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Fascinating Women: Tanya Maria Aguila, Founder of ONELIFE Pilates Studio

This small town girl-turned-girlboss believes that everyone has a tribe and that fellow women have each other’s back

“My typical day starts early,” shares Tanya Marie Aguila. “I get up at 7 a.m., grab my coffee, drop off my husband at his office, then head to the ONELIFE headquarters. I usually spend the first half of the day working in the office and then the next half of the day is usually for going around the different studios or dropping by events of brands and fellow female entrepreneurs that I support.” 

Girlboss Tanya Maria Aguila | @tanyamariaaguila

Tanya, a staunch advocate of women empowerment, as evidenced by how most of her days go by, is the founder of ONELIFE Pilates Studio. Often hailed to provide “Manila’s best pilates,” it’s a studio that combines pilates, physical therapy, and functional training, serving regulars from all walks of life, mostly women. “Woman,” their tagline goes, “we know you best.” This much is clear, especially when the woman—Tanya—empowering other women knows exactly what her strengths and capabilities are.   

Even through e-mail, Tanya's lively, vibrant energy is deeply felt. She answers questions in bright pink text, and adds a smiley emoticon after almost every response. Because of the threat of COVID-19, our shoot with her had been cancelled, but that was an unlikely barrier to getting to know this small town girl-turned-girlboss who founded ONELIFE.

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Tanya, who grew up in a small Laguna town went to college in Ateneo and took up graduate studies at the Asian Institute of Management, once thought that achievement is what would make her whole. While at AIM, she encountered the Japanese concept of “Ikigai,” which translates to “reason for being.”

Ikigai,” Tanya starts, “meant the intersection of passion, mission, vocation, and profession. For long as I can remember, I’ve always aspired to show the world what a woman can do—my mom always told me to push the boundaries and keep breaking the glass ceiling. But now, I understand that achievement is not what makes me whole, but purpose. And my purpose is my community at Onelife. What makes me whole is continuing to bring Onelife’s vision to life: to be a company by women, for women. In serving the woman—making her strong, confident, and empowered—I’ve truly found my Ikigai.”

"I understand that achievement is not what makes me whole, but purpose." | @tanyamariaaguila

For the last seven years, Tanya has poured her heart and soul into Onelife, but she’ll be the first to admit that she wasn’t always who she is now. “I jumped into my corporate career fresh out of college when I was just 20 years old and never looked back since,” she says. “I worked for one of the largest FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) companies in the world, handling the world’s biggest coffee brand. In my last three years in that company, I found myself neglecting my overall health—mental, physical, spiritual, and social—and so I took action.”

Tanya in her Makati studio
Tanya in her Makati studio | @tanyamariaaguila

“I took time for self-care and it was a long process,” she adds. “When I found myself renewed and feeling my best again, that’s when I decided I wanted to share and to motivate others to go and give some time and care back to themselves. When I found myself facing my 10th year working, I realized that I wanted to take a sabbatical from work and I did.”  

“During my sabbatical, that’s when I took my Yoga teacher training and the rest was history. I first started off teaching Yoga on the side and when I realized that I was creating an impact, one that I can really see, in my students’ lives, that made me realize that maybe it is indeed time for me to make a career shift. At the time, my then boyfriend and now husband Ferds wanted to make his longtime dream with his mom to put up a different kind of ‘gym’ and convinced me that we can create something together. I realized that I wanted to keep creating a different kind of impact to the people around me in the next chapter of my life and career and that’s when I gave him his first yes—yes to creating the very first iteration of ONELIFE in San Juan.” 

Tanya started off as a Yoga teacher, and eventually built ONELIFE Pilates Studio with her husband. | @tanyamariaaguila

Since then, Onelife has grown to have three more studios: one in Legazpi Village, one in Ortigas, and another in Alabang. Tanya credits her ‘heartwork’ and passion for her—and ONELIFE’s—success. “I think the heartwork that I have put into building ONELIFE into what it is today, is what has been truly unique about my story. ONELIFE was born out of passion, and not out of profit, and I will continue to anchor my life’s work on that despite the many more challenges that lie ahead.” 

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Being a fascinating woman herself, Tanya of course has one special woman she looks up to—her mother. “While I was growing up, and until today, mom never stopped telling me that I could do and be anything that I wanted. She worked really hard to get me the best education, even if this meant a whole lot of sacrifice on her part as we weren’t really that well off. She was my prime example of a woman who made things happen, and a woman who could ‘do it all.’ Until today, it still fascinates me how she was able to do all of those amazing things for me, and the rest of my family.” 

In Tanya’s journey with ONELIFE, she’s begun to understand what being a woman is truly about: Service. “I’ve truly taken that to heart,” she says, adding a smiley emoticon after that sentence. “Every day, with everyone, I try to see the good, I try my best to be kind, and I just help them the best way I can so they feel empowered to also serve others.” 

Tanya puts in the 'heartwork' in everything she does. | @tanyamariaaguila

Tanya is at her happiest whenever she is with her husband, Ferds, whom she considers her soulmate. “Us, building our lives together, and having created this amazing partnership not only in life, but in business as well,” she says. “Not many people know this, but the ONELIFE story is actually a story we created together. It was a little dream we had years ago, and to see our vision grow and develop has truly been something we are extremely grateful for.” 

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These are tough times, especially with the pandemic waging outside our homes. But whatever day it may be—a public health crisis outdoors or otherwise—Tanya believes in the power of community and sisterhood, and encourages fellow women to do the same. “Don’t give up,” she says. “Trust in the power of community and sisterhood. If you are feeling you are alone, have the courage to reach out and trust that your fellow women has got your back.” 

“Everyone has a tribe,” she ends. And truly, that—for Tanya, her clients, and her friends, and everyone else. After all, ONELIFE would scarcely exist if not for the support and the need of other women looking for a group of equally empowered women to latch onto. 

Photos via @tanyamariaaguila. For more information on ONELIFE, log on to their website.