The idea for the Holistic Life Foundation started with a class of 15 students in West Baltimore.

Soon, there was a high demand for brothers Ali, 34, and Atman Smith, 32, and their friend Andy Gonzales, 31, to teach their stress-reducing techniques to more young students in the Maryland town. As a result, in 2002, the three men decided to start a non-profit called the Holistic Life Foundation that would teach stress reduction to adolescents.

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Since its creation, the non-profit has grown into a in-school and after-school program that offers yoga, mentoring, homework assistance and more to students.

“There are a lot of suburban schools with more funding, that have access to yoga programs,” Ali Smith told TheGrio last year. “But kids in this area need it most. They are dealing with gangs, violence, drugs, and they don’t always have the resources to get away from it. Yoga they can take home with them.”

The Smiths grew up in West Baltimore with a father who meditated. After learning the techniques from him, Ali and Atman would often meditate before going to school.

When they went to the University of Maryland, they met Gonzales and introduced him to the ancient practice of yoga. After graduating college, the three men started their foundation to give inner city kids in Baltimore an outlet to let go of the stressful situations in their lives.

The Holistic Life Foundation is making history… bringing the ancient practice of yoga to inner-city children who might otherwise never be exposed to it. Through yoga and the other benefits offered by the foundation, children are given a leg up to help them stay focused on their academics and learn ways to deal with stress; skills they can use for the rest of their lives.

What’s next for the Holistic Life Foundation’s founders?

Gonzales and the Smith brothers continue to expand their reach through their foundation. What started out as little more than a dozen students taking a class has turned into whole classrooms of students taking yoga classes, participating in after-school programs and going on environmentally-focused field trips.

The Holistic Life Foundation founders in their own words …

“Money isn’t everything,” Smith told TheGrio. “We are happy people. When you give love, you get love back, and we’re showered with love right now, for helping all these kids.”

A little-known fact about yoga

Nearly 7 percent of American adults practice yoga, according to a 2008 study from the journal Yoga.

For more information, click here.

THE GRIO’S Q & A WITH EACH FOUNDER OF THE HOLISTIC LIFE FOUNDATION

Your Name: Ali Shah Rasool Smith

Q: What’s next for you in this chapter of your life?

A: Continuing the work I am doing with the Holistic Life Foundation, expanding to help more people around Baltimore City, then around the world.

Q: What’s a little fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: When I was a little kid I wanted to be like David Attenborough and make wildlife documentaries, but use hip-hop music for the soundtracks.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: “All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man. The air shares its Spirit with all the life it supports.” Chief Seattle

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: I get my inspiration from going inward and meditating on The Light within me and from the Love I have for everything around me.

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: My mentors are and have been my parents, my god father, and my “older brothers” from my neighborhood.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who’s craving to achieve their dreams?

A: Be willing to work hard, sacrifice, and ignore anything negative that you hear from others. Always know that what you are doing will work and always see yourself achieving your dreams in your mind.

Your Name: Andres Anirt Gonzalez

Q: What’s next for you in this chapter of your life?

A: I plan to continue to spread the truth and to try to remind people who they really are.

Q: What’s a little fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: I have written and recorded over 200 songs.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: Within there is no without

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: Everyone and everything.

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: My mother and my spiritual guide. They both have taught me how important it is to love unconditionally.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who’s craving to achieve their dreams?

A: Never give up! There are going to be millions of naysayers and critics who are constantly going to try and tell you to do something else. Follow your heart and everything will be as you dreamed.

Your Name: Atman Ananda Smith

Q: What’s next for you in this chapter of your life?

A: What’s next for us is expansion. Expansion of the message of Universal Love through our programs/initiatives.

Q: What’s a little fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: My lifelong dream to establish animal refuges is something most might not know about me.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: “Don’t worry about the past because it brings about anger, don’t
stress about the future because it brings anxiety. Be in the now!”
Savitar Amrita.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: I get my inspiration firstly from the divine, it seemed like all my
life I had an inclination to try to help humanity and Mother Earth, and
every chance I got, I attempted to help. Secondly from my parents, they
modeled empathy and compassion to everyone I saw them come in contact
with, no matter what the situation, so I had big shoes to fill. Lastly,
a lot of people helped opened doors for me and supported all my endeavors,
and if I didn’t do the same, I would feel like I was doing an injustice.

Who are/were your mentors

A:My mentors were my parents, godfather, and the older guys in my
neighborhood.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who’s craving to achieve their dreams?

A: My advice to anyone who’s craving to achieve their dreams is to have
intestinal fortitude, because there are so many dream killers out there,
you need to have undying faith in your vision.