From mantras to meditation, mindfulness to manifestation, Leah Simmons has mastered them all. But what if fitness was more complex than just our physical appearance? What if all the training in the gym was only giving us one small part of what our bodies truly need to fire on all cylinders.
In this month’s Stella Women Series, we delve into the philosophy that is KAAIAA, a fitness program created to help people unlock the courage and strength inside themselves to go beyond what they think is possible… and ultimately transform their lives.
After over a decade in the fitness game, Leah was used to talking the talk and walking the walk within the industry. As a certified Pilates Instructor, PT, Kundalini Yoga Teacher, and mum to two gorgeous children – her second home was the gym or studio where she would train for hours each day to keep her physique on point. She looked good, but she admitted something was still missing.
“There has been a long-held belief that “fitness” was solely based on how you looked or performed physically and, well… as time went on (even though I was in the industry “talking the talk”), something just didn’t feel right to me. There was a fundamental piece missing. In all the years I spent training my body… the hours in the gym… granted, I achieved an incredible physique… but was I happy? Were my relationships firing? Was I making good decisions? Was I feeling amazing??” The answer was no, not by a long shot.
– Leah Simmons
After moving to Bali in 2015, Leah embarked on a 4-year journey of self-discovery to uncover exactly what it took to be truly healthy and truly happy. Inspired by the work of Smartminds (who create and deliver life-changing content, platforms and training) KAAIAA was born.
The Philosophy was simple, yet so effective in transforming lives – When you change the way you view yourself, you’ll change the way the world views you. KAAIAA is instrumental in not only cultivating a strong body, but the classes also train ALL of the areas you need to change your body as a whole, this means being healthy emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Leah’s teaching builds self-esteem while giving you the confidence to make better choices for yourself, society and the planet.
We couldn’t wait to get a more in-depth understanding of the program and get to know Leah a little better for this month’s Stella Women Series. Let’s do this!
Tell us more about the story of KAAIAA? And how has Covid changed the way you teach your classes?
KAAIAA is basically the culmination of my life! Beginning with my career as a DJ, running a record label, working hard, playing hard… all my own personal experiences led me to develop KAAIAA. I realised how important it was to look after your mental wellbeing as much as your physical health and I just couldn’t find a workout that efficiently addressed all it all. I was looking to enhance my relationships, my mindset, my overall feeling of fulfilment. I wanted something that I could do consistently that not only changed my body.. but that improved my whole life. It was only after moving to Bali and experiencing a variety of different modalities that I discovered some sure-fire ways to make that happen. So, I created a training program that incorporated them all. And KAAIAA was born!!
COVID has only changed the medium in which I teach the classes, not the way I teach them! If anything I am reaching more people because of the lockdown. I promised to run free zoom classes during the lockdown and here I am.. still going! We have on average 500+ people joining every session.. it’s created a real community which is unbelievable.
You always start your KAAIAA sessions dancing to an epic women’s anthem, what do you love most about starting your sessions like this?
It gives people a chance to arrive into the space and brings collective energy into the practice. Whatever you’ve got going on in your life, it’s a 5-minute reprieve to get out of your head and just have a dance. My over-the-top singing and dancing also gives people a giggle.. it brightens the mood.. you can’t help but smile at a “44-year-old 80s die-hard”, lip-synching to Starship.
Why do we all need a little KAAIAA in our life? (talk to the 4 pillars of health here)
Because our “life” is more than what you see on the outside. We are actually made up of 4 Pillars of Health – Mental, Physical, Emotional & Spiritual – and “true fitness” comes from addressing the health of ALL of them. Training our ‘Physical’ pillar is something that society seems to spend most of its time on, as it’s the one we can achieve tangible results. But we are seeing the effects of neglecting our other pillars; rising rates of depression, anxiety, relationship breakdowns, suicide. Training our other pillars is so important for our overall health.
As meditation and mindfulness practices start to gain popularity in the mainstream, the benefits to your health are becoming unmistakably clear. But to gain lasting results, they should be treated like any other “training” modality. Practice makes perfect and consistency is key. I wanted to create a training program that not only addressed your physical health but improved your mental and emotional wellbeing too.
What other wellbeing rituals can you not live without?
I swear by infrared saunas and ice baths. When we lived in Bali it was a daily practice for us. Alternating between hot and cold therapies has been shown to not only boost recovery, it builds physical and mental resistance. Finding comfort in your discomfort is exactly the practice of KAAIAA and the heat/cold combo is great for your circulation, rejuvenating your muscles, teaching you to regulate your breathing and heart rate and increase your mental function. My go-to place is Slow House (@slowhousebondi) in Bondi.
What are the simple things you do for self-care and to look after your mental health?
Self-care for me is all about being present and tuning in to what you need. It’s about slowing down, acknowledging where you are at at that moment and then taking the time to give yourself whatever it is that will allow you to recharge and reset. For me, that is some simple breath work, meditation, a walk in nature or along the beach. Time off tech and getting a good nights’ sleep are big ones for me (BOTH a work-in-progress) but it’s all about your intention and not judging yourself. I also include a daily moment of gratitude (cliched but it works). It really does put things in perspective and allow you to appreciate things in the here and now. The more we are out of the present moment (through our phones, email, social media and other distractions) the less we are connected to the magic of what is in front of us. We all talk about how busy we are… but time slows right down if you can exist in the moment.
Thanks to fads and irresponsible messaging on social media, diet culture can be viewed negatively. In your experience is there a way to incorporate dieting into your lifestyle in a sustainable and healthy way?
Yes, it’s true… there is a myriad of information readily available to us on any chosen topic, not just nutrition, that it seems impossible to sort through it all to find some reliable information. I suppose it really depends on what your individual goal is. Nutrition choices are not “one-size-fits-all” and you need to take into account your own circumstances before jumping on board any advertised “diet” – especially one that seems too good to be true!!
Every “body” is different and every “body” will respond differently. I am always loathe to share my “day on a plate”.. what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for others and I certainly don’t want to spread a one-sided view of what a diet should look like.
Understand YOUR body. And create something that works in harmony with it.. not against it.
How do you balance being a wellness warrior and being a mum?
Who says I do?? Hahaha
Balance is a funny one because it implies equal time spent between 2 or more different things. And that’s not how I view my life. I am extremely connected to what I am doing. This is my purpose. It’s what I am here to do. And my whole family sees that. I am very lucky they are totally behind me every step of the way and I do my best to make sure I am still getting a good time with the kids and also taking time for myself.
But we live it, we breathe it, we ARE KAAIAA. There is no need for balance as they are not separate. It just IS.
For anyone waiting to joining the incredible KAAIAA community and get a glow-up in all areas of your life you can join here http://kaaiaa.com
And follow Leah on social here