The founder of KAAIAA, Leah Simmons tells Body+Soul all of the health rituals that help her stay well.
In our editorial series My Healthy Habits, we chat to inspiring individuals about their health and wellness routines, where they share everything from their fitness routines to their beauty go-to’s and midweek meals. Jennifer Hawkins‘ shares how her life has changed since becoming a mum, Bec Judd swears by ‘magic’ supplements, Sjarna Elise Earp looks to meditation and medicinal mushrooms ,Nagnata co-founder Laura May Gibbs turns to baths to deal with burnout and Jessica Sepel has some relatable wellness rituals you can actually follow.
Leah Simmons is the founder of KAAIAA, a transformational workout that trains four pillars of health: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual via a combination of breath work, body work, meditation and integration. Simmons is also a PT, Pilates instructor and Kundalini yoga teacher. Here, Simmons shares all the ways she stays well.
Outline your morning ritual for us….
Most mornings I wake up at 4:45am as I have to be at the studio by 5:30am to prepare the space for my 6am class so I start my mornings in the dark! It’s a magical time of day – everything is quiet. You can almost hear the earth humming. Once I arrive at the studio I set my intentions for the day with a short meditation and cleansing ritual and then open the doors to greet my early bird students.
Outline your night ritual for us…
I wish I could say that I have a ‘set-in-stone’ night time ritual but the truth is, with two kids, my erratic work schedule and early mornings, we are all just going with the flow right now. We are a very adaptable family and we love being in the moment so even if it’s just ONE night that we all manage to be off our tech, eat dinner together, read or watch a movie then seamlessly drift off to bed then we celebrate that. One thing I will say that is ritualistic for us is that we always take the time to be grateful for each other. We say it out loud, every single day.
Talk us through your supplement intake…
I don’t eat before I teach so when I get home I make a big smoothie full of goodness. I love the Nuzest Good Green Vitality and I then fill it with things like frozen banana, hemp seeds, LSA, MCT oil, berries etc. I usually only take supplements if I feel like I’m deficient in something. I generally like to get my nutrients from wholefoods first and supplements second.
I also believe that water is one of the best supplements we can take and most of us don’t get enough of it. Fantastic for your skin and overall health. Having said that, I do love making a hot cacao with reishi mushroom, ashwagandha, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and a bit of oat milk and honey.
What is your weeknight dinner philosophy – what’s a normal meal look like?
While our eating philosophy on the whole is centred around health, there is no ‘normal’ in our house. And I know this may seem shocking to you, reader, but I actually do not like cooking. I’m definitely conscious of what I eat and of course what I feed my family but I’m not not a “foodie” so it’s either my husband making something or me (begrudgingly) doing something super simple. That can range from egg on toast to a ‘hidden veg’ soup to last night’s leftovers. I’m lucky that both of my kids eat raw veggies because I know I can throw that in front of them at any time and they will get eaten. The only normal (or regular I suppose) thing we do is have dinner at my parents house every Monday night. Like clockwork. That meal is an extravaganza and basically keeps us going for the next two days.
What treatment is a regular for you and why?
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 The Slow House in Bondi.
Do you practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness for me is all about being present. It’s about slowing down and taking the time to appreciate things in the here and now. That may be acknowledging your meal and where it came from. It could be looking at and improving how we communicate with each other. It might be standing barefoot on the earth and feeling grounded. The more we are taken out of the present (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.
Do you practice meditation?
As meditation has grown in popularity, I’ve noticed a stigma begin to form around exactly what it is and how to do it. Many people I’ve had conversations with are too afraid to even try it for fear of doing it wrong. They have preconceived ideas that in order to meditate they need to sit still and clear their mind of every and all thoughts (which is nigh on impossible). Know this. There is no ‘bad’ meditation. There is only you and your experience. And like anything, practice makes perfect and consistency is key. But for me, meditation is any practice that requires focused observation for an amount of time. It could be sitting quietly for a moment and feeling into your body. It could be tuning into your breath and observing your thoughts as they come. It could be walking along the sand being mindful and present with each step. For some people running it’s running, for others, surfing. Whatever it is should be enjoyable.
What’s your approach to more alternative forms of beauty and wellness practises?
Ahhhh… to sage or not to sage? That is a hot topic at the moment but the REAL question I suppose is do I subscribe to the healing powers of these alternative therapies? The short answer is YES however that is due to the intention that I set before I perform the ritual or ceremony for whatever it is I am doing. I have the utmost respect for the indigenous cultures from which these ancient traditions have come and I ensure that all of my tools are ethically and sustainably sourced. Whether it’s a stick of palo santo, a crystal or a hand carved incense holder, I personally love peppering my spaces with objects that hold meaning for me. My dear friend Jae (owner and curator of my favourite store, Circa BC where you will find all of these treasures), gave me a beautiful perspective on how and why people are drawn to these earthly talismans. She calls them “Divine Reminders” and believes they serve as symbols of commitment that you can look at, reflect upon and surround yourself with, that can assist in keeping you on your path (whatever that may be).
What do you do to help your body recover after a workout/hectic week?
Sauna, ice bath, sleep. In that order.
Talk us through your fitness approach…
My fitness approach is holistic. I believe that just being fit physically doesn’t make you truly fit. So my fitness regime incorporates training my mental health, my emotional stability and the deep connection to myself as well as my body (KAAIAA, basically) but in terms of my physical fitness, I am teaching between 10 – 12 classes per week at the moment plus doing private events so that is pretty well covered. And yes I listen to my body – it tells me when to pull back, when I need to rest, when I need to stretch, when I need to breathe more and when I need to come back into the present moment. Conversely, it also tells me when I need to take it up a notch.
Do you regularly listen to any wellness podcasts?
Out of all of these questions this is the one I wish I had a better answer for. No, I don’t. I’m rarely in the car to listen to anything and if I’m not teaching, working or spending time with the family then I’m sleeping (I hope). Any suggestions would be welcome!
What I do love to listen to is music (must be the ex-DJ in me). Any sort of shamanistic, acoustic, tribal, live music or sound healing, binaural beats and solfeggio frequencies – that’s me. That’s on in the background most days.
Do you use any wellness technology you use or Apps to monitor your health?
No. It’s a shame as I know these pieces of technology are designed to provide us with an insight into the way our bodies function, but I see so many people in class with their wearables constantly being taken out of their experience because of dings and pings. Perhaps knowledge is power, but so is being able to intuitively connect to yourself. The more we are removed from this equation with the information just handed to us, the less we are able to feel and sense where we are at for ourselves. Our own intuition is our deepest connection to ourselves. We should commit to understanding the rhythms, signs and signals of our greatest wearable is our own body.
What’s your trick to making it through the 3pm slump?
KAAIAA! There is no 3pm slump if you are training across the four Pillars Of Health. The only reason a slump exists is because of low energy. And this can be due to mental fatigue, physical needs not being met (e.g. not enough sleep) or emotional instability (being worried about something happening in your life e.g. relationships/work/self-esteem etc). These are what we call ‘energy leaks’. They take you out of the present moment (where you cultivate energy) and send you down a spiral of anxiety and worry – both of which drain a lot of energy. If you are supporting your health through training the four Pillars then your capacity increases, your energy levels rise and you can wave goodbye to that afternoon crash.
An average Sunday night looks like…
Right now it’s all about the open fire with a glass of red wine in hand. Bliss.
Who do you look up to in the wellness world and why?
I am inspired by anyone doing the (sometimes hard) work on themselves that will help them to grow and expand as a person. This qualifies their voice (in my eyes), and allows them to share their views from a connected place. It means what they say will resonate with their audience and this is what I admire. Stepping into the dark places to find the light, learning from their experiences and sharing that with the world. Anyone operating from a common-good model where sustainability, the health of the planet and looking after the people is given the same attention (if not more) as profit.
Companies are becoming much more conscious of their imprint on the world which is amazing to see. Ardor Athletic, Who Gives A Crap and 4ocean are just a few that spring to mind and then initiatives like The 440 Run Club and Runday where their sole mission is to just get people moving are all trailblazers in my eyes.
What was your 2021 health or wellness resolution?
I launched KAAIAA at the end of January this year. I felt like with everything that had happened with COVID it was the perfect time to offer people a simple way to support their mental, physical and emotional health. So the rest of this year and beyond will be focused on that. Sharing, expanding, teaching and growing KAAIAA.
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