Where Yoga and HIV Come Together and Play
Daniel Uy’s Spotlight on Yoga: Yoga Unite (If you open up and put it out there, people take notice)
So recently I was interviewed by Socially Fit. They were looking for inspirational stories and interviewed me with some questions. We had it re-printed on positivelite.com here. What was awesome was that in it I put out to the universe world that if there was any way that I could give back to HIV community or world at large, to contact and let me know. Somehow that phrase opened the door.
Very soon after that I was contacted by some individuals in Toronto who were in the process of looking at using yoga as a way to give back to the greater community at large. Their first event they wanted to do would be near to Toronto’s Pride and they just happened to be The AIDS Committee of Toronto. What’s that you say? A place where yoga and HIV have overlap? I couldn’t believe it. Within 24hrs I was connected in.
It’s funny how quickly things can happen when one is open to the world of change. Sometimes I think of it as a Universal Google Maps of assistance and need. Like there is some cosmic switchboard that when you raise your hand or open your heart and say “Yes I am ready and available to be of service in any way I’m able” you are lit up on this map. And when “the call” comes in for a need nearby, you are somehow brought together. You can call it what you like. Destiny. Fate. The blind forces of chance. Divine Intervention. When the doors of the meta-physical are opened for business, it’s amazing what may come a-knocking.
This has led me into the presence of Yoga Unite. Their premiere event is being held Sunday July 8th from 3-5pm at the Extension Room and it will be a fun fusion of yoga, dance, pilates, movement work for people at all levels of fitness. I had a chance to speak with Chantal Wade, the founder of Yoga Unite and ask her a few questions.
Daniel: What is Yoga Unite?
Chantal: Yoga Unite is an event-based yoga initiative that aims to raise awareness and funds for local organizations that provide services to the diverse communities across the GTA [Greater Toronto Area]. Basically, there is a real need to better our own community. Yoga Unite is the only yoga initiative that focuses solely on our local community, aiming to raise awareness to important issues that have a lot of social stigma associated with them. Yoga Unite is founded on the principle of Karma Yoga, the act of self-service and selfless action. So we try to get the community to partake in Karma yoga through our yoga-inspired events.
How did this all come about?
To be honest, it all fell into my lap. Someone else had started planning a fundraiser and I was asked to take a lead in the project. It shortly fell apart, and I took a good two weeks to build up the confidence in myself to trust that I could do this on my own. So, I established a name for the initiative and really took the time to think about what I wanted Yoga Unite to be about. I am a social worker (MSW, RSW) and a yoga teacher, and really wanted to find a way to combine my two passions -Yoga Unite feels like it's the path I was meant to take. There are so many important issues in our local community to raise awareness of, so I knew that this would create lots of opportunity for many great events.
What made you decide on the AIDS Committee of Toronto as the first event?
I cannot take credit for deciding on the AIDS Committee of Toronto for the first event. When I came to join the initial project, then called YogaloveYYZ, it was already established that ACT would be the recipient. But this was what drew me to the project, because I wanted to get involved to raise awareness to those affected and infected with HIV/AIDS. Sadly, there is still a lot of social stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, and there needs to be more knowledge and compassion in our community.
So this social stigma that you see associated with HIV/AIDS, what are some ways that you believe, we can do to help change that?
That is a very good question. I think we live in a society where 'ignorance is bliss'. For those who are not affected or infected with HIV/AIDS, there is an unspoken belief that we will never have to come into contact with HIV AIDS. But that is not the case for the majority. Despite all the research and efforts to educate the world about this issue, the majority are still afraid of it. For this reason, so many infected with HIV/AIDS live in the closet, in fear of the response they will get from society if they "come out". As with any issue where there is social stigma, I strongly feel that awareness is the key. I hope that those who are affected with HIV/AIDS can feel comfortable opening up about their experiences and that those who have no knowledge of, or experience with, HIV/AIDS can be willing to listen, opening their minds and their hearts. Just my two cents...
That’s really amazing. So how can people get involved?
Thanks so much for taking time to sit with us!
It’s amazing and I am really honoured to be connected with this event. If you are in the Toronto area and would like to come down and join in this event, please do so. If you do make it down, please come and say Hi afterwards as I would be delighted to meet you.