Leigh Blashki - Episode # 10

Leigh Blashki has 35 years experience as a Yoga Teacher and 20 years as a Yoga Therapist.

Leigh is a pioneer of Yoga Therapy training in Australia. He has post-graduate qualifications in Health Sciences (Victoria University) and Yoga Therapy, under-graduate qualifications in Counselling, Human Performance, Massage, Nutrition, Yoga, and Ayurveda.

He is a member of the advisory Council of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, the secretary of the Australian Association of Yoga Therapists and Vice-President of Yoga Australia.

 

Listen Here

 

….“Thank you Bettina, for being inspirational and setting this all up. I think it’s wonderful that you are creating this vehicle for sharing. You are a Karma yogi of high order for doing this” … Leigh Blashki

 

Show Notes 

If you would rather download the show notes to read them on paper later, click on this link to download. Leigh Blashki_Show Notes

Otherwise please enjoy the show notes below. This interview is not completely transcribed, please listen to the audio for the full interview.

 

B:    I read a brief bio on the Yoga Australia that you were drawn to yoga in the late 1960s, can you paint a picture of what you recall of your first yoga classes?

L:    Thank you listeners for taking the time to listen in.

I was asked this question in India a couple of weeks ago…who got you into yoga and I told them it was John Lennon, they almost fell off their chair. I was an avid Beatles fan as a teenager in the mid to late ‘60’s When the Beatles took to meditation; I took to it as well. I felt the meditation did something good for me. It was about the same time…I was a bit of an unwell child and spent time at home watching on TV these nice ladies in black leotards doing yoga, as a robust teen male I thought well this is all very interesting. It was years later that I realised the person I was seeing was Roma Blair & Sue Becker.

I went to a book shop in Russell St Melbourne and found some books;

  • Yoga for You,
  • Yoga for Women and another one called
  • Yoga for over 40’s, written by Michael Volin and his co writer Nancy Phelan.

I devoured them with great enthusiasm and eventually by about 1970 – 71 I found a class. Up until then I was just doing meditation at home, following the advice in the book.

And that when I found the St Kilda yoga school of Vijayadev Yogendra, who was the not so often spoken about son of Sri Yogendra of Santa Cruz Mumbai one of the very great pioneers of 20th century yoga.

B:    Oh so he lived in Melbourne?

L: He was living in Melbourne, unfortunately he left Melbourne in ignominious circumstances. I met his mother in the USA last September last year and she raised her eyebrows when I said I studied with him. I said its ok I know of all the things that went on –it’s OK. (laughs)

 

B:    Oh that sounds like another episode!

L:   My yoga journey plodded along for a number of years and then I had an opportunity to go to Sydney for work and study. I heard Michael Volin was in Sydney and I really revered his writing. He agreed to take on as a student in Pitt Street Sydney. He really got me on the path in a really serious way. He only took on two students to teach as teachers.

The irony of it all his style is very much traditional hatha yoga. He was a very firm sort of a person he says this and you do it, it was the old style didactic approach.

The first yoga class I taught was in a gymnasium in St Leonard’s, North Sydney. The 1812 sporting complex. It was a nice quiet class. And the class was mostly meditation, pranayama and a bit of asana work.

B:    You moved to Sydney to be able to work with Michael Volin and then you came back to Melbourne?

L:    It was a synergy I had moved to Sydney for some other things as well. I was quite interested in studying in the area of Natural Therapies and was interested in a college based in Sydney. I did some work to pay the bills in the area of nutrition and some marketing work.

B:    I’m always intrigued about what other careers yoga teachers take on. So you were always into the natural therapies area were you?

L:  I guess I always took an interest in looking after my health, because as I’d said I was an unwell child. I had congenital heart defects and associated pulmonary issues. Which lead to a predisposition to throat and chest inflammation issues. So I just felt I had to find ways to look after myself, so yoga was part of that but also seeking out natural therapies.

In the early 1970’s there was quite a boom, the early   stages of the vanguard of health food industry. Coinciding with what was happening in the US, there was this lovely connection between the growth of the  health food industry, physical culture and big body building and you have the likes of the great Walt Baptise the wonderful teacher in the United States who has been written about recently in the book The 10th Door. This was all happening at the time so it was a natural fit. If you were interested in Yoga and looking after your physical health, there was the whole package, physical training, molecular nutrition, vitamins and minerals, Spiralina and fish oils they were all available back then, they are not a modern day phenomena.

This was the basis of my life, I loved it, I lived it, I studied it. It gave me great joy and improved my health out of sight and that was the bottom line. No longer was I a teenager that had to be kept in cotton wool. My life as a child was as “you are fragile you cant do all the things that other children can”.

B:    And that’s taken you into the area of Yoga Therapy which we will pick up in a little while. You had in your bio  Swami Gitananda, was that Margrit Segesman?

L: No, Swami Gitananda his lineage is at the International Centre for Yoga Education & Research (ICYER) in Pondicherry, India. His son Dr Ananda who is one of the preeminent yoga teachers, therapist, yoga masters and medical doctor, world wide now. I have the great privilege of having a friendship and still regard him as a teacher. Comes from the Rishta lineage. Whilst they don’t call it Yoga therapy a lot of what they do is therapeutic. I have a great respect for those teachings and they really underpin what I do….

The Krishnamacharya tradition was a great influence for many years and still is, TKV Desikachar as is his son Kausthub Desikachar.

I became a direct student of A.G.Mohan who is one of the 4-5 great students of Krishnamacharya who ran the institute for a number of years and is one of the preeminent Yoga Therapists in the world.

B:    So you have travelled far and wide to seek out your teachers. You mention Donna Farhi and Dr. David Frawley in the Ayurveda environment.

L: Yes Dr Frawley is a teacher. Donna Farhi I like her as a friend, my wife Heather  is a close associate of her and assists her at her teacher trainings.

And I have a number of teachers in the US as well, I was a direct student of Sri Chinmoy.

Because of my work with the  IAYT as an advisor on the standards committee I regard those guys as my teachers as well, the likes of Gary Kraftsow and others, Robin Rothenberg to name another whilst not formally studying with them when you get to a certain stage in yoga just being with these people, there is a transmission of knowledge and confidence about yoga and yoga therapy that comes across.

At this moment you are my teacher so thank you, you are teaching me now.

B:    So how has your practice changed over time? Does it include pranayama and mediation?

L: My practice is based on the pranamaya kosha as well as the annamaya kosha (For more on this go to http://www.swamij.com/koshas.htm) So it is strongly based on Pranayama and Dyana and I like to have a mindfulness approach as well. I do a short practice every day that includes a bit of asana and general limbering, mediation and pranayama. …

It has evolved, in the early days it was bit ridged listening to others….

B:    As well as teaching Yoga classes and running a private practice as a Yoga Therapist, Counselor and Ayurvedic practitioner and assisting people with their specific health and lifestyle goals. You represent very senior roles on professional yoga industry associations. My two questions Why? and how do you manage your time?

L: Why?  Realistically these things evolved into being.

Its been a natural fit with my Karma yoga. It feels right and that’s why I do and it gives me a deep sense of deep  abiding joy. We are learning about yoga in the World.

Lots more on this, please listen to the audio.

L: The other question is how do I fit it into my time? Well I set time aside I put my “Out of Office” message in my email so I can give myself a little breathing space. I have got a whole lot of things I’ve got to catch up on. I’ve got two proposals to write for YA. I’ve got a position Description the write for the Association for Yoga Therapists, I’ve got some documents I need to get ready for  meeting with someone in the US on standards in Yoga Therapy. We just have to be organized and prioritize. Part of it is having a wonderful and understanding wife-  Heather Blashki.  My practice has to let me clear the space its important to  allow your own practice to support you.

 

B:    Leigh you have taken a leading role in establishing a unified set of standards and code of practice for Yoga Teachers in Australia.

Why do you think having a set of teaching standards for yoga in Australia is important?

L: There’s are range of reasons. The most important is for the students, for those we teach. …Second part is there is certain expectations of professionalism that is required by the public at large of anybody who is assisting somebody in the area that has to do with their physical, psychological and   spiritual wellbeing.

(There is a lot more important information said here please listen to the audio)

Catalyst to meet the Victorian education standards – Advance Diploma of Yoga Teaching (CAE). is a Nationally Recognised training course Government Accredited in 1999.

YT have the adequate training in things to do with the body the mind.

There was a bit of grumbling for a year or two but the Standards were established in 2001 under the Teachers Association, as it was know then. And in 2007 the same thing occurred in the yoga therapy field under Australian Association of Yoga Therapists AAYT.

 

B:    The course that is run at the CAE in Victoria was the catalyst for the standards?

There is more in this so please listen to the audio.

L: ….It was influenced with the teachers from Gita yoga.

The standards are a lifelong commitment to learning. As a member of Yoga Australia members have committed to standards for their whole teaching career not just to do it once.

B:    You will be speaking at the 2nd Yoga Australia conference in Sydney in April and the Yoga Therapy Conference in Melbourne in August 2012.

How are these events evolving? And what is the key takeaway for attendees?

 

L: The YA conference in Sydney April 28th & 29th 2012. Unity in Diversity. Its specifically for teachers of yoga and those training to be yoga teachers.

We are trying to get people to understand there is so many diverse approaches to the practice of yoga. But behind all that diversity there is unity that ties it together. The conference is about Sanga coming together in a sense of community. But there is also a wonderful  opportunity for professional development.

There is so many different workshops and presentations available. An outstanding line up of presentations. Join with their colleagues and share and learn. Not just from the senior ones, there are people giving presentations that have been teaching for a small number of years but are very interesting.

 

B:    I like to call them yoga Yoga-preneurs, people who are out there running their own business. There is an expectation always looking like they have it all in complete control but at the end of the day were only human and we can feel like we’re working in isolation and peers are not nearby to chat to about concerns or struggles in building our business so I think it’s a great place to get together and seek out support and broaden the network.

L: In relation to Yoga Therapy conference’ Its an opportunity to up-skill. We hope that physical therapist’s, psychologists and other medical people will come along and share their interests and have a chat and take up the opportunity to  up-skill.

Judith Lasater is coming who is preeminent in YT world wide.

A great opportunity for the healthy care community to come together with the Yoga community.

 

B:    Most of us would agree that Yoga provides a form of therapy… as the pioneer of Yoga Therapy in Australia you are best to clarify for us. What is the difference between  Yoga and Yoga Therapy?

L: In some respects we are going back to our past, yoga was taught in years gone by, one on one rather than in classes.

Providing the guidance to improve physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing….we work very much with the person one on one. And yoga therapist need a lot more training….

(There is a lot more important information said here please listen to the audio)

Check out the Australian Institute Yoga Therapy website  for the courses on Yoga Therapy.

B:    Other than yoga what makes your heart sing? How do you recharge?

L: Every thing I do is underpinned by yoga, looking out my window, going to a conference, walking my dog. I do like to vocalise and I sing with the Gembrook singers.

I don’t really separate them out Yoga and the other things I do.

 

B:    What inspirational books have you read and you would recommend.

L: What a horrible question to ask me! I do love to read …I do still love the Bhagavad-Gita. Here is a very short selection of what Leigh listed.

( links will take you to the fishpond book store) 

B:    Lucille Wood has just released her book on the story of Margrit Segesman its got some gorgeous photos in it!.

B:    When you contemplate the future of yoga in the world are you excited or concerned?

L: Yoga has been here for a long long  time. I don’t think it hangs on whether any of us become excited or concerned.

In the Bhagavad-Gita chapter two talks about yoga is balance. Too much excitement or too much concern is just not helpful…..

B:    Do you have a charity that you support?

L :   Yes I support a range of charities

•   Red Cross

•   National Heart Foundation

•   RSPCA

•   Oxfam

•   One of my dear students and close colleagues, Janet Lowndes has a charity she’s been involved with an orphanage in Cambodia.

Charity does start at home, but we do have a global responsibility as well.

 

B:    My last two questions:

Who would you like to hear interviewed on YTP

 

L: Oh every one!

Its great to hear from the older teachers that have been around a long while. But there is some things we will all learn from the newer teachers. There are some teachers out there doing some wonderful work, with their new enthusiasm that would be good to chat with. Young upcoming yoga teachers who are inspiring others, there are a couple that comes to mind.

I can think of a lady that comes to mind but I don’t have her permission to mention her name on the podcast.

They may have only been teaching for 4-5 years but are wonderful yoginis.

I don’t know where it starts or stops, it would be wonderful to be able to spend an hour each day listening to people.

I’ll give you that name after we have stopped recording. I’m mindful about doing the correct thing.

(The  yogini Leigh referred to was Nickyy Thomas of QLDHere is the interview with Nickky Thomas.

 

B: What would you like to leave the listeners with?

L: I honour the place in you that the entire universe resides, a place of peace, of truth, of love and light. Where when you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are in the same place and we are one. Namaste

 

B:    Namaste, Thank you so much that is beautiful thank you for the translation of Namaste.

Thank you Leigh Blashki for your time I look forward to seeing you at one of the events coming up soon.

 

L: Bye.

 

 

In the book by Jean Wallis there is a reference to Vijayadev Yogendra, the Hindu guru figure who was sent to Australia by Dr Robert Muller of the United Nations. We have a video of Muller praising “V.J.” back in approximately 1986, sent to the Helen Vale Foundation from the UN. Yogendra has a School of Total Education operating in Warwick, Queensland, which is a consulting body to the educational and family care institutes in Australia. Occult, Hindu, New Age practices, and the whole global agenda teaching comes from that centre, and there is liaison between such groups as kindergartens, health care, Family Services, business consultants, and so on, going on from that centre in Warwick.  Read more if your intrigued.

 

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