Thursday, May 5, 2011

Yoga For Life

Makati City, Philippines – On Sunday, 15 May 2011, the Yoga for Life community will come together to join the world in commemorating the 28th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at the Glorietta 3 Park in Ayala Center, Makati.  Entitled Yoga for Life: Touching Lives, it will be an afternoon that will gather yoga enthusiasts and HIV advocates alike in a candlelit sunset ceremony honoring the lives of people affected by HIV and AIDS.

The Yoga for Life community will take the traditional candle lighting ceremony further by making an impact in the way that it knows best - through yoga. Co-founders Charmaine Cu-Unjieng and Paulo Leonido will be joined by the country’s top yoga instructors in leading the community through yoga poses, breathing techniques and guided meditation, to demonstrate how the discipline and community of yoga help those affected by HIV. More importantly, the event aims to unite the community’s energies towards igniting the flames of HIV awareness in the general public.

The event will begin with registration at 3:30 pm, and will be supported by yoga instructors Roland dela Cruz, Jeannie Javelosa, Tesa Celdran, Marilen Elizalde, Marc Carlos, Lex Bonife and Rebecca de Villa, HIV advocates from different sectors and friends of the Yoga for Life community. Proceeds from the event will support the services that Yoga for Life provides to the HIV community, which include yoga classes, meditation sessions, and HIV and life-skills counseling.

This is the 28th year since the International Candlelight Memorial was first held, making it the longest running community event around HIV and AIDS. It will also be the first time that the Yoga for Life community is joining the tens of thousands of people from 75 different countries in touching the lives of those affected by HIV. While the Candlelight Memorial was originally held to commemorate the lives lost to HIV, Yoga for Life chooses to empower the lives of those who continue to triumph in spite of the virus, and celebrate the HIV advocate in everyone.

Yoga for Life began in June 2010, and is the Philippines’ first community-based yoga program for persons living with HIV, as well as others who support them and the cause and want to experience the beauty of yoga. To date, the community has grown to over 300, as Yoga for Life continues to reach more people and build a community of advocates who, through yoga, share their energies towards living positively and living well.

Photo Credits: Noel Abelardo of Noel Abelardo Photography (
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About Yoga For Life

Charmaine Cu-Unjieng and Paulo Leonido first met in 2010 during their Yoga Teachers’ Training. Together six days a week for two months, they got to know each other, and clicked. Call it dharma. They were both passionate about HIV and yoga. Call it fate. They even had the same birthday. Call it whatever you want. They became proud parents of the idea of yoga for the HIV community.

With her contacts at EchoYoga, and his contacts at the Philippine General Hospital and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Charmaine and Paulo developed a yoga program designed for the needs of people living with HIV and AIDS.

Soon, with some of the most dynamic people, each an HIV advocate in their own right, they formed the Core Group, whose work and dedication would help bring Yoga for Life to fruition. And on 2 June 2010, we held the first Yoga for Life class for our first 14 students.

The first months were like walking on thin ice, as we needed to get people to open up to either experiencing yoga or facing the issue of HIV, or in some cases, a combination of both. But as our newbies become regulars, who invite friends, who invite friends, it is the Yoga for Life community itself that is helping us evolve into what we need to be on the holistic road to wellness, inner peace, and self empowerment.

In April 2011, ten months and 300 members since it began, we formalized Yoga for Life as a non-stock, non-profit entity with the Securities and Exchange Commission, with the purpose to conduct sessions of yoga and other related disciplines to serve as complementary therapy for those living with HIV, as well as supplementary venue for convergence among those who live with, those who are affected by, and those who support the fight against HIV.

Today, we strive for more ways to serve the growing YFL community, so we may continue to reach more people and build a community of advocates who, through yoga, shall share their energies towards living positively and living well.

About The Candlelight Memorial

The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, coordinated by the Global Network of People living with HIV is one of the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV/AIDS awareness in the world. Started in 1983, the Candlelight Memorial takes place every third Sunday in May and is led by a coalition of some 1,200 community organizations in 115 countries hosting local memorials to honor the lives lost and raise social consciousness about HIV. The Candlelight is also much more than just a memorial. It provides opportunities for leadership development, policy advocacy, partnerships, and improvement of community mobilization skills. With 33 million people living with HIV today, the Candlelight continues to serve as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers, and giving hope to new generations.

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