Maty Ezraty, Guardian Angel of Yoga
Maty Ezraty was a treasure and an angel too soon departed. For those of us fortunate enough to have walked the path of yoga alongside her. we perhaps we can say that she communed with us and perceived the deepest aspiration in each of us and connected with that. What is the difference between communion and connection? When we take the religious connotation out of communion, it means union with something. Maty insisted on integrity in practice, honesty and joy in friendship, and truth before power. If Yoga is Union, then Maty was a guardian angel.
In the early years of YogaWorks, Maty would invite all teachers and core students to her home for pot luck dinners. We shared our macro-vegi recipes, broke bread together, and revealed our dreams. At the time, the YogaWorks schedule featured many diverse styles of yoga, each buoyed up by talented and charismatic teachers. After a few years, Maty’s vision of a studio built around core values and with a common focus invited her to make some changes. Serendipitously, Sacred Movement (later Exhale/Center for Sacred Movement) opened and a few teachers shifted their focus to the Venice studio.
By the late nineties, YogaWorks featured a cohesive community of teachers who studied and grew together. Maty invited world-class instructors for workshops, teacher trainings, and intensives. Gary Krafstow, Patricia Walden, Dona Holleman, Aadil Paklivala, Richard Freeman, Tim Miller, and Ramanand Patel, among others, graced the studio to stimulate a rich dialogue for students and teachers alike.
Maty loved to cook. Visiting teachers loved being hosted by her and her potlucks were notorious. Just as food nourishes the body, honest, supportive and heartfelt feedback nourishes the soul. Maty knew how to nurture and nourish, connect and commune with her students.
Maty Ezraty and Teacher Training
Maty and I first taught what is now considered the YogaWorks teacher training in 1996. It was with the deepest respect and curiosity for one another’s practice and inner quest that we agreed to work together. One of Maty’s favorite parts of the training was when we would introduce the “points.” We did not hand out a book with a list of technical details. We would observe different bodies in space. Maty would ask students what they saw, where was there a distortion in energy, where was the pose dead or hard, slack or shaky. She cultivated the ability to see rather than memorize.
Years later, after Maty had left YogaWorks and agreed to guest teach a training, she looked at the updated student manual. We, the content coordinators, had created textbooks with many technical details, variations, use of props, and more. Maty insisted on using the original blank outlines of poses so that she could train her students to observe what was before them rather than impose a set of ideals. She insisted we connect with what was in front of us, and see the student.
Leadership: A Yogi in the House
In the later part of her life, she frequently spoke about the commercialization of yoga. For her, yoga was a path of self-realization. Maty was featured and on the cover of a 2018 leadership issue of Yoga Journal wherein she said, “Every yoga school or studio needs to have a yogi in the house—someone with the courage to keep to a yoga vision. I think this takes someone who lives their yoga and will say, “Yes, this could make money, but no, it isn’t yoga.” I fear that’s not happening now.”
Maty’s Passion Lives On
I could not speak with anyone except my husband for three days after Maty died. Even now, weeks later, I find that my throat swells and my heart quickens. I had not seen Maty in over a year, yet I knew that her wingspan and her eagle eye were somewhere preserving the integrity of yoga.
Maty Ezraty loved and lived by her own crazy wisdom, Maty laughed with us, Maty served each and every student, Maty was honest and out spoken. Maty was signature Maty. Her passion now lives within each of us as integrity, selfless service and love.
Lisa Walford holds an Intermediate Senior II Iyengar teaching certificate and has been teaching in LA since 1982. She serves on the board of the nonprofit Iyengar Yoga Therapeutics. Along with Maty Ezraty, Lisa helped develop the Teacher Training Program at YogaWorks: walford.com