Yoga enthusiasts and HIV advocates led by Yoga for Life (YFL), a community helping people affected by HIV through yoga and meditation, mark the 30th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial in the country with a mass yoga practice on Sunday, May 26, at the Quezon Memorial Circle.
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial has been observed every month of May since 1983 and is one of the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness. Last year, more than 200,000 people participated from 115 countries.
Every year, through a mass yoga practice, Yoga for Life leads HIV advocates and health and wellness practitioners to flex, breathe, and meditate in joint advocacy for a more effective response on HIV and AIDS.
While most countries have stabilized their HIV epidemics, the health department reports that the Philippines is one of only nine countries in the world where the number of new HIV infections has risen by more than 25 percent since 2001.
“The annual mass yoga event is our small contribution to the fight against the spread of HIV in the country,” said YFL founders and yoga practitioners Charmaine Cu-Unjieng and Paulo Leonido.
“Our theme this year is ‘Better Together,’ which expresses our solidarity with communities all over the world in commemorating the millions of lives lost to HIV while celebrating those living as we also advocate for universal access to quality HIV treatment, care and support, and fight against the stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV suffer from,” said Cu-Unjieng.
The event will be held at the Charito Planas Garden in Quezon Memorial Circle with the Quezon City government sponsoring the venue for the second year.
The program will start with a mass yoga session at 4 p.m. led by YFL teachers and guest instructors from various yoga studios. The session will combine physical poses, breathing techniques, and guided meditation to not only demonstrate how yoga helps people affected by HIV, but also introduce the practice to beginners.
This will be followed by the awarding of the A+ Recognition to an individual who made commendable contributions to the Filipino HIV community.
By sundown, participants will relax in a solemn candle-lighting ceremony while singing kirtan (sacred songs), the highlight of the program.
Registration starts at 1 p.m. with participation fee of P150 per person.
Having grown to a community of more than 800 HIV advocates, YFL teaches five regular classes a week in various locations. The newest class is at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) at the Department of Health compound in Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang (Mondays, 3:30 p.m.).
Other classes are held at Medical Plaza Ortigas in Pasig City (Wednesdays, 7 p.m.), ECHOyoga Community Center at Century Plaza Condominium in Makati City (Saturdays, 2 p.m.), I Go Beyond Yoga in Il Terrazzo in Quezon City (Sundays, 8 a.m.), and I Go Beyond Yoga in C2 Building, BHS Central in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City (also on Sundays, 8 a.m.).
Proceeds from the “Better Together” mass yoga event will support Yoga for Life’s services to the HIV community, including yoga and meditation classes, yoga teacher training, HIV counselling, HIV awareness activities, and building a community of advocates and supporters.