Our Everyday Athletes series is here to celebrate the incredible achievements of real-life people.
Coming from all walks of life, these individuals are living, breathing proof that no matter what you have or where you come from, you can always strive for more and dream big.
These people aren’t the finished product. They are relentlessly working on themselves in order to reach their goals with proper nutrition and a dedication to fitness. They are Everyday Athletes.
Meet Ayana Frierson — a yoga instructor and wellness coach based in Brooklyn, New York City.
Born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Ayana's relationship with fitness spawned out of having health-conscious parents who stressed the importance of proper nutrition at an early age.
Her first introduction to gym training was with her mom who brought her along for her own sessions while Ayana worked out in the kids section.
This space, which featured child-proofed barbells and weights, provided children with a safe place to stay while parents focused on fitness goals of their own.
But it wasn't until her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, that Ayana's fixation with fitness truly set in.
With this news, came heartbreak and sadness. But the situation also prompted reevaluation and prioritization within wellness and her career — a full lifestyle switch, one where she found yoga.
"Yoga, to me, means unity of yourself mentally, physically...spiritually."
Yoga, for her, became a "Metaphor for life".
While performing yoga flows, one is forced to deal with the present, the situation you are in, and while stress and tension arise, focusing on diaphragmic breathing and the moves themselves allow one to better experience present moments in a healthy manner.
Through the practice, she was able to better deal with the cards she was dealt and "Breath through it".
After her mother's passing, it was important for her to take and eventually act on the lessons she taught her.
"I took the wisdom she imparted on me whether it's a career change for my mental health or just following what you're actually passionate about."
After working in marketing and advertising, Ayana noticed declines in her health physically from the sedentary desk job lifestyle and also mentally from the stress of a nine to five.
It was time for her to take her "best friend['s]" advice and follow her passion.
"I really developed this love, this true love, and I felt really fulfilled in leading people through or to yoga."
Today, Ayana works with corporate clients, who live lives much like hers used to be. She leads classes centered around how to live a healthier lifestyle, incorporating lessons for not only one's physical health but also mental health, practicing yoga along the way.
With time, she hopes to develop a signature training program that helps individuals with their self care, awareness, and routine — one that sheds light on "what self care actually is and not just what mainstream media has defined it as."
Personal loss or setbacks can make or break us. But they can also be a catalyst for change. It's within our power to use the tools we have at our disposal to make that change positive.
For Ayana, it was leading a life through yoga. Her experience with yoga has taught her that even when situations are unbearable, taking the time to live in those moments proves beneficial.
"Sometimes, even through the tough situations, you actually have to go through that. And when you come out the other side, you're a stronger, even better person than before. And so, taking that alone from yoga has enriched my life essentially. "
Ayana's story is a reminder to follow your passion and live a life that's fulfilling. Ponder on that thought and if you have to, act.