Yoga for Life classes are led by a group of dedicated volunteer teachers, who share their practice with the community selflessly. Collectively, our teachers draw strength from many years of combined teaching experience, yoga practice, and involvement in the HIV advocacy to deliver a program that is in tune with the needs of the community that we serve. Get to know them better through their profiles below.
Charmaine Cu-unjieng (Vinyasa, Gentle Flow, Meditation)
Charmaine Cu-Unjieng is an HIV Specialist, who has worked on international development and global health issues for more than 10 years. She received a master’s degree in Epidemiology and Public Health from Yale University and a master’s degree in Medical Anthropology from the University of Amsterdam. Charmaine is also certified as an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant, yoga instructor, yoga counselor, and massage therapist. She is also a happy mom to Luca Elfving.
Paulo Leonido (Vinyasa)
Paulo Gerardo Leonido was previously a freelance group fitness instructor for various fitness clubs such as Fitness First, Gold’s Gym, and Slimmers’ World, with more than six years of experience here and abroad. In April 2010, he trained under Bliss Yoga’s Roland Dela Cruz and completed the 200-hour yoga teachers’ training. Today, he — with co-founder Charmaine Cu-Unjieng — actively oversees Yoga for Life, a community yoga-based program for people affected with HIV, aside from conducting personal or group yoga sessions. Paulo is also a certified HIV counselor.
Kit Navarro (Yin)
Dr. Francisco "Kit" Navarro received his degree from the University of Philippines College of Medicine, after which he pursued further studies at the Academy of Pain Research and Stanford Medical School in San Francisco and at Xiamen University in China, specializing in Chinese Medicine, specifically acupuncture. Currently, he teaches Chinese Medicine at Ateneo de Manila University, and is the only medical acupuncturist and the head of the Complementary Medicine Service of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at St. Luke's Medical Center Global City.
Benedict Bernabe (Hatha, Vinyasa)
Benedict Bernabe recently completed a Master of Development Studies degree from the University of Melbourne and a Diploma in Yoga Teacher course from the Victorian Institute of Yoga Education and Teacher Training in Australia. He previously worked as community facilitator with UNAIDS and has been actively involved in the HIV advocacy through organizations such as Positivism and B-Change Foundation. Prior to doing development work, he specialized in financial research with S&P Capital IQ. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in European Languages from the University of the Philippines, Diliman.
Duds Ignacio (Vinyasa)
Duds is an IT consultant in Makati who completed his Yoga teacher training through the fund-raising efforts of Yoga for Life. Outside the corporate world he is also a freelance market researcher and a recent member of Polecats Manila.
Ivy Hapitan (Yin, Gentle Flow)
An LGBT rights advocate, Ivy serves as a Counselling and Education Officer of Love Yourself, Inc., handling Love Yourself Platinum. She headed Yoga For Life's 2012 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial event, "Oneness Through Wellness", and aspires to become a Yin Yoga teacher one day. Currently, she works at Templa Wellness, an integrative services company that promotes healthy living and fosters transformation and healing.
Oliver Loyola (Vinyasa, Yin, Becky Flow)
Oliver's first time on the yoga mat was during YFL's Christmas Party back in 2010. He found himself coming back class after class, even without the promise of food. "I was going through a really dark and low point in my life during that time, and it was when I started my practice when I started seeing things with new eyes, and everything started falling into place." Through the years, and various highs and lows, he has found solace, guidance, and hope through his practice. He now teaches Vinyasa Flow, Yin Yoga, and, occassionally, his own brand of sassy-fied yoga, Becky Flow.
Quino Reyes (Vinyasa)
Believing that he was too uncoordinated and awkward, Quino was initially hesitant to try yoga. Nevertheless, he began his yoga practice on January 4, 2010 in order to preserve the memory of a departed loved one and to deal with the pressures of the bar exams. Initially drawn to rigorous, fitness-based asana classes, his outlook and practice shifted towards meditation and yogic philosophy, which helped him cope with the stress of litigation work. His passion for yoga led him to become a certified vinyasa yoga teacher on 17 November 2013. Currently a corporate lawyer, Quino teaches yoga exclusively with Yoga For Life where he encourages his students to explore their bodies, find strength and peace within themselves, and, in the process, have some fun.
Anna Sarmiento (Ashtanga)
What started as a once-a-week yoga class for her under Joji Balcita in 2012 she eventually came to call sadhana. After a couple of years practicing with her teacher, on her own, and with the Yoga for Life community, she felt it was time to deepen her understanding of yoga. In 2014 she found herself finishing a 200-hour Ashtanga-based teacher training by Greenpath Yoga, and at present, tries to keep to the parampara by continuously learning from the KPJAYI Authorized teachers whom she holds closest to her heart. This March, she has been given the chance to attend Saraswathi’s classes in Mysore, India, which, she hopes, will only be one of many. Anna is an Ashtanga teacher some days, a university professor on others, but always, always a student.
Bambi Dimapilis (Yin)
Bambi started yoga informally when she was in college through online tutorials and DVDs but her first-ever formal lesson was a yin yoga class last 2012 when two of her friends invited her to try out Yin Yoga for the first time for an event. It was love at first class for her to the point that she actually memorized the sequence and bought her first-ever yoga mat that very day. She started doing self-practice at home and attending yin (and then eventually active) yoga classes with Yoga For Life. In 2014, she took her Yin Yoga teacher training under Victor Chng. Off the mat, Bambi is a makeup artist who does pole dancing and ballet and she uses yin as a complement to her active lifestyle, a style she shares with her students to enable to them to improve their performance at work and at sports. She's also an animal lover and a loving pet parent to her rescue cats.
Patrick Santos (Ashtanga)
Patrick grew up in Riyadh and was first introduced to yoga in 2007 while studying at the Center for Culinary Arts, Manila. In 2013 he fell in love with Ashtanga Yoga. He previously worked as a kitchen manager, and a research and development chef. Likewise, he did consultancy for different restaurants in Manila. He is currently connected to a major food distributing company, endorsing and conducting cooking demos using their popular food products. As a chef and a yogi, Patrick hopes to unite his two passions: promoting healthy living through food and spiritual wholeness through yoga. Patrick is currently enrolled to in Jovan Nickolic's 500-hr Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training Course.