HLF brothers

Holistic Life founders Ali Smith, Andres Gonzalez and Atman Smith

Taco breath is a term you would only think of applying to someone who’s had a few too many tacos. But there’s another application. The founders of the Holistic Life Foundation, Andres Gonzalez, Ali and Atman Smith teach a breathing routine that their students call “Taco Breath.”

The Holistic Life Foundation is a Baltimore-based non-profit organization through which underprivileged children and adults find peace through yoga and environmental needs. Mostly all of the yoga exercises Gonzales and the Smith brothers teach have been recycled for many years, but to be able to have teachers come and coach their students is what makes this foundation so unique.

Gonzales and the Smith brothers give their students some leeway as they learn new yoga exercises. “In Yoga they call it Pranayama, but our students change the names of a lot of practices we do…so they changed it to “taco breath” because your tongue looks like a taco,” Gonzales and the Smith brothers explain.

This breathing exercise is found to help release tension from your body while connecting with your center core to relieve stomach pain and arthritis, depending on how frequently you dedicate your time to this workout. “Ideally you would practice it in the morning and the evening 26 times in the morning, 26 times in the evening…but the minimum is 13 times,” they said. “It depends on your body and what you’re going through; as far as the stomach pain, you go until your stomach feels alright. As far as its effects on arthritis it depends on how severe your arthritis is and how much you practice it.”


Students practice a breathing exercise that they playfully renamed “taco breath.” (Photo courtesy of www.hlfinc.org.)

Ali also said, “It’s good for everybody. It has cool effects for the mind, it cools your body temperature, it’s good for calming, relaxing…there’s a lot of benefits for it, I mean especially if you can find someone to teach it to you anything is beneficial.”

During this season, people are suffering through this frigid weather, especially on the East Coast. Many are getting sick and this breathing exercise is good for strengthening the immune system if you’re doing it before rush hour. “We’ve never seen anything with the immune system,” Gonzales and the Smith brothers explain. “Ideally when practicing breathing, you shouldn’t do it in temperature extremes…like you shouldn’t do it when it’s too cold or too hot. You should try to find a moderate temperature. Ideally you would practice either before or after rush hour so like you would get up in the morning before rush hour starts because there’s not that much pollution in the air so ideally early in the morning or late at night and during a moderate temperature. You don’t want to do it in too dry a place either.”

Gonzales and the Smith brothers currently run an after school session at an elementary school. “One of the coolest things about our organization is our after school program,” Atman said. “It’s actually located in the neighborhood that Ali and I grew up in in West Baltimore…and it’s kind of like you know our training ground for future teachers and we’ve been running our after-school program for 12 years, five years at the elementary school we’re at now and we’re transforming our community through yoga, mindfulness, service and at after school programs.”

Atman also said, “One of the coolest things about our yoga classes pretty much anywhere, our students are leading the practice so you’ll get taught a great class by an elementary school kid and it’ll be a great introduction into yoga.”

To find out more information about the Holistic Life Foundation, go to www.hlfinc.org.