Ali Smith and his brother Atman Smith learned yoga, mindfulness, and meditation from their parents as children. Growing up in a yoga-based church and visiting ashrams as children their parents sowed the seeds of yoga and mindfulness early.
They met Andres Gonzalez while attending the University of Maryland College Park. During their final semester, the three spent countless hours reading and discussing problems they saw in the world and ways they could help. After graduation, they moved back into the West Baltimore neighborhood where the Smith brothers grew up, spending most of their time delving deep into their yoga and mindfulness practice.
The combination of their practice, and the lack of love and community they saw in their neighborhood, led them to found the Holistic Life Foundation in 2001. Since then, they have served nearly 5,000 youth and 1,000 adults, focusing on underserved communities, with yoga and mindfulness programs. They have authored and piloted two yoga and mindfulness-based curriculums for youth. Their after-school program, featuring daily yoga and mindfulness practice, was featured on the NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams, in the book A Mindful Nation by U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan, and in several magazines, including Mindful, Shambhala Sun, and Yoga Journal.
They are partnering with Johns Hopkins and Penn State Universities on a federally funded research trial on the effectiveness of yoga and mindfulness on urban youth. They also have developed a teacher training program, training youth that graduate through their mentoring program to be yoga and mindfulness teachers.