Alysha “AJ” Jean is a fitness coach, meditation instructor, and professional dancer in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. If you asked AJ to describe herself in one word, she would confidently sum it all up with the single title, “wellness advocate.” Her unique journey has taken her from the world of fashion marketing, to graphic design, to healing barre, and she isn’t stopping there. Despite the fear that inevitably comes with change, AJ believes that it is never too late to reinvent yourself and to start over.
Originally from Boston, AJ relocated to New Orleans in 2007 to attend college at Loyola University where she majored in Advertising and Mass Communications. Even with dreams of pounding the pavement in New York City at an advertising firm with coffee in hand, AJ instead decided to remain in New Orleans after graduating, and began her marketing career working with Fashion Week New Orleans. During that time, she not only helped popularize their fashion show events, but she also mentored young children and particularly enjoyed teaching life skills to young girls on everything from confidence, to creating a strong resume. While an opportunity in advertising was the original draw to the job, AJ quickly came to realize that the fulfillment she found in that job wasn’t due to advertising, but due to the opportunity to be of service to others. It was this realization that made her see the universe was telling her it was time for a pivot.
ALYSHA “AJ” JEAN: “There’s so many people that think, well I have to stay in this avenue because I committed to it but it’s like, no you don’t. If you don’t feel it, if the energy is not there, peace out.”
It was only within the last year that AJ fell into the world of health and wellness, however, her expertise and opportunities within the field have only continued to grow exponentially. With a longtime passion for theater and dance, her first opportunity to teach professionally came when a friend asked her if she would substitute a barre class at a local dance studio. Without a certification, AJ immediately began to question whether or not she was capable of doing so. Taking that first major step on this new path was no easy feat, but once she started, she never looked back and continues to teach not only at dance studios, but also at various local community centers, as well as online. AJ is now certified in Healing Barre and Barre Above and describes the practice as a fusion of dance, yoga, pilates, and ballet technique. She feels that barre can be a beneficial practice for anyone because there is no experience necessary.
ALYSHA “AJ” JEAN: “You start where you are and grow and progress to where you want to be.”
Whether in person or online, AJ operates from a place of community growth. She feels that one of the best things about teaching is that you get to take your own class, and while doing so, learn more about yourself and what you are capable of. Her student-teacher mentality is based on the idea that we are all teaching, all learning, and all figuring it out together.
AJ openly acknowledges the pain that often accompanies growth and speaks openly about her struggles with anxiety that emerged later in life. Even so, she doesn’t allow anxiety to run her life or to hold her back from achieving her dreams. In fact, AJ has put her own positive spin on the concept of anxiety and calls herself an “Anxiety Thriver” rather than just an anxiety survivor. She shares how seeing a mental health counselor has helped her learn more about how to manage day to day stress and the waves of anxiety that can sometimes emerge. In addition to seeking professional help, she has also found that meditation and journaling are useful practices that help keep her grounded on a day to day basis.
ALYSHA “AJ” JEAN: “Be open about your experience because we’re all going through something.”
Overall, AJ is a firm believer in the healing power of movement. Whether it’s running, Tai Chi, or simply taking time to stretch throughout the day, AJ believes that the benefits of physical movement are endless, from increased blood flow, to reduced stress, to the raising of positive vibrations. She also emphasizes that mental wellness goes hand in hand with physical wellness and that creating “me time” is a key factor in her wellness practice. One prime example of this is what AJ describes as, “setting the mood.” Through her mentorship program, she encourages people to engage in self care by creating a safe space for themselves. For AJ, this means a home full of scented candles and books, and an office desk plastered with positive affirmations on brightly colored post-it notes.
ALYSHA “AJ” JEAN: “It’s about reprogramming the brain by catching that negative thought and turning it on itself in the moment.”
Even though AJ feels that she has found her home in a career centered around health and wellness, she feels another career pivot could still present itself in the future. She hopes to expand her work to include mentoring young girls and has even started to explore the field of computer technology and is pursuing education on topics such as user interface (UI). While the fear of the unknown may be present, AJ believes that every new experience is an opportunity to add more skills to your life’s toolbox.
For those entertaining the idea of making a major career or personal life shift, AJ has been there and wants you to know you are not alone in your feelings of fear or uncertainty. She leaves us with these parting words:
ALYSHA “AJ” JEAN: ”Your old life will cost you your new one. Wherever you want to be, if you’re not happy with where you are now, you’re not a tree, you can totally move. Your old life is going to cost you your new one so why not make it the life that you want it to be? You want a new car? You’ve got to trade in the old one to get the upgrade!”
By Erin McCluskey