Two fluke accidents turned Alli Crowell’s life upside down. Her recovery took flight as she founded RISE Yoga Gettysburg, sharing healing and gratitude with others.
By Karen Hendricks | Photography by Melissa Ring
Alli Crowell is wearing a black tank top featuring a bright rainbow and the words, “Be kind,” underneath. She sits cross-legged, smiling and radiating warmth across the room, as several women arrive. Colorful pillows surround her, and, overhead, the ceiling is painted sky blue with puffy clouds.
For the next hour, Crowell guides the class through a gentle yoga practice. She often uses the word “rise.” Several times, her arms reach slowly upward, rising as if holding a beach ball. The class mirrors her movements.
While Alli looked as though she’d been practicing yoga for years, in actuality she only opened her yoga-based small business in September 2023—almost exactly three years after a life-altering injury.
With sunlight streaming through the yoga studio’s windows, Alli too seems to glow. Smiling, she ends the class by encouraging attendees to “have gratitude for all that our minds and bodies do for us.”
That’s because, while the yoga exercises are visibly moving and stretching bodies, countless unseen— yet equally healthy—benefits are happening from head to toe.
In a way, yoga brought Alli back to life again, and now she wants to lift others through yoga too. That’s why she named her small business RISE Yoga Gettysburg and, for her logo, uses a depiction of a woman rising into a dancer’s pose, surrounded by the wings of a phoenix.
“I wanted to make the connection to the Phoenix Wellness Center,” she explains, referencing her studio’s location. “The phoenix is a creature that rises from the ashes, and so we have a quote on the main page of our website that I love, because we all have a new opportunity every day to start again.”
The anonymous quote Alli mentions is this: “No matter how many times we burst into flames, we can always rise from the ashes.”
From a Place of Trauma
Growing up in Adams County, Alli always wanted to be a teacher. A self-confessed “over-achiever,” she declared three majors in college and went on to realize her dream as a high school Spanish teacher as well as an elementary English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher.
“I was in education for 15 years,” Alli, 37 says. “I loved teaching—it’s how I identify.”
In fall 2020, she experienced what seemed like an innocent injury. She bent over to pick something up, and when she stood, she bumped her head on an open cabinet door.
“I really didn’t think much of it, but I went to the hospital because I was being cautious,” Alli says.
She was diagnosed with a concussion, which is classified as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines TBI as “an injury that affects how the brain works.”
Doctors told Alli that 80 to 90% of people recover in about 10 days and advised her to rest and take time off from teaching.
But after two or three weeks, “things got gradually worse and worse,” she remembers. “The message shifted toward, ‘Some people take longer to recover.’”
Almost a year later, she was on track to return to teaching, when she experienced a second random accident.
“I was sitting down to eat on a bench that had rotted through, and I hit my head on the table,” Alli says. “It really turned my life upside down in a way that I didn’t know how I was going to come out of it.”
The incident caused a second concussion—
a second TBI.
“It debilitated me in so many ways,” she says. “As a mom, I couldn’t drive my daughters anywhere more than 10 or 15 minutes away. I couldn’t walk into the grocery store—no busy environments. I had total cognitive processing issues, and I couldn’t read to my kids for two years or watch movies with them. These were little things that took a lot away.”
She continued to seek medical advice, but doctors couldn’t provide many answers to explain her condition or aid in her recovery. Alli decided to travel to Baltimore for one more opinion—and finally got some answers.
“In addition to the concussions, I had a neck injury that hadn’t been identified, which doctors said was very common,” she says. “Concussions are so complex—there are still so many unknowns. And the story is much more common than we realize.”
Turning the Corner
During her journey back to health and wellness, the former school teacher became a student when she discovered yoga.
“I’ve always been one to trust medical opinions, but I really had to feel my own body—and feel at a different level—what I needed to get better. And yoga was able to do that,” Alli explains. “Bringing attention to the breath, connecting breath to movement, finding ways to calm the mind, feeling sensations in the body as my neck was building strength—it’s still something I’m working on, but that’s when I started turning a corner.”
She made vital community connections when she began practicing yoga at Down Dog Yoga Gettysburg and clicking with the instructors. She discovered the Love Your Brain Foundation—
a nonprofit dedicated to helping those with TBIs to improve quality of life through yoga and mindfulness.
In a desire to deepen her knowledge of yoga—always in pursuit of education—Alli decided to enroll in yoga teacher training through the nonprofit Yoga Alliance. Her new path in life became clearer.
Alli’s cousin, an art therapist, connected her to Gettysburg’s Phoenix Wellness Center. Their yoga studio had been vacant for several years, and clients were clamoring for it to reopen. In the meantime, Down Dog Yoga Gettysburg closed. While the owners moved away, instructors remained.
Alli realized if she opened a yoga studio, she’d only have the stamina to teach a handful of classes herself. She would need a team—and she says former Down Dog instructors jumped at the opportunity to join her and RISE.
Today, RISE offers a wide variety of yoga classes for adults, children, teens and families. Some are insurance-based options, and a free monthly community class takes place every first Friday.
“Yoga, for me, has become much more than a physical practice. It’s necessary,” explains Alli. “What I have learned through my own healing journey is very applicable to a lot of other experiences focused on healing and post-traumatic growth. We all, in some way, are in the process of healing of mind, body or spirit.”
Alli is a trained facilitator of accessible yoga for those with brain injuries through the Love Your Brain Foundation. Additionally, she recently completed a certification in accessible yoga as a student of Jivana Heyman, founder of the Accessible Yoga School.
“I think yoga, as a supplement to other medical care, has a real power to help us feel whole. I felt really broken, like I had lost myself,” she says. “I had been told so many times through my recovery what I couldn’t do or what I shouldn’t do. But,” she says, quoting Heyman, “if you can breathe, you can do yoga.”
In Greek mythology, the phoenix is a bird that rises from the ashes, reborn, to live again.
“I had no intention of becoming a yoga teacher,” Alli says with a smile, “but it’s given new meaning to my life for the first time in three years. I’m so grateful I can share that with others.”
RISE Yoga Gettysburg
Phoenix Wellness Center
2311 Fairfield Road, Suite A, Gettysburg
For more information about the Love Your Brain Foundation, visit loveyourbrain.com.
Alli Crowell is looking forward to launching a special class series in March. She’s designing “Yoga and Mindfulness for Brain Injury” for people with acquired and traumatic brain injuries (including concussions) as well as their caretakers, every Wednesday evening. Check RISE Yoga Gettysburg’s website and social media sites for more information.
Nourish Mind, Body & Soul
As part of “Wellness Week” in January, The Lodges at Gettysburg is offering an immersive wellness workshop aimed at teaching powerful techniques to help with stress, sleep, breathwork and more. Taking place in January, the classes are taught by Claire Diab, international health and wellness expert and world renowned yoga instructor, and Shawn Cassidy, The Lodges at Gettysburg founder and wellness advocate.