Many of you will have heard of LA-based Aree Khodai and her yoga movement, Aree’s Army. However you may not have heard about her new passion, ARTHA: a beautiful Health and Wellness Sanctuary in Beverly Hills, LA.
We had the chance to connect and learn from her about perseverance, self-care and building a community that has helped her, and her followers, overcome life’s challenges, together.
Tell us about Aree's Army
Teaching is such a big part of my life. Over the years we’ve built this group called Aree's Army, and it literally feeds my soul. To see everyone from class banding together and making jokes (even if it’s all online right now). Human contact is so important and we have all different walks of life come into class. There are no titles, and no labels. It’s so beautiful to see a 60 year old woman befriending an 18 year old student and mentoring them. These mini-communities have established themselves within our group. They come to class to see me but also to see each other. And support each other with personal and work issues and triumphs and celebrate each other together.
Tell us about your experience with CBD
CBD is a big part of my life. I also notice a great response as soon as I share with my class students or friends about it, as they feel the same. Self-care and self-love is such a big part of my life and CBD is part of that. Most recently my mom was in the hospital and the only thing honestly, that helped her come out of it and helped her with her memory was CBD. I’m a huge proponent of CBD and many of my friends also use CBD.
How do you identify yourself?
I identify myself as so many different things as I’ve had so many lives already! Definitely an athlete through school. I had really bad asthma growing up. I was a go-getter, but because of my asthma was told to stay on the sidelines.
I remember one pivotal moment. It was the last year in Elementary school, 5th grade, and it was a 3-4 day progression including running the mile on the last day. It was a hot summer month in California in June. My asthma had been tricky that week and I’d already been in the hospital on a breathalyzer and so had to sit on the sideline and not participate. I noticed my friends looking at me enviously, as they didn’t want to do the run. I was so frustrated because they were in perfect health but didn’t want to do it. So that summer I started running. Down to the street light, until I had an asthma attack. Then I’d go home and try to hide it and not take my inhaler! By the end of the summer I’d strengthened my lungs so much that I went to college on the x-country team. That really shaped me as an adult. I just don’t take no for an answer. I’m always willing to try and see if there’s another way.
Later on, I was working on Wall Street in a man’s world. So many people looked at me as though I didn’t deserve my job, so I felt I had to prove myself. It’s always been my thing to persevere.
The same with yoga! I didn’t like yoga at first, I thought it wasn’t for proper athletes, but during my first class I got my ass handed to me…and my competitive attitude kicked in. I didn’t give up or get discouraged and kept going.
This experience has really shaped who I am. I believe in everyone else because I’ve been through it. You don’t need to be amazing, you just need to try and have the willingness to do something new.
So, for me it’s truly all about attitude and a willingness to persevere, to move beyond the Ego. Students I’ve seen who’ve started in their 60s are incredible. I look up to them so much, and want to be like them. I’m so grateful and lucky that I’m around so many amazing people who have the courage and determination to go after something new instead of something they are already naturally good at, and they really triumph. They start to see and implement those changes during class, and then go after them in the rest of their life.
What’s your greatest accomplishment / what are you most proud of?
There are so many little things, like persevering with my health and wellness, but I think how I handled my marriage (thank god for my yoga practice at the time because I wasn’t teaching yet). I now have so much love and admiration and respect for my ex-husband, but at the time I was in a really unhealthy (spiritually and emotionally) marriage. We were so young when we got married. I wonder if things would have been different it we hadn’t married so young but when I look back, how I handled my divorce is probably one of my biggest accomplishments. I didn’t hold onto anger or resentment and evolved through the experience.
I did it on my own, it was really challenging to go through it, but I maintained my respect and handled it with grace and strength and positivity that has shaped everything in my life ever since. There were times before when I allowed my boundaries to be overstepped. Now I’m much less reactive and more responsive in how I deal with issues on a personal and professional level.
It’s helped me evolve as a person, and as a woman, to take pride in who I am. I went through it and managed to maintain grace that I didn’t know I had before.
How do you express love to others?
Quality time for me is huge! For me it’s a matter of spending the time in person, or on the phone or even sending a note as a gesture of love, as an act of service. I have always wanted to give to others, and I’m so happy to be able to do that through Aree’s Army and ARTHA. ARTHA is a members-only Wellness Sanctuary that combines Ancient Wellness practices with cutting edge therapies to heal & rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.
How did you overcome obstacles to get where you are today?
Tenacity and a never-give-up spirit! For me it’s having the willpower and determination, as well as courage and the strength but also being okay with and accepting that along with triumph there are moments of falling and failure.
As much as you want to be determined and strong, learning when to let go and stop putting in effort and having a bit more surrender has been important way for me to find balance.
I’m so grateful to have such a strong support group of people that are loyal that I can really trust. Over the years I’ve learned to give people and situations the benefit of the doubt and come to each situation with understanding and compassion, and I then find that that energy is reciprocated. I’ve also learned to step away from situations if it becomes too much effort.
Tell us about any negative self-talk or self-limiting voices that you’ve overcome
In the past if I’ve come up with an idea and it’s been shot down once or twice, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea! Before it used to stop me from speaking up BUT what I’ve learned is that you may not be able to get the point across in the moment, but I can prove it out later by leading by example. I did that at Equinox, where I ended up bringing my ideas to life on my own time, at the weekend with Aree’s Army, and then they saw the success, and so approached me to do it with them!
What is your favorite self-love ritual?
Before quarantine I would go every few days and have a couple of massages. 30 mins each - and believe it or not it would be the only time I wasn’t on my phone.
I love to wake up an extra hour early before I need to come out of bed. I do my mediation. I try to really focus on what’s going on in my life that day or week, for example if I need less fear, I can lean into that.
I was a girl who lived by the ocean, so carefree, and I was care-free and not about self-care at all. But now I have my vitamin E, I take my CBD have my CBD ritual. I do my skincare and I do all of these things a lot slower now. Which is why I wake up a lot earlier. I’d rather take my time, not rush out the door, and enjoy the process.
It’s a huge part of my morning and day to give myself that self-care.
How do you stay fit and healthy and what are your top three tips to stay healthy?
I would say yoga, healthy eating, and being able to say no.
Since I was a young kid, it was all about me wanting to provide an act of service for others, BUT I had to do that for myself first. So I always try to figure out how to squeeze in my practice.
I give to myself, allow myself to process and it’s really a big mirror of truth. I’ve always had to be the strong one. So for me to be on my mat is where I start to get in tune with my femininity, sexualness and sensuality. There’s a lot of me that people don’t see, and it’s on the mat where I really see who Aree is in my truest essence.
I’m lucky, I’ve always had a knack for eating well, but one thing I’ve had to work on in the last few years has been taking the moment to pull over, not eat in the car. But really enjoy, know what I’m tasting and have more consciousness around eating. It was always with a sense of rush, and when I was super hungry, so to have a better relationship with my eating habits has been huge.
Being able to say no has been a big part of my physical and mental wellness. I felt like I always had to say yes and attend everything. Acknowledging that boundary and being able to say no, means that I’m better at picking and choosing my time wisely. Which means I can save time for myself. Friday nights for example is my time to come home and really unwind from the week.
What impact do you hope to leave on the world?
The acknowledgement for people that the change starts from within. Everyone has the ability and the power to do whatever it is that they want. It’s okay to dream big, and don’t give up on your dreams. Make sure there’s not a disconnect between the mind and the heart and don’t lose sight of that along the journey so you have the ability to adapt and change to reach your goal.
I haven’t lost sight of my original goal of helping people. Teaching yoga helps empower people to create the change they want. So, I’m fulfilling my purpose, just not in the way I anticipated or expected to.
So, have the dream but don’t be upset with the bumps in the road of the journey. Trust the process, trust the timing. I love the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” - it’s very much about how I live my life, even right now, during quarantine. We have to take a moment to re-evaluate our perspective, our purpose and where we are going to.
What would you say to your younger self?
I think I felt I had to be a tomboy or athlete to prove myself to the world so I would probably say that being a girl, being feminine, being a woman doesn’t mean you can’t be strong and powerful. I would also encourage the younger me to spend time in self-study. Take the time to get to know yourself. Self-acceptance, self-awareness and self-knowledge are key.
I’m so excited about ARTHA, the new Wellness Sanctuary in LA. To come out of a time like this, I am so glad that globally everyone is realizing that investment in yourself and your health and wellness is more important than anything else. We are so used to doing, doing, doing, and basing our value on our work and accomplishments that we don’t know how to be still and just be with ourselves.
ARTHA is going to provide an amazing space to address health and wellness holistically and I’m really excited about getting back into the community. We have ten different therapies that will allow our members to completely heal and rejuvenate their mind, body and soul. I am leading the Yoga and Meditation program as the Chief Yoga Officer at ARTHA and working as a team has been incredible! The team is so amazing, it’s like going home to a family. I can’t wait for us to all be there together creating something powerful and to help change the communities we are going to be serving.
Find out more about Aree's Army and ARTHA at:@ARTHA.MINDBODYSOUL