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Let Your Light Shine - The Holistic Life Foundation's Promise

Let Your Light Shine - The Holistic Life Foundation's Promise

Picture of UMD alums Ali and Atman Smith, co-founders of the Holistic Life Foundation

By Mateo Aycardi

While most of us go through life trying to figure out our place in the world, it’s the people that look to inspire positive change in others that we remember most fondly.

As kids growing up in Baltimore in the 80’s, both Ali Smith ’01 and Atman Smith ’02 were taught that in order to bring about positive change in the world, they first had to start by becoming masters of their domain. And that meant becoming their own boss in a world where that isn’t always the easiest path.

“The idea of us working together always came from our dad,” Atman noted with a smile. “He used to preach to us to be entrepreneurs. You want to be the check and not earn the check because when you earn it, you’re not valued as much. But if you are the check, not only can you secure yourself, but you can secure other people around you. Your loved ones, your family and your friends with jobs as well.”

Following their admittance into the University of Maryland, both Smith brothers led different lives on campus. Atman was a member of the men’s basketball team and Ali worked hard to get his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science & Policy. And during the last couple of years of their time together at College Park, they began to ask themselves the real questions.

“Eventually, the partying kind of turned into a book club,” said Atman. “Because we would be the last ones at a party and start thinking like, “What do you guys think is the reason we’re here? What’s the purpose of life?” And that sparked something in us. It made us want to go to all of the obscure library spots around campus and look up philosophy, creation theories, astronomy, astrology and even ancient history. We just wanted to figure out what the purpose of this existence was. We knew it had to be more than just getting your degrees, getting a job, getting married, having kids and then just dying. We just knew there had to be more to life than that.”

The brothers and their co-founder, Andres Gonzales ’01, graduated and quickly established the Holistic Life Foundation. The non-profit organization has been committed to nurturing the wellness of both children and adults in underserved communities throughout the United States through the use of yoga, mindfulness instruction, meditation and breathing instruction since 2001.

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Photo of the co-founders of the Holistic Life Foundation

The Holistic Life Foundation's mission is to inspire - change is never easy

The co-founders of the Holistic Life Foundation have been friends since their time at UMD, over 20 years ago

Not only that, but the Holistic Life Foundation was also the first organization to have a randomized controlled study on the effectiveness of yoga and mindfulness on urban youth. The study, conducted by Penn State and Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been the source many other groups used to ask for funding in order to incorporate yoga and meditation into after school programs.

And when looking back at how it all unfolded, both Ali and Atman remember their time in College Park fondly. Through the partying, the late night reading and pondering their spot in the universe in their dorm rooms, the brothers now realize how much they have to offer the next generation of Terps.

“We really love Maryland, and we constantly talk about our Maryland experience to family members that are getting to that college age,” Ali said. “We just tell them to apply because we know they would love their experience and the life-long friendships that they can find there. We want to figure out other ways that we can be supportive for these Terps and become mentors for those students. And we want to build a community for them because we remember what it was like to sit there asking ourselves those questions."


Publication of this article does not imply an endorsement by the Alumni Association. The Alumni Blog connects you with the latest at UMD. Check out articles on advancing your personal and professional goals, elevating your UMD pride, and celebrating Terp traditions, legacies and accomplishments. For even more content, follow the Alumni Association on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.