lydia lassila on At the Heart of Yoga with Julie Smerdon

Lydia Lassila | Balance and Flight

In this episode, we dive into the world of a guest whose life story elevates us all – Lydia Lassila, Australia’s aerial skiing champion whose feats have not only carved her name in snow but also in the halls of resilience and determination.

Our paths crossed in Byron Bay, where I was guest teaching on a retreat that she was part of. Far removed from the icy, adrenaline-pumped slopes of the Olympics, I had the honour of practising with Lydia. It was a humbling experience, where the physical and mental discipline of an Olympic athlete was palpable, yet effortlessly blended with the calm, focused energy that yoga asks of us. We connected that day, and I’m proud to bring you her story.

Lydia’s journey is not just about the leaps taken in the air but also about the grounding force of personal growth, the power of community, and the ability to overcome the challenges that life throws our way. Her story spans both the dizzying heights of Olympic victory and the quiet moments that define the spirit of a true champion.

Lydia has created a business that has beautiful, unique and sustainable wellness products and she has GIFTED MY LISTENERS A 20% DISCOUNT FOR HER PRODUCTS! USE THE CODE HEART20, link to the site below.

Find Lydia:


Instagram: @lydialassila

Check out the documentary of her story:

Unknown Speaker  0:13 

Hello, welcome to At the heart of yoga. I’m Julie Smerdon. And I changed the name of the podcast lately, I was talking to a friend and she’s like, you know, I can’t find you in the podcast. And it’s partly because the name was too long, and partly because my name wasn’t in it. So now it is at the heart of yoga with Julie Smerdon, and hopefully, you’ll be able to find it a little bit more easily. I hope everyone’s doing well. And I’m so grateful for you to be here listening. If you weren’t here, listening, it would just be me in my office talking to myself and my dog. So thank you so much for being here. I am so excited to bring you this conversation with Lydia Lassila. Today. I actually recorded it several weeks ago, but then got the flu, that and I’m still not all the way recovered. But I had no voice for the better part of a week and a half. And so I couldn’t record an intro. But now I’m recording it. And you’re gonna love this chat I had with her. It’s been a it’s been interesting. So have you know, the, the that struggle, I don’t want to use the word struggle, what’s the word I’m looking for? The recent situation that my husband and I have been through with, with his having a super bug. And there’s a lot of unknowns and everything, everything is going really well. He got the PICC line out a couple of weeks ago, and literally the next day, my body just broke down. And I think, really, I was just, you know, holding so much together for him and for us. And you know, it’s kind of similar to that vacation thing where you know, you do all stuff, get all your ducks in a row and you go on vacation, and immediately you get I feel like it was was a bit of that. So, but the good news is, is that the infection has not come back, and he’s feeling really good. He’s back to work and has a whole new lease on life. So we are feeling really fortunate to have been able to get to this place. And, you know, just back to the falling apart. I think sometimes, I don’t know if you’re like this, but I am you know, I just feel like I’m indestructible. And I’m not. And you know, as much as I talk about self care, and I do, I’m pretty good at practicing it. But when you have a situation come up where self care almost has to take the backburner. I think at some point, there’s going to be a price to pay for that. And certainly the last couple of weeks, I have paid that price. Happily, because I wouldn’t have done things any other way. I really want it to be fully available in there for him during that time. But moving onward, I’m really excited. I’ve got a really great lineup of podcasts. And as I said in the intro that I did for the season, I’m really committed to bringing you at least one a month. So this is the one for this month. And Lydia, like so many of us came to yoga through pain. You know, I tell my teachers, the teachers that I work with and teacher trainees that. I mean, it’s I think it’s documented, Lauren Tober would be a good one to check in with this one about but most people come to yoga, initially, because of some kind of pain. So it could be emotional pain, it could be physical pain. It could be spiritual seeking, you know, something’s missing kind of thing. And it’s just, you know, it’s so important to remember that whoever comes through our door as teachers, we don’t know what personal hell they’ve been going through, or, you know, we just don’t know, even though we think we do, we don’t. And so it’s just always a good reminder to be very, very gentle with not just your students, but everyone that you come in contact with, you just never really know. But Lydia, she’ll tell you the story of how she came to yoga in the chat. You know, she’s an elite athlete. So she’s got she went from being a kind of sporty kid who was trying to keep up with her brothers to being selected for the first women’s aerial skiing team in Australia Olympic team, and she went on to win medals and have babies while doing it. And just the story of firsthand of the devotion and the dedication and the actually the team you have to have behind you as an elite athlete like that is really quite profound. I think, you know, I’ve worked with the cricketers before we talked to Ken Ever Bancroft’s on this podcast. And I think it’s different when you have an organization like cricket Australia behind you this, this stuff is provided for you. But for someone like Lydia, she needed to create her own tribe. And I think, you know, just you know, if you know me at all, you know that I’m really a big proponent of the whole concept of community and tribe. And she built this beautiful team that supported her through this whole process. And it’s really quite remarkable to hear. So but before I bring you the chat, just a few things going on. There’s actually a lot going on behind the scenes right now, I have some online things coming out. I have an immersion, that’s going to happen starting in August. So I am officially not going to do a teacher training. this coming season, I’ve been doing my trainings, starting in July or August. So at the half year point, this year, I am going to forego the training and do an immersion. So this will be about 100 hour immersion. And my thing with the teacher training is as much as I love doing it. I’ve been doing it for a lot of years. And I’m really limited by the yoga organizations and the content that I can present. So I have a certain number of hours. And then I have to meet their requirements for you know, this many hours of anatomy, this many hours of Asana, this many hours of meditation. And I don’t know that the knowledge about yoga has blown up in the last 10 years. And there’s so much more that I want to share. So this will be for teachers who want to kind of renew their passion for practice and connect with a like minded community. It’ll be for dedicated students who just want to go deeper, but don’t necessarily want to do a full teacher training. And it’s not going to just be me, we’re going to have guest teachers. So Shara Carruthers is going to come and talk about your Veda and doshas and things like that. The amazing Andrew Moore naiise is going to come and talk about Hindu deities. We’ve got Alison Potts, who’s going to come and talk about innate meditation, this style of meditation that is so natural and so fun, for lack of a better word. And then we’ll have Michelle Coates coming. She’s kind of the chakra, Queen of Queensland, maybe even Australia, super knowledgeable about the whole chakra and subtle body anatomy system. So there’ll be that and there’ll be me and there’ll be community, and I’m so excited about this. And more information is going to be released about that in the next week or two. So watch this space. But for now, I’d like to take you to this conversation that I had with the lovely Lydia Lassila. Enjoy.


Unknown Speaker  7:58 

Lydia, thank you so much for taking the time. Earlier this morning


Unknown Speaker  8:02 

so much for having me. It’s so nice to see you again.


Unknown Speaker  8:06 

Yeah, I feel the same. Either way I do this normally is just, I just kind of give you space to tell your story. You’ve got to get an interesting story. And to be honest, before I met you late last year, I didn’t I kind of had a vague idea of your story, but I didn’t I watch the documentary after I met you. And then I was like, holy moly. She’s got a lot to tell, but to talk about. So it’d be really fun.


Unknown Speaker  8:34 

Ya know, I’m excited. I feel like, you know, my sporting life was centuries ago now, but it’s really not that long ago, like I retired in 2018. And had a long and interesting and challenging sporting career, I suppose. Yeah. Yeah, it’s only like 2024. And it’s crazy to think about what I you know, my lifestyle as an aerial skier and, you know, competing at the top of my game with two little kids in tow.


Unknown Speaker  9:13 

Yeah, unbelievable. Well, let’s start kind of where are you from? Initially? Is it Melbourne that where you were born or? Yeah,


Unknown Speaker  9:20 

born in Melbourne, live in when we’re living in Australia, we’re living in lon, so on the south coast, and that’s probably swept along the Great Ocean Road where I spent all of my childhood holidays. So it’s got a lot of really beautiful kind of connection and meaning, which is ultimately why chose to live there. Yeah, it’s up there. And about three years ago, we moved. It was an interesting move and very extreme move, but it was kind of during COVID Of course. Some and it’s Finnish. And we always thought we would move over to Finland for some time and at least put the children in school and get them to experience a Finnish lifestyle. So COVID here, about six months of homeschooling, we’re like, Okay, let’s get out of England was open kids are at school and living a normal life, essentially. So we’re like, yeah, okay, let’s do that. So we kind of planned being over here for about six months. Just to give the kids that experience, and we ended up coming to Lapland, which is Northern, you know, Arctic. Known for its long, dark winters and Northern Lights, and Santa Claus and all of that stuff. So we thought, well, we’re both, you know, skiers and skiing family. So we thought, let’s go somewhere where we guaranteed a winter and yeah, escape the kids in a local school and have that experience. So yeah, we three years later, still there. We are still here. I’ve decided to stay in in Lapland, and living this life for now. So that’s yeah, it’s been an interesting move.


Unknown Speaker  11:19 

It’s Yeah, it’s funny that you say to guarantee yourselves a winter. I don’t think people from the warmer parts of Australia understand that winter is not guaranteed even in cold climates. You know,


Unknown Speaker  11:31 

yeah, the more and not in lots of parts of the world where we’re seeing, you know, the climate drastically change and, and glaciers melting. And yeah, being found in ski environments and mountain environments for a lot of my life. You know, I’ve seen that firsthand change. Training locations that were once reliable and no longer. Really? Yeah, no, definitely not for years. So Lapland is actually a training base that I used to train that when I was still an active athlete, so northern Finland, and we’re pretty much you can guarantee a winter. And possibly one of the last places you can guarantee or winter. Who knows? Who knows? That’s just speculation, I


Unknown Speaker  12:24 

guess. Yeah, I’m from a very cold part of the US. And, you know, my husband’s from Brisbane. And so when he moved over there, we lived over there for a while we were first married. And here’s like, you know, some winters there just isn’t snow. There’s a lot of gray, a lot of cold, but not always snow that you can do things in so yeah, I think you don’t always


Unknown Speaker  12:45 

Yeah, and it’s a great lifestyle. And it’s so kind of like when especially when I first moved here, it’s it’s, it’s a harsh environment and to see people living in flourishing, like it’s normal, little kids, you know, getting dressed 100 times a day to go in and out of school, outside and I mean, our kids are wearing this CRLs and winter gear for six months of the year. So it’s a completely different style and something that I’m sure will serve all of us really well. And I’m glad that we’ve had that experience and still experiencing it. So there’s no end in sight yet. But I honestly believe a Julie that I will end up on some beach somewhere in very


Unknown Speaker  13:24 

tropical climate. Well, then, you know, you’ve had you’ve had both extremes. But your Instagram and for anybody who hasn’t looked at Lydia’s Instagram, check it out. Because you you do make it look magical. I mean, absolutely magical. It makes me miss lino living in a cold climate, and I’m pretty well acclimated here. Now. Look,


Unknown Speaker  13:43 

I’m pretty slack on honestly, like cut trying to just live and experience things. And then I will capture. But um, it is a beautiful, magical place. And there is something special and magical about Lapland for sure, along with a lot of other places in the world. But for now, you know, we’re just really embracing it and enjoying it and see it being the kind of date and open ended. Yeah,


Unknown Speaker  14:12 

good for you. Good for you. So let’s go. Let’s back up a little bit and go to your athletic career. So were you a sporty kid. I mean, were you as a little kid, were you one of those kids that was climbing ladders at two years old and stuff like that.


Unknown Speaker  14:28 

Climbing anything I could at two years old. I was flipping I was kind of born Acrobat and really enjoyed being upside down. I grew up with three older brothers. So they made me like winning anything impossible. Yeah, it was competitive. And so I learned how to lose quite a lot. And, you know, the school of hard knocks, I suppose. But yes, something that I had that they couldn’t do was the kind of acrobatics Kill I found it’s really early on, which became my community became my first love. Because there was, you know, other other females there other girls that I developed a really strong bonds with that I still have to this day like a sisterhood. So plastics became my own thing and something that I was really good at that others couldn’t do so. And so that’s how I kind of started in the, you know, in sport, I suppose. And I always just felt like I was meant to be an athlete, I loved the whole process of it, and the training and the grind of it, you know, that those kind of micro improvements that you can get from one repetition to the other, or one day to the other, and that kind of search for constant refinement. Oh my god, I love that. I love that I don’t find that boring, I’d love it so much, because there’s just always something to improve. And I still love that I still love making those small gains, you get a buzz from that. And that’s kind of, you know, super motivating for me. So I loved the grind of being an athlete in terms of just repetition, repetition. And then I love competing. Yeah, I love teaching and being able to show what I’ve been working towards. And yeah, you know, and I think now being out of sport for a while, and obviously being in business and real life. You know, nothing is I don’t think anything is as honest and pure as being an athlete, like, what you’re in, you generally get out, you know, aren’t really fake it if you don’t do the time, the hours the training, the preparation, mentally, physically, you will fall short in your performance, you might get lucky sometimes. But, you know, generally over time, can you know that consistency comes with consistent hard work in application on all aspects mind body. So,


Unknown Speaker  17:12 

but that does transition over to life. Hey, I mean, do you find you use that in your business?


Unknown Speaker  17:16 

It does. But then what I find you can’t control is other people. So in business, I think you can talk, you know, and you can fake it, and you can tell someone you can do that, then you don’t deliver, you know, and you break your promise. And so those things really disappointed me when someone says they will do something and they don’t deliver in business. And I’m just like, ah, you know, that’s Yeah, that’s really like, that’s a real letdown.


Unknown Speaker  17:44 

Yes, for sure,


Unknown Speaker  17:45 

you know, that I come from. And so that’s why I say, you know, being an athlete is really kind of honest, endeavor, you can’t really fake it, you have to tick all the boxes in order to be that become who you want to be, whether it’s the best or whatever. And I guess


Unknown Speaker  18:00 

especially if solo athlete, you know, competing on your own, not part of a team is a completely different thing I would imagine.


Unknown Speaker  18:08 

Yeah, you still have a really good team, you know, you need a team of, you know, especially for me, for me in my later years, like having the physical support, whether it’s a physiotherapist or my yoga teacher, I used to travel with my yoga teacher, because, you know, an aging aging body. Yoga was just one of the biggest gifts that I ever discovered, you know, and we’ll get there with me was so important. And part of my team, you know, mental training coaches, you know, coaches all of that, like here, it’s impossible to achieve those things on your own. And so, that team’s really important. And you want that team to deliver on what they say they can or in their expert field. And so it was pretty simple for me in in sport. You still have to find the right people, right? That go with you. But it’s I find it a little bit more difficult in business.


Unknown Speaker  19:06 

Interesting. Alright, so I read it. I didn’t realize this till today, when I was doing a little bit of research. You were the first Australian woman to be in five Olympics.


Unknown Speaker  19:18 

Yes, I think I was. Yeah, I think it was. There may have been others now since but I’m not 100% Sure.


Unknown Speaker  19:28 

Yeah. The article I read. So the first I assume they’ve been more sense. But that’s that’s really quite remarkable. And your first one you had been only been skiing or aerial skiing for like, a year. Yeah. Yeah. So


Unknown Speaker  19:40 

I stopped gymnastics when I was about 17 and then wanted to do something else like I I didn’t make it in gymnastics as far as I wanted to for a variety of reasons. But injury ultimately kind of forced me out of gymnastics. And then I was looking for something else to pursue something I needed sport in my life, like I just that’s I was felt like I was born to be an athlete. And the Olympics was something that I really wanted to I dreamed of being an Olympian I just wanted to. And so there was a bit of a sliding doors moment moment in life, I’d stopped gymnastics, you know, had a really great skill set of acrobatics and work ethic and discipline and all of that kind of stuff that could transfer to something else. And at that time, there was a kind of a pilot program opening up for the Winter Olympic Institute where they were looking for extremists to see if I could teach how to ski. Yeah, America. Yes. So it was like, I was looking up one of them. One of one of my good friends from gymnastics lens was also chosen, and we became this, the guinea pigs of this pilot program. So yeah, it’s, it’s crazy, you know, I mean, it was almost a little bit wild back then. The Wild West, there wasn’t much structure, but ya know, how we’re gonna go, you know, it was kind of like, just go with the flow. And yeah, so I brought that work ethic that that skill set and just went really hard.


Unknown Speaker  21:13 

Yeah, where did you train them like they plucked you off the beach and then put you on the main somewhere,


Unknown Speaker  21:20 

we’ll be in Whistler black home, on this accelerated path to becoming an aerial skier. So we had amazing coaches teaching us how to ski Worldcup class coaches. And so we learned really quickly because let’s apply, learn, repeat, you know, it was an apply learn repeat. In fact, those days freestyle skiing was a little bit loose still in its structure. Because Pete relaxed, you know, and yeah. So then it kind of didn’t know what to do with us. But yeah, progressed super quickly. And then once I could ski competently, I started flipping and learning how to flip on on the water ramps, and then on to snow. And then yeah, my coach at the time just planted a seed, he’s like, you know, that, gee, if you work really hard this year, you could actually qualify for the Olympics. And I mean, I had no business qualifying for the 2012 but just planting that seed, I was just like, Yeah, I’m going I was doing triple volume that people were doing I was doing crazy amounts of volume taking really stupid risks with my body. And I did pay the price with the injury but I did make it I made it to those Olympics qualified. People didn’t even know my name, you know, on the field in from nowhere, and ended up making the final came out. It was yeah, it was a quick learning curve that was 18 months after I first clicked on skis. So it was thankfully, though, that you know, the pathway now is so much more structured and safe and controlled and or, you know, the next athletes coming up and they’ve got all the resources you know, thanks to you, you know, we didn’t have well me other other athletes you know that success so yeah, so it was it was just Yeah, it was really quick really interesting. And I think you dream of going to Swan Olympics when you’re a kid you just I just want to go number one, but then you have this insatiable appetite once you go came coming eighth place I’m like, oh my god, I meant for so much more than this, you know, I need to I know I can. So then it becomes you know, your whole life works around these kind of four year quadrants sections, four year blocks, even born in four year blocks.


Unknown Speaker  23:52 

Speaking of that, how did you meet your husband? So I know he’s here as


Unknown Speaker  23:55 

well? Yeah, so early days he was on the World Cup mobile team for Finland. He was a mogul skier and had blown his knee Yeah, he’s neither better than mine. But he was coaching he was having the season off in coaching our development mobile skiers Australia’s development local ski resort called Silver Star in BC Canada. And then we were the Ariel Junior Ariel team was also there training and doing our first flips on snow so we met and yeah just became instantly good friends. You know, like just you don’t really expect to have so much in common with someone that’s from a completely opposite ends


Unknown Speaker  24:40 

of the world. I can relate.


Unknown Speaker  24:44 

Yeah, exactly. So you know all about it. So but we did and just Yeah, first became really good friends and kind of separate us. So he would return to the World Cup and I continued on World Cup as well. Oh, became a World Cup athlete, you know, the next year and we were on tour tour for many years until he retired in 2005. Yeah. So yeah, so he was at the tail end of his career, and I was kind of at the start.


Unknown Speaker  25:20 

Yeah, yeah. So


Unknown Speaker  25:21 

then the gold was in 2010.


Unknown Speaker  25:25 

Gold was in 2010. And when I first started, I, you know, saw this gap between the male and female aerial skaters, like there was a huge gap between skill level and execution of tricks. And I was just why whatever, you know, there’s not a sport that is dependent on a certain stature or strength, it’s very skill based. So I was really confused why there was such a gap between what men and women were doing. And so that was, like, when I started, and I saw what the men were doing, I was like, I just want to jump back then, you know, they were my benchmark. And so that was really clear from the beginning. And that became my kind of mission is to close that gap between male and female aerial skiers. So it meant that I was going to need to take a lot of risks, you know, and progress the sport and, you know, see how far I essentially would go and bring a different level of thinking, you know, and that met resistance, even with coaches are like, Oh, I was like, I want to do triple somersaults and multiple twists and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And they were like, well, you don’t need to to win, you know, yeah, they need to, and I’m like, that’s not what I want to do. So tiptoeing around, around that, until I found, you know, the right coach for me, that believed in that kind of vision as well, and could take me there. So, between 2002 and 220 10, I really progressed in terms of skill level, and that that mission was on track of me doing triple somersaults like the men and closing the gap and bring in new intensity to the sport. And unfortunately, 2005 Six period was where I suffered my greatest kind of setbacks in injury. So I ended up before the 2006 Olympics, you know, I blew my knee about six months before it, and then raced back to try and make it back using all kinds of experimental surgical techniques. So it was called an allograft, which, at the time hadn’t been done much in Australia. So any peak moment lump two, and then yeah, made it back in time, but ended up blowing money in the semi finals of those Olympics. So that was pretty low point in my career, but also really, really crucial point. This kind of belief that I could be the best, but something was I didn’t know what was holding me back. Why I was always kind of getting injured and having these setbacks and this up and down cycle of, you know, success and then and, and failure essentially so, so I had a year off and, and reached out for help. Essentially, I I read a lot of you know, mental training books and applied a lot of techniques and found Jeffery Hodges that of Queensland to be you know, the his material I really resonated with a lot and listened to his visualizations and then ended up calling him up and saying, Look, I need to work with you. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I don’t want this. You know, I don’t want this to ever happen to me again, in terms of injury and blowing money out at the Olympics, and I need to you know, win the next ones I want to win them so I need help overcoming the fear that’s involved in overcoming the trauma that I’d experienced to to be able to do it so that was a really crucial period in my life. I started working with Jeffrey Hodges I got a new coach that was on board because you know, an athlete that blows me out twice in a space of six months a lot of people start to doubt whether they’re actually even going to come back at all you know, whether you can whether you will have the same level of fearlessness but calm confidence Yeah. Confidence is king in sport. The minute that goes is you know, it all unfolds pretty quickly right matter how much cash Yeah, right like cash is king in business, but


Unknown Speaker  29:55 

confidence can only buy so much. Yeah,


Unknown Speaker  29:57 

yeah. Is the origin that I must be preserved at every costs. So my confidence was at zero, yet somehow I still believed I could be the athlete that that I could be. But I needed help. And I needed a good team of people around me to get me there. So, physios strength trainers to get my body back in track. mental training coach and Jeffrey orders and, and then my aerial coach Manish Roth, who was out of Switzerland, and that became my unit and my team and, and worked really hard on the mental side on, you know, breaking down some limiting beliefs that I had about myself. And crazy, one of them ultimately was, you don’t need to work harder, you need to work smarter. Like I just I was so fractured, I do more training than anyone and I, you know, I work so hard, and yet this happens, and I was doing too much. You know, I wasn’t, I should have been I wasn’t tapering, I wasn’t backing off when my body, you know, told me it needed to back off, you know, jump through injuries and niggles and they got worse. So the that kind of became a core subject around me coming back for those 2010 Olympics, it’s like, don’t train harder, train smarter, make sure quality on every repetition is there, and then you no waste any jumps. And to do that you need to be in a rock solid mindset of Yeah, it’s interesting. Another concept Jeffrey taught me was a conservative future self. So obviously, we can look back and dwell and and you look back at you know, past failures. And gosh, you can get yourself back there in a second, you know, your physiology changes, you start sweating, your mind races, your heart races, like, you can think of a time in your life where things didn’t go well. And you can just in your mind, take yourself right back there and feel the sensations in your body. And so that’s something we didn’t want to do. We wanted to learn, obviously, from from past mistakes. And


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