Downtown San Francisco abounds with energy. Commuters and tourists zip in and out of buses, trains and trolleys, moving through public spaces to scatter amidst the looming buildings of the financial district. It’s no wonder that businesses and charities alike utilize the city’s public spaces, holding special demonstrations or fundraising events to promote their respective cause. Union Square is probably the most highly trafficked public space in downtown San Francisco; it’s a location synonymous with many yearly events. “Yoga for Hope” is one such annual event, a gathering of yoga practitioners, each of whom has donated to or raised money in support of City of Hope. As pedestrians and other onlookers go about their businesses traversing Union Square, practitioners attend two classes led by acclaimed San Francisco yoga teachers Darren Main and Stephanie Snyder.

City of Hope is an independent medical and research institution dedicated to cancer research and other life-threatening diseases. It is recognized for its compassionate patient care and for quickly turning laboratory discoveries into new treatment therapies. City of Hope’s “Yoga for Hope” fundraiser is held in multiple cities across the United States each year. I photograph the San Francisco event mainly because almost my entire family has already passed away with some sort of cancer, and this is my way of giving back.

In a recent interview with Stephanie Snyder, I asked her why she became involved in San Francisco’s “Yoga for Hope.” She replied, “I’m always inspired when East and West can come together; people…need cutting edge technology [combined] with compassionate and energetically sensitive care. My uncle was treated for cancer at City of Hope, and his care was absolutely second to none.”

When hundreds of people practice yoga in Union Square, the normally bustling space transforms into a quieter version of itself. For me, it’s very interesting to watch the people who pass by the square, many of whom have never heard of “Yoga for Hope” prior to stumbling upon it. And this is Stephanie’s favorite aspect of the entire event: “Raising awareness around compassionate care and being able to support such a great cause [through yoga]. It is an honor to be a part of such an enormously strong yoga community. Also, three hundred people in Savasana in the middle of Union Square is pretty bad-ass.”

Demonstrations of Low Lunge, while Stephanie Snyder teaches her yoga class.

Darren Main agrees with Stephanie, “I love watching passersby stop and watch all the yoga that is happening. It both excites them about yoga and educates them about the important work that City of Hope is doing. Last year we raised so much money by simply doing what we all love-yoga! It is amazing to me that when we do what we love with mindfulness and an open and generous heart, profound healing happens in the world.”

Darren’s involvement in “Yoga for Hope” is very personal. He explains, “As an HIV+ man I have long been a supporter of the important work that City of Hope is doing for cancer, HIV and other diseases. When they asked me to support them, I was very honored. I can’t think of a more worthy cause!”

Yoga for Hope” takes place on this Saturday, September 17th. Visit their  site for more information or to make a donation.

Images from last year’s event:

Stephanie greets her students and begins class.

Stephanie gives an adjustment.

Darren Main starts his yoga class with a meditation.

Time for rest in Child’s Pose

Assistants walk around to see if practitioners need help.

Jeremy Simon and Seren Rubens, a local Acroyoga duo, perform in between classes.

Lauren Slater, another local yoga teacher and dancer, demonstrates.

Local musician Jonathan Wolf walks through class, serenading the crowd.

Extended Side Angle

Students take a moment to reflect.