Mary Sims is the Founder and Lead Instructor of Guided by Humanity, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing inclusive and accessible yoga to underserved communities. She is deeply passionate and committed to making yoga accessible to everyone. She believes all shapes, colors and abilities deserve equal access to the sacred teachings of yoga and mindfulness. Since the early 2000's Mary has been working with individuals with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) in various capacities from direct care, administration, supervision, friend, and advocate. She has also been a yoga student for many years and recognized a need for inclusive and accessible holistic health and well being amongst the I/DD community. With her passion, drive, and service in mind, Guided by Humanity was formed.
What do I do best?
I was told growing up that I was too sensitive. I cry at movies a lot. I cry when some else is crying. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m angry. I cry when I’m happy. Now I understand that what was used to be thought of as a weakness is actually my super power strength. Empathy. And, when I teach yoga to a community of persons with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities (I/DD), I lead with my entire heart and soul. Encouraging students to be free, to be themselves, with no labels, no judgements and no expectations. As we are all in this journey together.
What makes me the best version of myself?
Taking care of myself first and foremost from the inside out. Being kind with my thoughts and actions. Giving myself freedom to be me is when I’m the best version of me. Imperfectly perfect.
What are my aspirations?
My goal with Guided by Humanity is to create affordable, inclusive and accessible yoga spaces for underserved communities. Too often we have spaces that are geared towards white, financially capable and able-bodied women. Unfortunately, the Western idea of yoga is of extremely flexible, thin women posing on Instagram wearing fancy yoga pants, and posing in strange pretzel-like shapes. My aspiration is to follow my dharma, to do my part in helping to make changes in the yoga community by breaking barriers, stigmas and prejudices. I believe that yoga has nothing to do with mastering an arm balance pose but everything to do with mastering your peace of mind. With the goal to be able to be contented, to be able to see, speak, and think clearly on and off the mat.
My Biggest Success?
My biggest success and most challenging moment run in tandem. As I felt complete rejection I was able to turn it into meaningful passionate action. I created a yoga program geared to persons with I/DD, ‘Yoga 4All Abilities’ was created in 2016 with my previous employer. The program was a complete success and busting at the seams in need of expansion. So successful that I was in fear of advertising the program in effort to keep the class numbers at a sustainable level, and since I was the only facilitator. The All Abilities students were showing overwhelming benefits using their breathing techniques at home and with staff, pure enjoyment in trying something new and fun, being able to feel included in a community space, and most importantly the chance to have a sacred time for themselves. The main objective was to give students empowerment in making their own choices and to give them an opportunity to be included within the yoga community. Another huge benefit from the class was to help with trauma symptoms. Most if not all of the students are victims of trauma regardless of disability or not. Trauma affects 70 percent of the population if not more. For persons with IDD the numbers are much higher for marginalized communities…
With leadership changes in the organization and a lack of funding to justify continuing the program, ‘Yoga 4All Abilities’ was discontinued. With the full investment of my heart and soul I had put into the program, I decided to leave my full-time employer, and moved quickly to form the nonprofit ‘Guided by Humanity’, with a vision and drive to create a culture of compassion within all communities regardless of ability or background.
My Most Challenging Moment?
My personal motto is to ‘Be Kind’. The concept of Ahimsa from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is defined as the principle of non-violence towards all living things, to be compassionate with all beings. And most importantly, to Be Kind to ourselves. Too often we listen to our inner critic, have a war inside our heads, push people away, resent others, etc. In adverse times, I remind myself to Be Kind, to pause, to use compassion; compassion in everyday life to accept the things I cannot change, to respond rather than react to situations.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
My favorite person, place, or thing is Accessible Yoga! I googled Accessible Yoga while in teacher training searching for other like-minded yogi’s and found the nonprofit grassroots organization Accessible Yoga. The mission of “Accessible Yoga is dedicated to sharing the benefits of Yoga with anyone who currently does not have access to these practices, and with communities that have been excluded or underserved.” What?!? Yoga for everyone!?! This was exactly what I had been searching for. I was instantly head over heels in awe and inspired. I quickly completed a scholarship application to attend the upcoming conference in Santa Barbara that was listed. I received a full scholarship and was able to attend my first Accessible Yoga conference. And, I haven’t looked back since. I continue to be inspired by the amazing network of people changing the face of Western Yoga. I am forever grateful to Accessible Yoga and Founder, Jivana Heyman for giving hope and empowering myself and many others to continue to serve with compassion.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
My favorite place hands down is Phuket, Thailand. Where we Thai’d the knot.
I had never been out of the country but with my free and naturally adventurous spirit, my bags were already packed. This trip was a perfect exploration of the unknown. Temples, bidets, elephants..OH MY!. The landscape was beyond words beautiful, the culture, everything. And not to mention, the thai massages, yoga with the nearby sounds of the ocean crashing, and the most affordable street food on the planet. Heaven on earth.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
Just a few of my favorites:
- Jade Yoga mat has shown me all the love and support during my yoga practices,
- Doterra Frankincense to help keep me grounded mostly used in high traffic times,
- The Golden Present, Daily Inspirational Readings by Swami Satchidananda to begin my day.
My Current Passions?
My passion is and always has been helping those that need help the most whether volunteering and/or a paid position. I have worked with people with I/DD for over 15 years in various capacities - direct care, service coordination, supervision, mentor, advocate, and friend. With Guided by Humanity, luckily, I have been able to combine two things that I’m most passionate about: yoga and serving the I/DD community.