Rap and yoga may seem like strange activities to perform together, but students at Kipp Empower Academy in South LA are doing just that and learning to manage the challenges in their lives in the process.
The harsh realities of life can be a heavy burden for such young children, teaching them the mindfulness and discipline that comes along with yoga practice can help them learn to manage their emotions.
Alizah Silver is a full-time yoga teacher at the school. Her classes go beyond just teaching physical flexibility.
"[I teach] life skills that teach us to be happy and be a responsible citizen and a compassionate leader," she says. "I went through some really, really, really dark times because I didn't have the tools I didn't have the support."
Silver passes along the skills she learned from her mentors to help the kids heal their minds, bodies and spirits. She introduces them to non-violent role models, healthy foods and essential oils. She calls her students "Love Activists."
"I've seen the school just transform kids using these tools that I'm teaching, whether it's using your words to solve problems or calming down when they have strong feelings," she says.
She also trained her fellow teachers in meditation techniques and started family yoga night for parents.
The kids have found another way of embracing Silver's teachings, while adding their own flair: making music videos as a class.
The music includes positive messages like "We don't want no drama, doing yoga. Even got my mama doing yoga."
Parents of Silver’s students have noticed the lessons paying off at home, as well.
"[It's] something to show my kids. You can get out of it. You have to help others. You just can't shut down," Yazmin Adams, a single mother of three children who lost their father in a drive-by shooting, says.
Adams says the message inspired her as well, helping motivate her to get a bachelor's degree in child development.
"The whole family, we are all benefiting from it," she says.