Archive for yoga


Posted in HIV, pozzie life, yoga with tags , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by iamhivpositive

On the first day back from the holidays, my yoga class was expectedly full with new people and their steely resolve to get on the fitness track. As we stretched out our creaky bones, saturated with Christmas fat, and sweated out the hangovers, I once again thought about what it was about yoga that has made me keep coming back to it throughout the years. I was always a nerd, unathletic and gawky, and in high school I would skip PE classes by managing to always have my period. The competitiveness of team sports didn’t appeal to me, and running like a hamster in the gym was boring and tedious. Discovering yoga was somewhat of a breakthrough in my physical routine, mainly because it wasn’t all about the physical. There was a mind-body connection that appealed to my intellectual and spiritual side while also creating a stronger, more toned body. After the last minutes of savasana I would always feel centered and peaceful, free of toxins both physical and emotional. So I wasn’t surprised when I came across yoga for people living with HIV. As a practice with proven physiological and psychological benefits for almost any type of body, it makes perfect sense.

Yoga For Life, a community-based yoga series created by Charmaine Cu-Unjieng, a Yale-educated HIV specialist, and Paulo Leonido, a fitness expert and personal trainer, came together when the two met during yoga teacher training under Roland dela Cruz of Bliss Yoga. Call it dharma. “We were together six days a week for two months. We’re both passionate about HIV. We even have the same birthday,” Charmaine says. “I always wanted to merge the work I had been doing with yoga, and meeting Paolo catalyzed it.”

With her contacts at Echo Yoga, a group that offers alternative classes to niche groups like overweight and older people, and his contacts at Philippine General Hospital and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Charmaine and Paulo developed an Iyengar-based yoga program designed for the needs of people living with HIV and AIDS. Worldwide, yoga is being recognized as an important complementary therapy for immunosuppressed patients. “I have friends living with HIV. I had always wondered, what happens next?” Paulo says. “So we came up with Yoga for Life, which is a non-strenuous, holistic approach to wellness.”

The first couple of months of classes were not so easy, as newcomers had many fears to overcome and needed to grow more comfortable about opening up and talking about HIV. “We didn’t know at first whether to focus on people with HIV, or make it an advocacy against stigma and discrimination, open to everyone. We were also concerned about confidentiality,” says Charmaine. But it has become a safe space: there is no requirement to disclose one’s status, and the classes are indeed open to people with HIV and those who support people with HIV. Ninety percent of the students are gay men, and half of them are estimated to be HIV positive.

In Ayurvedic philosophy, specific poses like inversions are beneficial to the immune system, while backbends stimulate thymus activity and forward bends detoxify the liver. B.K.S. Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar Yoga, outlined a sequence of poses that encourage proper blood circulation and activate glands that are known to regulate the production of T-cells, the body’s army against infections. For people living with HIV, yoga alleviates stress and depression. For those on ARV drugs, yoga helps detoxify their system. After an hour and 15 minutes of asana practice, the students are guided through meditation and breathing techniques, and it is in these moments that yoga becomes its most medicinal. “Our approach is to bring back the inner peace, self love, self empowerment and happiness. You don’t have to be reminded about your sickness,” Charmaine explains.

Feedback and results from students have been encouraging. One student, with a dangerously low CD4 count of 7 (HIV-negative people normally would have 700-1,000 T-cells) was getting sick with opportunistic infections. The doctor advised him to stop exercising. Charmaine and Paulo put him in relaxing poses. He stopped getting fever every day, and started gaining weight and getting stronger. His new CD4 count is unknown, but one can surmise that his stabilized health reflects a higher number of T-cells. Paulo shares that other students are starting to practice on their own, even employing breathing techniques inside taxis when they need to calm down.

With Paulo as a great motivator for the students, keeping in touch with inspirational texts, Yoga for Life has become more than just a place for a judgment-free work out. “Yoga for Life has proven itself to be a real community,” blogged one practitioner who had been living with HIV for three years. “Being with the Yoga for Life community turned out to be the best way to celebrate World AIDS Day. Yes, I dare to use the word ‘celebrate.’ Because gone are the days of World AIDS Day being a commemoration of the lives that had been lost to AIDS. Rather, we should be celebrating. Celebrating life going on in spite of the virus.”

For the new year, Paulo and Charmaine are hoping to scale up their program, introduce fun safer-sex campaigns to spread the message of positive prevention, and find more yoga teachers. As they run it on a volunteer basis and only ask for a suggested donation of P200 per class, the sustainability of Yoga for Life still looms as an issue. But with the energy they give out in service to others, the universe is sure to respond in manifold.

* * *

Yoga for Life is held on Wednesdays, 7 p.m. at 28th Floor Conference Room, Medical Plaza Ortigas Building, San Miguel Avenue, Ortigas, Pasig City, and on Saturdays, 2 p.m. at Echo Yoga Community Center, 9th Floor Penthouse, Century Plaza Building, Perea Street, Legazpi Village, Makati.

Article by: BENT ANTENNA By Audrey N. Carpio (The Philippine Star) Updated January 07, 2011


YOGA FOR LIFE W A D 2010 activities

Posted in pozzie life, yoga with tags , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by iamhivpositive

Yoga for Life invites everyone to celebrate World AIDS Day (WAD) on December 1 (Wednesday) by lighting 108 candles to symbolize the faith, hope and love of the HIV community and to support this year’s “Light for Rights” WAD theme. We will conduct a special kirtan session, one of the oldest sacred music traditions in the world, to express our common gratitude and promote our continued effort to achieve stillness of mind and spir…it.

Please bring 1 pocket notebook and a pen. A vegetarian dinner will follow to also celebrate Yoga for Life’s 6-monthsary and the upcoming wedding of Charmaine Cu-Unjieng (co-founder).

December 1, Wednesday, 7:00-9:00pm
Conference Rm., 28th Floor, Medical Plaza Bldg.
25 San Miguel Ave., Ortigas Center

We would also like to share our love and support to the bigger community affected by HIV and AIDS through the following activities:

Yoga for Life Goes to RITM – Celebrating Life through Yoga and Meditation
December 3, Friday, 3:00-4:30pm
Executive Lounge, RITM
( yoga mats will be provided )

Yoga for Life Joins the LGBT Pride March

December 4, Saturday, 2:00pm
Tomas Morato, Quezon City

See you there, Namaste

Paulo Leonido +63917 388-9658
Charmaine Cu- Unjieng +63917 540-4247

Stars and Spark!

Posted in etc, Personal, pozzie life, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2010 by iamhivpositive

It was dark and cold… the cool air from the mountains makes me chill… as I look into the other side, I saw tiny lights from the city… they are so small that they can pass as stars from where I am standing… I took a deep breathe as I am overwhelmed with the view, it was just so… romantic? perfect? … or it was a moment of appreciation… appreciate that I am still alive and was given a chance to see this view… call me drama queen and all… but that’s what I really feel…


Slowly, I started to hear noises from the outside… I’m awake. Today is a very special day I told myself, I should make it a good day no matter what. Smiling, I opened my eyes. It was still early to prepare for work so I just decided to stay in the bed. I cuddled with the pillows under my blanket and just embraced the excitement of what’s going to happen that day.

When I finally realized that nothing special is going to happen that day since I didn’t plan anything, I was able to calm myself. I just smiled and started to prepare for work.

At work was nothing special either, though towards the end of my shift, my boss asked our team to head to a fast food chain and eat. Whilst eating, he explained that the reason for the treat was because it’s my special day. I was touched and everyone greeted me. I honestly wanted to cry but they started cracking jokes that stopped my tears from falling…

As the night falls, I waited for a friend who asked me if he could take me out for dinner. He picked me up from the office and as I sat myself on the passenger seat, he handed me a box. He asked me to open it. It was a box full of chocolate. I smiled. I like chocolates! I mean, who doesn’t right? I was touched by his sweetness… we just met 2 weeks ago and I’m surprised by his knowledge about my favourites.

He told me that we are gonna go to a place which can make me happy, I was intrigued. What is it this time? But I was excited, obviously, I think he did a research about me. After parking, he lead me to a sort of like a bazaar but as we come nearer, I hear dogs barking. And as we entered the bazaar my heart melt as I see little puppies… I LOOOVEEE dogs! And he knows it too! He toured me in the bazaar showing me all the cute puppies like he is a tour guide. After which he asked me if I would like to have dinner already and I said yes.

We crossed the street and entered the restaurant just in front of the bazaar. I remember telling him that I like filipino foods maybe the reason why we are eating in one that day. The food was very delicious and again, I was… impressed and touched by all of what he did. When we finished eating… we headed back to the car park and decided to go home.

On our way home, I suddenly felt alarmed and worried… the road that he is taking is not leading south… it’s somewhere else… I started feeling scared… after all of what he did, I don’t know what he is capable of doing… call me paranoid and judgemental or what, but that time, it didn’t really feel right…

he drived fast and it was already late… I don’t know where were going and whenever I ask him, he just tells me to wait…


Posted in etc, Personal, pozzie life, thoughts with tags , , , , , on September 15, 2010 by iamhivpositive

I clicked add new entry without anything in mind to write. Honestly, I feel like my HIV life is starting to get a little bit boring. Actually, looking back, the last 4-5 years of my life is actually boring… until I found out I am HIV positive.

Let me update you on what is happening in my boring pozzie life…

1. I wake up early and watch TV
2. I go to work and sometimes get stressed
3. I go home and watch TV again until I fall asleep

1. I wake up early and watch TV
2. Watch some more TV
3. Eat Lunch
4. Yoga for Life – only on Saturdays
5. Go home
6. Eat Dinner
7. Watch TV
8. Sleep

No wonder why I’m starting to get bored… Only Saturday excites me because of Yoga for Life… attending Yoga for Life means, more relaxation and stronger immune system and lately, means seeing my crush. Yes, you read it right… hehehe.

So as you can see, your not missing too much about me as there is nothing I’ve been up to lately… oh I remember, I already visited my dentist a few weekends back and still, I didn’t have my tooth extracted… I was… scared… lol. But besides that, your up to date!

Till next time!


An Invitation – YOGA LOCA

Posted in etc, friends, Medical, Personal, pozzie life with tags , , , , , , on August 27, 2010 by iamhivpositive


You ready to Yoga with your Tanga? ^__^

I am inviting you guys to join YOGA LOCA… it is the YOGA for the FABULOUSLY GAY, and the GAY FABULOUS!

If you are interested… please feel free to contact the number in the poster….

Thank you!



Posted in etc, Medical, Personal, pozzie life, thoughts with tags , , , , , , on August 8, 2010 by iamhivpositive

Last Saturday’s yoga session, for me, was really rejuvenating!  Yes, it was.

I arrived in the venue just in time before the class started, I was only at home for the whole day so I feel really up and perky to attend yoga class today.  I need some stretching. heheh.

A girl welcomed me in the venue, it was my first time to see her there.  She was slender, nice skin, bit tan… she looks pleasant… she looks very accomodating and nice… maybe this is Mr. Yogi’s partner instructor, so let’s call her Ms. Yogini.  She introduced herself and I also introduced myself.  She went inside the room and so was I after removing my shoes.  There were a few people inside the room already, some were changing to their yoga clothes and some were stretching. 

Mr. Yogi saw me and gave me a tight hug.  That felt nice, I really love hugging and for me it is a really nice gesture.  I immediately changed my clothes and sat in the matt.  I tried stretching for a little bit though I was a bit concious since I’m not really a pro in yoga. hehe.

“Doc” went to my matt and sat with me then told me stories about the last yoga session that they had, as you know I only attend the Saturday sesssion since I’m still in the office whenever they start yoga in Ortigas.  I really like it when he comes and sit with me in my matt… and slowly, one by one, mr. yogi and b.i.t.c.h also went to my matt, sat with us and exchanged stories.  It’s like my matt is always the hang out matt, and I like it. hehehe.

After a few more minutes, everyone went back to their matts and the session started.  Ms. yogi started the session by sharing something to us, something about what we are about to do, it is something about non violence.  Then followed by the breathing excercise and the poses.  I was really sweating as in OA sweating all through out the session.   Maybe because I was really concentrated and focused.  I really need this… I told myself and so I did my best to be perfect at it, if not atleast almost perfect.

This session really has gotten into me, I really felt every pain was worth it.  Every stretch was as if I am reaching for my happiness.  Every drop of sweat was like every pain and worries that I was slowly letting go…

I am really happy that I attended this last week’s session, not that I didn’t like the other that I attended in the past but this one really made me feel different, made me more one with my soul, made me more stronger physically….

I am definitely looking forward to the next session… I will give the same enthusiasm, focus and concentration like what I did the last time… now, that I experienced it myself why it is called YOGA FOR LIFE…


Posted in etc, Medical, Personal, pozzie life, thoughts with tags , , , , , , on June 27, 2010 by iamhivpositive


My body is starting to become unstable, I’m starting to shake. Slowly, I can feel myself perspiring. It was hot. For my fragile built, this position is very very hard. I feel like my whole body is already wet because of my non stop sweating.

Inhale, exhale… deep inhale… long exhale…


I checked google maps for the venue… Century Plaza Makati… there it is! Just 2 blocks away from Greenbelt 1 and 5. I smiled, I know the place. I will not have a hard time looking for the venue. But I’m still not sure whether if I really want to attend the yoga class. I’m still thinking about the advice of my gym instructor which is to just spend my time in the gym instead of attending a yoga session which will actually bring me a step closer to my real goal… gain weight.

After an hour of thinking, I am convinced. I’ll stick to working out, my gym instructor is right… I need to gain weight! So I grabbed my phone and asked him what time will he be available to train me since I messaged him last night canceling our 6pm appointment. To my dismay, he didn’t reply. Maybe he is was still sleeping so I waited.

It was almost lunch when I finally got a reply from him. But to my dismay, he told me that he is already fully booked for the day and he’ll just train me the next day. Hmmmm… maybe this means that I really need to attend the yoga class. And so I message the yoga instructor and confirmed the time and venue of the class after which I geared up.

I arrived early so I decided to stay in the nearby ministop. I was nervous. I feel like my heart wants to escape from my chest and go home. I’m a yoga-virgin and I don’t know what to expect. My phone vibrated and it was the instructor telling me that he is in Greenbelt and is just waiting for another participant before they go to the venue. I replied back saying I’m just nearby. After a few more minutes, he messaged me again saying they are on their way to Century Plaza. I took a deep breath and told myself… “nandito ka na, wala nang back-outan to…” , I grabbed my bag and left the store…

The elevator opened. This is it, I told myself. I stepped out of the lift and screened the area. Well ventilated. The air comes in and out freely of the area, of course, its the penthouse! The instructor introduced himself and vise versa, he also introduced me to the other participant who is sitting on a sofa. As the participants arrive one by one, the instructor introduced me to them. I felt….awkward? Or I guess I was shy… They already know each other and I think I’m the only one who is going to do it first time. OMG!!! I started to panic. What if I mess up? What if the session will be delayed because of me? So many things ran in my mind. I was asked to answer a questionnaire which is about my health for the past 4 weeks. I took my time in answering so that I will be busy while waiting for us to start. We started around 230pm and all in all, there were 6 participants. I was somehow relieved because a few more addition will really make me more nervous. Then there we are, sitting in our mats… ready to begin…


Breath in, breath out… concentrate on your breathing… I felt… quiet… relaxed… peaceful. It has been a long time since the last time I listened to myself breathing… actually this is the first time. I never listened to my breathing, I took it for granted. As I was stretching my legs, arms, body…. and as I was concentrating on my breathing… It made me more realise that I’m still alive…. I have a life to live…… I’m still…. breathing… and I can hear it…


My body is starting to become unstable, I’m starting to shake. Slowly, I can feel myself perspiring. It was hot. For my fragile built, this position is very very hard. I feel like my whole body is already wet because of my non stop sweating.

Inhale, exhale… deep inhale… long exhale…

I went home physically tired… but empowered. Most of the time, we take our lives for granted and do the things that we want without really thinking of its effect to our body… to our life. This is the lesson I learned from today’s session though it’s not really part of the agenda. I’m already looking forward to the next session…