As part of our ongoing series interviewing inspiring women in the outdoors and travel world, we spoke with Mary Tilson, a yoga instructor who uses Yoga Trade to expand her practice and her horizons. Hearing about her experiences will give you serious wanderlust, and if you’re moved to try Yoga Trade to find your own yoga opportunities all over the world, you can learn more about it here.
1. What is Yoga Trade and how did you discover it?
Yoga Trade is an online community of passionate yogis, wellness enthusiasts, travelers, artists, and so much more! It’s an incredible support network for those looking to live an alternative lifestyle full of inspiring blog posts, job opportunities, and a strong focus on living a life of service and interconnectedness.
I came across Yoga Trade while I was the Resident Yoga Teacher at Hariharalaya in Cambodia. At the time, we were regularly seeking out teachers for our internship program, and Yoga Trade was the perfect resource to get the word out to the right people! I was so inspired and excited by the site that I tracked down Erica, one of the founders and messaged her just to connect and tell her how incredible she is. Now as I travel, and spread the word, it’s hard to come by another yogi who isn’t already part of Yoga Trade’s growing community.
2. What were you doing before Yoga Trade and how did it change things for you?
I was just wrapping up an extremely transformative year leading retreats at Hariharalaya when I discovered Yoga Trade. I first used the platform to share about my experience transitioning from living in corporate America to the Cambodian countryside in hopes my story would inspire other people to live a life they felt equally passionate about. After getting a very positive response, I became a Travel Rep to encourage growth both from the teachers eager to share yoga and organizations that may benefit from it (which includes all of them, of course!!). Yoga Trade was a huge help in recruiting teachers for a yoga & mindfulness project I initiated in the villages of India, and I still use it to share opportunities in my current position as Yoga & Wellness Director at Nihiwatu Resort.
3. What role does yoga play in your life? What is your daily practice like?
Yoga has given me a guiding set of principles to find fulfillment in everything that I do. As a hardcore nature lover, a large part of my daily practice is being outside and connecting with my environment. I wake up at sunrise and do my personal practice on a platform overlooking the Indian Ocean on Sumba Island, Indonesia. I don’t think the flow of gratitude will ever run out for the opportunity to practice in this space! I would definitely say acknowledging the miracle of life everyday has become a part of my practice and one that keeps me smiling more often than not.
Yoga keeps me grounded in order to support a life of continuous travel and adjusting to new environments. It has led me to beautiful communities of like-minded people around the world, inspired me to give back and most importantly allowed me to support myself by doing what I love. It’s everything, really. 😉
4. Where have you been as a Yoga Trade instructor? What have been some highlights of those travels?
Since I’ve been representing the Yoga Trade community, I’ve traveled around pretty much all of Southeast Asia, India, Nicaragua, Morocco, and most recently Greece! Living in Udaipur, India was incredible for so many reasons—teaching yoga to young children in the villages, and getting to know the founder of the organization, Samvit who is now one of my dearest friends. My current role at Nihiwatu Resort on Sumba Island has also been nothing short of magic, and to be able to invite other teachers in and share the opportunity has also been an amazing gift!
5. What would you recommend to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Surround yourself with positivity! I really can’t stress this enough, and this is why I LOVE Yoga Trade. I hear so many yoga teachers express their fears about failure to make enough money to teach and travel – fear of what their co-workers, friends, and family will think, and an endless list of excuses to shove their dreams aside. Spend a few hours reading the hundreds of success stories that prove otherwise, and your mindset will instantly shift!
It’s also important for new teachers to connect with those who have already walked the path – find a mentor or a center that will support your growth and be willing to be of service in the early stages in order to gain experience. Know your worth, but be humble and always remain a student to the practice.
6. What are the things you take with you when you travel?
The longer I’ve had to carry all of my personal belongings in a backpack, the more I’ve managed to narrow the list. I’m a compulsive notetaker, so I’ll always have a journal, plus my nook (e-reader), phone, laptop, and camera to continue to work on the go. Then of course, the yoga mat, clothing, toiletries, and those special keepsakes that I’ve collected during my travels, most of which remind me of someone close to my heart.
7. Where do you consider home?
That’s a tough one! Sumba Island, Indonesia has started to feel like home after basing myself here for the last couple years. I feel my best in tropical climates and deeply connected to this part of the world. That being said, I’m incredibly close with my family and friends back in the states, so I’m always happy to make my way back.
8. Where do you still want to travel to?
Everywhere! I would love to carve out a few months to travel around Africa— everything about it appeals to me—the nature, colors, art, music, people, culture! I’m also planning to finally make it to New Zealand and Australia within the next year, and of course the list goes on…