Local Woman Alli Louthain Brings Yoga to Teens to Inspire Self-Confidence, Resiliency & Peace
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
The first thing people say to Alli Louthain when they hear she teaches yoga is, “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga!” The truth is that anyone can practice yoga—and will invariably improve over time.
“If your coach tells you to lift weights, you wouldn’t say, ‘I’m not strong enough to lift weights,’” Louthain says. “Strength comes from lifting the weight. Flexibility comes from doing the yoga.”
Louthain has been a yoga teacher for more than two decades, having taught all over Hendricks County and the Indianapolis area. She has also lead family yoga at Monumental Yoga, the largest annual yoga event held every June on Monument Circle.
In September 2021, Louthain felt a tug in her heart to pray about who, specifically, she should be impacting with her yoga prowess. Soon thereafter, she experienced an a-ha moment.
“I’ve been working with teens for years and have done yoga in schools, so when God made it clear that I’m supposed to be targeting this specific niche, that made sense,” Louthain says.
When a friend’s 18-year-old son, Jesse, died by suicide, Louthain’s mission came into sharper focus.
“My friend told me that her son had recently gotten into yoga and mindful meditation, both of which brought him so much peace,” Louthain says. “She said that it was where he felt confident, but she felt like he found it a little too late.”
That’s when Louthain vowed to introduce yoga to teens in hopes of helping them work on their mental health and wellness by feeling grounded, peaceful and hopeful. In February of 2022, she launched Isha Warriors. Isha is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘ruling god or goddess; one who protects.’ Louthain wanted everyone who practices yoga to own their story and feel protected in their space.
When it comes to life, there is no quick fix. Just as you can’t take one pill to forever repair an ailment, a session of yoga will not magically correct your problems. However, Louthain encourages people to give yoga at least five chances before writing it off. For one thing, there are so many kinds of yoga (vinyasa, slow flow, chair and yin, to name a few). The type you choose may depend on your fitness level or goal. The key to seeing change (physically, mentally and emotionally) is to practice yoga consistently.
“If you don’t love yoga, you’ve not met the right yoga yet!” Louthain says. She has done a whole yoga series for teen athletes, most of whom had never practiced before. Afterwards, the consensus was that they felt much better.
“There’s a release with yoga that’s like taking a heavy backpack off your shoulders,” Louthain says. “Yoga shows teens what it feels like to be relaxed, to be unplugged, and to be focused on one’s own body and mind rather than on a teacher, coach, friend, or social media person. Practicing listening to your own self is huge.”
Louthain has friends who have lost children, siblings, spouses and other family members to suicide.
“I think people feel so alone, and I want people to know that they are not alone,” Louthain says. This is why she started an annual event, which takes place in September during National Suicide Prevention Week. The two-hour evening event, which is called Not Alone, incorporates a beginner yoga class, teen speakers who have lost a loved one to suicide and a lantern lighting ceremony in which attendees float their lanterns out onto the pond at Washington Township Park.
“I wanted to do it locally right here in Hendricks County so that people could make those human connections in person,” Louthain says.
Almost 40 people came to the 2022 event—all survivors of a suicide loss. One of Jesse’s friends attended and brought along some of his buddies. A grandmother came and lit a lantern for her son, who died in the 1980s. She told Louthain that she was grateful for this event because 40 years ago suicide was a taboo subject that no one discussed. She told Louthain that she hopes to see this event and more like it in the future. Louthain promises that she will host the Not Alone event every September. The event this year will take place on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. It will be held at the Washington Township Park outdoor pavilion.
Louthain also hosts a worldwide weekly podcast called Monday Mindset with Isha Warriors. It’s all about creating a positive mental mindset for the week. In one of her podcasts, Louthain discusses ways yoga helps teens with anxiety and depression (though the tips apply to all ages).
“Yoga helps us feel and process emotions,” Louthain says. “It’s a safe space to be vulnerable.”
In an interview she did about suicide awareness, she spoke to a teen whose brother had taken his life three years ago. She was real about how hard it was to heal from that loss, but she shared that one can be both shattered and beautiful—like a mosaic.
“If you’re a survivor, your dreams are shattered, but through the brokenness, you learn to see life in a different way,” Louthain says. “Following heartbreak, one can still go on to live an awe-inspiring life.”
Every yoga session focuses on breathing because breathing is the fastest way to connect with your emotions. This is why yoga is a great activity for anyone who is struggling to regulate their feelings. Last year, Louthain began practicing yoga with a 13-year-old with a great heart but a short fuse.
“His parents came to me because he kept getting into fights and got expelled from school,” Louthain says. “He’s on the spectrum. He’s very high ability, but he feels kind of broken. He doesn’t know how to connect with other people because he feels threatened so we do breathing exercises. He feels he can be completely himself when he’s in this space with me. It’s a place of acceptance and confidence.”
After several weeks of yoga, his parents began to see a difference in their son. Not only had his anger diminished but his self-confidence had grown. The incorporation of yoga is the only thing that changed in his life.
“This is why I want to shout from the rooftops, telling principals and athletic directors, that if you want to see less fighting in your school, bring more yoga into your school,” Louthain says. “When kids feel like they have worth and are loved for exactly who they are, inner confidence and inner peace follow.”
Louthain will be teaching Yoga 101 for Teens at the Avon Township Library on January 17th, 24th and 31st at 4:30 p.m. If you’d like to sponsor a teenager to become a member of Isha Warriors so that they can work to develop compassion, self-confidence, and resiliency, visit ishawarriors.com.