaMobility” classes online.

yoga teacher with family
Mary values her time with her family more than ever. Credit: Sian Hopkins.

In a warm and brightly coloured room, Mary, 71, sits huddled in a blanket, suffering from a chest infection.

Her current illness does nothing to hide her eccentric and sparkling persona, as she proudly points at the array of artwork and sculptures that decorate her and her partner Jason’s home in Roath, Cardiff. 

Creativity is just one of the components Mary needs to run her disabled charity: “YogaMobility.”

Her background in counselling and empathetic nature allowed her to meet with around 60 different families, pre Covid-19 lockdown, all with profound levels of disability. 

Mary has taught accessible yoga for many disabilities, from arthritis and MS to cancer patients and those suffering with psychological conditions. 

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We are a powerful community, connecting everybody to feel valuable in a society that dismisses disabled people.”

Mary Madhavi
Socially distanced yoga outdoors. Source: Woodland Retreat website. Credit: Suzie Larke

Due to the rise of Covid-19 “YogaMobility” were no longer able to meet in person, making it impossible to hoist or lower their clients without making contact, so Mary made the difficult decision to transfer over to online.

Mary’s eyes began to glaze over at this point, as she recalled the tremendous effort she maintained throughout the continuous lockdowns. 

“I felt like I had lost the work I had done all my life. I didn’t know how to operate!”

Mary’s energetic and sparkling personality shines through. Source: Woodland Retreat website. Credit: Suzie Larke.
The 71-year-old never dropped the act of primary caregiver for her yoga community, knocking on doors of those deeply stressed and afraid from isolation and staying on the phone to those who could not cope with the lack of physical contact.

During this time, her partner lost his mother to Covid-19 and his brother to cancer, but neither were able to visit due to their need to shield. 

Mary recognised how traumatised she and her partner were from these events anyway, regardless of the current state of the world. 

While for anyone this amount of loss would cause an enormous amount of pain, Mary still focused on the positives she could take from her situation.  

“The neighbours have been very kind, and people were so careful and caring. It all increased the empathy I had for those within the disabled community.”

If I wanted to go on my daily walk when the rules permitted it, I could still walk out the front door, but they couldn’t.” 

Mary took the responsibility to motivate those who were slowly becoming institutionalised in both their bodies and minds due to isolation. Ultimately, Mary’s perseverance saved their lives, both mentally and physically.

A hero to the Cardiff public

Cardiff City’s public agreed, as Mary was voted as one of Cardiff’s Covid-19 heroes.

Although Mary appeared humbly embarrassed about the whole affair, the award truly reflected the hard work she had done to support others during such a difficult time.


One of the many portraits hung up around the city centre. Source: YogaMobility Facebook.

Her win meant that famous artist to the stars, Jason Wyburg, painted a portrait of Mary that was displayed throughout Cardiff city centre.

All the Covid-19 heroes’ portraits will later be displayed within the National Museum Cardiff, in an exhibition about the pandemic in Wales.

Mary reflected on her achievement, suggesting it was terribly embarrassing, but because it was good for the charity and for the people she had been supporting, so she ended up accepting.

“We continue to run classes, both online for those who are frightened and unable to leave the house, but also around 20 people returning to in-person sessions twice a week.”

“Ultimately, the community is still together.”

Credit: Sian Hopkins
Where to find Mary and her YogaMobility Classes 

Zoom classes offered for those who would work in a chair and those that can go to the floor.

Come and join in with us:
Monday 10.30am-12.30pm (BST) Zoom
Thursday 10.30am-12.30pm (BST)Zoom

- Donations for YogaMobility