Women’s Health: Where did the idea for KAAIAA originate and how did you go about creating the studio classes?
Leah Simmons: KAAIAA is basically the culmination of my life! Beginning with my career as a DJ then moving into the fitness industry, all of my own personal experiences led me to develop KAAIAA. As a working PT and Pilates instructor I realised fairly quickly that just training your physical body wasn’t enough to make you happy. Sure I gained the physical results I was looking for, but it had no effect on the other areas of my life.
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 surefire ways to make that happen. So I created a training program that incorporated them all. And KAAIAA was born!!
For the uninitiated, could you talk us through what one can expect from a KAAIAA class?
KAAIAA is a dynamic combination of Breath Work, Body Work, Meditation and Integration. Every class begins with Breath Work that floods your body with oxygen, opens up your neural pathways and activates your nervous system to foster laser-sharp focus and increased clarity. It then moves into Body Work, challenging, functional strength sequences for a strong, lean body, increased stamina and mobility.
We then flow into a beautiful guided meditation to balance and align your energy centres, recalibrate your thoughts and connect you to your centre. Finally, we finish the class with a powerful integration technique that is designed to help you break through emotional barriers, release any limiting beliefs around your abilities and give you the tools to be able to make profound changes across your life. Oh.. and it’s all done to a killer soundtrack!!
A lot of the conversation surrounding KAAIAA revolves around the four Pillars of Health that it trains. How do you go about training the emotional and spiritual?
While I was in Bali I stumbled across a body of work that explained we are actually made up of 4 Pillars of Health – Mental, Physical, Emotional & Spiritual – and that in order to truly be ‘fit’ you need to address the health of ALL of them. Training our ‘Physical’ pillar is something that society seems to spend most of its time on.. And it led me to ask myself the same question… just how DO you “train” your Emotional pillar.. Or your Spiritual one for that matter??
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.
As many of us have been forced to take stock of our lifestyle and how we wish to move forward in the wake of COVID-19, the pandemic has really highlighted the importance of not just physical health, but our mental wellbeing and emotional connections. What has your personal journey with the emotional and spiritual been like? Has it always been something you’ve championed in your life?
Haha… unfortunately during my days spent on dancefloors (or in the DJ booth anyway) there wasn’t much time spent on my mental or emotional health. 20 years ago it wasn’t something that I really thought about to be honest. But that’s the beauty of life. As it progresses, it serves you lessons that will help you expand and grow – whether or not you choose to take them on-board is a different story!
What I am encouraged by is the collective consciousness of the next generation – I’m doing podcasts and interviews with “20-somethings” who are genuinely concerned about the environment, how we treat each other, their own health and wellbeing and most importantly, how we move forward, together.
Many members who have done a KAAIAA class have spoken about the cathartic release of emotion, with some even crying during class. Why do you think this is the case?
The human psyche is amazing and we have a wonderful ability to compartmentalise our emotions. What we sometimes don’t realise is that just because you ignore something, it doesn’t mean it’s gone. I have a favourite saying… “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” We all have something in our lives that we are trying to work through. Whether it’s a relationship situation, work stress or general self-esteem issues, we all strive to do better. To BE better.
KAAIAA shows people they already contain the strength, the knowledge and the courage to set themselves free from whatever it is that is holding them back. And that can be quite an emotional revelation! So yes, there are sometimes tears… mostly from joy!! There are a multitude of ways that people express themselves in class and they are all valid and beautiful.
Has the success of KAAIAA surprised you at all? What part of the human experience do you think it speaks to in our current climate?
I am humbled that people have resonated so much with KAAIAA.. But am I surprised? Not really. KAAIAA is what I needed and I’m no different to anyone else. People often come up to me after class and ask me how I knew EXACTLY what they were going through and what they needed to hear. I know because I’m feeling it too. I know what they are going through because I was going through it too. I was feeling that constant pressure to keep going. I was feeling like I wasn’t good enough, doing enough or being enough. I was feeling fatigued and stressed and time-poor and like I needed to make changes in my life.
So in my classes I’m really just speaking to myself.. And as we are all reflections of each other, it speaks to them too. I believe people are crying out for a safe space to be able to feel whatever it is they are feeling, release whatever it is they need to release and know that the person next to them is going through the same thing. The community we are creating is one of the things I am so proud of. We breathe, we sweat, we move, we cry hahaha! We do it together and it’s so amazing.