A Tribute To Maty Ezraty
Today we celebrate the life of yogini master teacher, Maty Ezraty, who left us way too soon. Maty made her transition to other realms this week. She left her body temple at the young age of 55 very unexpectedly. The teacher of teacher's left her yoga children. Maty was the teacher of many of today's most influencial yoga teachers. As the yoga world grieves with her departure, I am here today to honour and celebrate her life.
Maty is the founder of Yogaworks. Almost twenty years ago I walked into one of her classes in Los Angeles and soon after I started working at Yogaworks, where I taught classes, worked behind the desk, worked in management and participated in Yogaworks growth and expansion before moving to New Orleans. At Yogaworks I completed my 200 Hour and 300 Hour, as well as countless trainings. During my many years working at Yogaworks from my early twenties to thirties I matured not only as a yoga teacher, but also as a human - through the guidance and influence of mentors and teachers such as Maty Ezraty, Annie Carpenter and Lisa Walfort. I am lucky to have met such magnificent women in this life time. Maty's passing is a big reminder to all of us....
Cherish Each Moment. Every Moment Is So Special.
One of my last experiences with Maty, not long ago in Nicaragua, we went on a night hike to witness baby sea turtles hatch and make their way into the ocean. It was a true miracle to witness new life and nature's intelligence. Perhaps that was a sign for me so that today when I think of her and (this) life ending, I also see new beginnings as her soul takes the great journey and new adventures. Perhaps today is the day of new beginnings for us all. I am also deeply touched by the yoga community coming together all over the world in honor of Maty's life.
On this last trip I expressed my discomfort to Maty about yoga practice going from the traditional hour and a half, two hours practice to now the usual one hour. Her unexpected response to me was -
YOU CAN FIT A LOT AND
A VERY COMPLETE YOGA PRACTICE IN ONE HOUR.
The conversation went on to sequencing and creating a well rounded practice with whatever time you had. Her insights were brilliant. Not only it affected my on going classes, also my yoga teacher trainings, which I now teach How To Create An Effective One Hour Practice and the workshop I developed based on this conversation -
How To Create A Home Practice - I will be teaching this workshop at Love More Hot Yoga on Saturday, July 20th at 1PM.
On our plane ride back from Nicaragua she also said something that truly stuck with me about teacher trainings -
" IS NOT ABOUT THE 200 HOUR OR HOWEVER MANY HOURS! IS BETTER TO SPEND LESS HOURS WITH A SOLID GREAT TRAINING AND TEACHER THAN COUNTLESS HOURS WITH A NOT SO GOOD TRAINING OR TEACHER. DON'T GET SO CAUGHT UP WITH THE "HOURS" - FIND QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY."
- MATY EZRATY
I couldn't agree more! What a jewel of a person.
Maty's teachings and insights were beyond mastery and extremely influential in all I do. I am including here a print interview as we celebrate her life!
I hope you get inspired by Maty as much as I have!
Thank You Maty!
May we all carry her torch and continue to spread "good yoga" out there into the world!
Much much love,
Back to Basics: Interview with Maty Ezraty
by Jill Greene
You’re offering an all-day intensive this year on “Making Your Practice Whole.” What does it mean to make your practice whole?
In today’s world, yoga is practiced a little bit more for physical reasons. Making your practice whole is about exploring the bigger picture: your attitudes, the way the mind works, what your intentions are. It means looking at yoga from a holistic perspective, less from a strictly physical point of view.
For a number of years, you have been practicing vipassana meditation in addition to yoga. Is that compatible with this idea of making your practice whole?
Yes. I think meditation is mandatory, if you are a serious seeker of spirituality. Asana will only take you so far. It’s so important to study your mind in other venues. Meditation is as good as it gets.
You have been teaching yoga for 25 years. How have you seen the teaching of yoga evolve in America over that time?
Yoga today is a little mixed up with fitness. Not that there’s anything wrong with fitness, but it doesn’t allow you to go deeper in understanding your inner dynamics, your self, your mind-space. If you have the music on, and everything’s about feeling good, looking good … it’s artificial.
Unfortunately, in the last decade, we’ve seen business people take over yoga schools. And they really don’t understand yoga—half of them don’t even practice it. We have so many teacher trainings taught by people who haven’t been doing yoga long enough. So we’re creating a new generation that’s doing yoga poses, but in a fitness manner. It’s diluting yoga. It’s a lot easier to sell, because when you’re required to observe your mind and look at your stuff, it’s harder!
I think a lot of people are being promised that they can become yoga teachers, but it’s really difficult to make a living teaching yoga today. Of course it depends on the individual and what they know … but it should definitely not be something that you do lightly. I would never advise someone to give up a career to teach yoga, because most teachers today are struggling. Sometimes what you love to do is not necessarily what you should do for a living.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new teacher today, what would it be?
Stick to why you decided to do yoga in the first place, and teach from there. I did not seek yoga for a profession, when I started studying. I came for a deeper, soul searching. That’s the place to teach yoga from.
When you’re a new teacher, you’re told you need a 200-hour certificate to teach anywhere. What does that have to do with anything? You can do 200 hours of good training or 200 hours of no training. Some people can retain an enormous amount in 200 hours, and other people can’t. So we have this arbitrary number of hours. We’ve got a problem.
In the old days, you had to get permission to take the Yoga Works teacher training. Somebody watched you practice. The first day of teacher training, I could teach shoulder stand. Everybody knew the fundamentals. They knew that in trikonasana the leg turns out, and the knee faces the second toe. I have students now who have never heard that before.
But it’s not the students’ fault! I don’t even think it’s the teacher’s fault. It’s the owners and the companies that are pushing numbers, pushing fitness, pushing Twitter, pushing websites … and they’re overlooking good teachers.
It’s also the consumer. It’s really a society problem, and it’s going to take courageous people to do things in a different way.
What can we do to change things?
Practitioners need to be educated and to buy the right workshops, put their money in classes and in trainings that offer something else. Request them: “I want classes with less music, I want more restorative yoga, I want more pranayama.”
And as an owner, you really have to walk that line in a smart way. Because you have to bring people along. It takes experience. It’s totally doable, but everyone’s just going too fast.
This practice takes time. You need at least 7 years before you’re pretty good. You should have at least 10-15 years under your belt before you teach and train people. You’ve got to be really strong in your own understanding. Otherwise you just give in to the students, because it’s too hard.
My best students and my best teachers assisted me for years. And came to class, over and over again, for years. There’s nothing wrong with a 200-hour training, if you then have somewhere to go and apprentice, under someone who’s really got it. That’ll work.
Do you see any glimmers of hope?
The last time I taught at a yoga festival, I had a teachers’ class. It was a really large class, 120 students, and I did basics. I walked out of that class high as a kite. These teachers wanted to learn, they were hungry, and they were getting it. It was exciting. There was no music, and their eyes were wide open and they wanted the information.
So yes, I have hope. But it’s going to take a community effort.
And our own self study – is that a part of this?
Absolutely. That’s why I said that meditation is really critical. Because at some point, the asana is just not going to take you that far in. It can’t—it was never meant to. It’s only a pillar, a limb, a part of the process. It’s really just making you healthier so that you can do the deeper work.
I think many of us aspire to have an individual practice as long and fruitful as yours. What advice do you have for us as we look to the future?
What you do in your 20s, you’re not going to be able to do in your 50s. The more you understand that from the beginning, and the more you develop a really caring practice, the more you will appreciate the basics. So when those more fancy poses go away, you’ll have less suffering. You will see the benefits of the simplicity of it all.
The way that our lives are structured today, we put our old people in homes and we may not live next to our families, so we grow up without seeing that aging process up close. It’s not so real for us. We think that we’re always going to be like we are today, but things change. So it’s about the simple things: just lying down on the ground, feeling the earth and realizing how precious that is. How many people in the world never walk barefoot, never lie down on a flat floor and just close their eyes and breathe?
It’s going to come to that for each and every one of us, at some point. Standing on your head? Intense arm balances? Eventually it just doesn’t work anymore. But if those expectations are not there, and the simplicity is applied, and savored, then it’s a wonderful thing.
At the end of the day, you have to know this practice, personally, for yourself, without the teacher. It’s got to get to that.