"Soothing music, incense and candlelight create a serene setting for yoga students as the calm, reassuring voice of instructor Jim Wills coaches, encourages and guides the group’s movements and thoughts to a restful place of peace. At the end of the session, each person is visibly relaxed yet rejuvenated.

The class meets twice a week at Cityoga in the Indiana Avenue Cultural District downtown near the IUPUI campus. Free of charge, the class is open to anyone infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. According to Cityoga owner Nikki Myers, “Most of us know someone who’s infected, but everyone is affected, so this class is open to all.” Cityoga’s open invitation elicits a cross-section of attendees, including several IUPUI students who need credit for classes. Cityoga’s proximity to campus and the weekday hours are conducive to student schedules, Wills believes. 

The class has been ongoing since Cityoga opened in 2002, originally with a little help in the form of a grant from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts. “It’s the core of who we are,” Myers believes. “We have an affinity with this community.” The class is now taught by Wills, who attended teacher’s training classes at Cityoga. “Every instructor had to select a specialty,” he explains. “I chose wellness for people.”

Because the class is open to HIV-positive students, Wills incorporates some alterations to traditional yoga instruction. The room is kept cooler (around 70 degrees) to reduce sweating, which is detrimental to some medications. Specific exercises are selected to benefit people living with HIV/AIDS. “We focus on opening up the chest for better breathing control, so we do a lot of inversions — down dog, head stands, shoulder stands,” he explains. The thymus, which regulates T-cells, is activated after inversion.

Controlled breathing also oxygenates the organs. For further benefit, Wills leads the class in several floor twists to “squeeze and flush the internal organs.”He reports that one student taking chemotherapy as part of his cancer treatment indicates the exercises assist his medications in rejuvenating his body.

Another focus is stress reduction. Wills includes shoulder and back exercise for a calming effect. Apparently successful, Wills receives a lot of feedback from students experiencing a calming effect and a positive outlook on life after class.

Yoga has changed Wills’ life too. He says he has gained patience and is better able to see the good in people. “I look for the positive.” He gets plenty of practice. In addition to his classes at Cityoga, Wills teaches at the Peace Learning Center at Eagle Creek Park and conducts wellness classes for Delta Faucet. He has served as the treasurer for the Indiana Yoga Association for two years.

He advises incorporating yoga into any fitness routine. “Yoga has been around 5,000 years. It complements other exercises because it teaches you to breathe, stretch, warm up, cool down and relax.” Yoga offers a relaxing way to exercise mind and body, and is the perfect way to start the day, Wills believes.


All People Yoga Center

1724 E. 86th St.


Cityoga Downtown

936 Indiana Ave.


Cityoga Midtown

3766 N. Meridian St.


Enlightened Tree

263 Madison Ave., Greenwood


Himalayan Yoga Meditation Center of Indiana

6358 Guilford Ave.


Indianapolis Yoga Center

6158 King Ave.


Inner Peace Yoga Center

5038 E. 56th St.


Invoke Studio

970 Fort Wayne Ave. Ste. C


Irvington Yoga Collective

6128 E. Lowell Ave.


Kripalu Yoga Foundation Inc.

1802 E. 46th St.


Lighted Works

1066 W. 37th St.


Lotus Center for Yoga & Wellness

3940 W. 96th St.


Mindful Movement Studio

1315 C W. 86th St.


Open Heart, Quiet Mind

429 E. Vermont St. Ste. 2


Renew Yoga & Fitness Studio

1048 Virginia Ave.


River Light Yoga

5058 Riverview Drive


The Sacred Space

1060 N. Capitol Ave.


Samdhana of Indianapolis

3308 Loftus Court


Source Yoga Center

8609 E. 116th St., Fishers


Yoga Alive

1741 Minturn Lane



4915 Winston Drive