When I decided to take the YogaWorks teacher training in 2008, I had no idea the lineage I was entering. My trainers spoke of their teacher Maty Ezraty with such reverence, I knew that I had stumbled into something special.
I started studying Ashtanga yoga every single day, every single week at 4pm in the west room of YogaWorks Montana. The same slot that Maty taught for 17 years before selling the company just four years prior to my arrival. As the youngest child in my family, I always felt like I missed out on the glory days. Like I was a few years too late. And I sometimes felt that way with YogaWorks.
But Maty’s energy was so pervasive, it was still palpable in the room. Students and teachers alike would share their Maty stories with me. Although it would be a little over a year before I finally met her, I felt like she was already a part of me.
It is of no coincidence that the first time I had the privilege to learn from Maty was the same year my Mum died. And it was then I started calling her my teacher. I was incredibly nervous to study with her. My Ashtanga teacher began to prepare me for her arrival. It seemed like everyone in the room stood a little taller and worked a little harder, knowing she was coming.
I was shaking the first day I arrived in Maty’s room.
Standing in samasthiti (tadasana) dutifully awaiting this larger-than-life figure. I had not seen many pictures other than the backbend image outside of the Montana studio as she was not one for showiness. In bounced this tiny woman with long brown braids and saucer blue eyes. Her pants were so long she had to tuck them over heels like stirrups. We locked eyes and she smiled. There was no big introduction. She put her juice down and went right over to a student already midway into their practice, yelling “More, more!” And I was startled by this booming voice that was bigger than the frame.
I worked harder in that room than I had in my entire life. Not because she pushed me into the deepest expression of poses, but rather because she pulled me way back and asked me to find the work in the preparation. She gave me permission to not have to do the fancy shapes, which it felt like the yoga culture was moving towards. Instead, she taught me the hard work in simply showing up with all of my heart.
I had the privilege to study with Maty for 10 years. Although Maty may no longer be with us physically, but she will always be with us in our practices and our teaching. There are so many people, colleagues, yoga teachers who honor Maty Ezraty here and in so many other ways.
Students, Colleagues, Friends, and Fellow Teachers Honor Maty Ezraty
I guess I thought she’d always be here. To chat about a yoga pose, to complain with about the state of yoga these days, to enjoy one of her amazing meals, to prepare a coffee for her hoping it was good enough for her discerning coffee standards! To talk about love and relationships. To go shopping —gosh could she shop! And even just to know she was out there holding the ground of “Good Yoga.”
How many of us were touched by her passions? Ignited by her intelligence and fierceness? Inspired by her discipline and rigor? Scared, even, by her insistence??
What I will hold in my heart forever, placed there by Missy Maty: It’s ALL about the practice. It’s NOT about the poses. Hold the practice in your heart of hearts. Don’t take it too seriously. Eat well! Work hard, but make time for Savasana. Observe everything: with a discerning, critical eye —and with love. Honor your teachers. Breathe. And so much more…
Today, I am so sad and wish I had one more visit with my dear friend. Let this be a wake up call for me and all of us—stay close! Make time for those you love. With a broken heart, I send you love. And a promise that I will work to help create a gathering in LA soonish so we can come together and honor this AMAZING woman.
––Annie Carpenter, dear friend.
Last night I dreamt that I got to see Maty again. She had returned from some kind of retirement or other similar post-teaching life. She had dyed her hair blonde, which looked surprisingly good. I think this signified that she has shifted forms, something I’d not been able to accept until this dream.
I told her I needed to say something before she went away again. She gave me her full attention, looking deeply into my eyes, just as she had done so many times while she was alive. I said to her, “I love you. I’m so sorry that I didn’t tell you how important the things you taught me have been to me.” Then I cried and she held my hands in hers, listening deeply and looking into my heart, as only she ever could.
I woke up from the dream feeling like I had just been with Maty. I don’t think her spirit visited me. But I also don’t think it’s ever left, nor that it ever will. I think that the part of her that is part of me was animated by my mind in sleep. The dream let me open my heart and pour out the words that I wish I’d said to Maty while she was alive.
Maty taught me, and so many other people, how to be fully alive. That’s a big part of why so many of us are not able to fathom this new reality. I finally got to say goodbye to her last night and I feel like I’m able to pick myself up now. To get back to teaching what she taught me, which is what she and I have always wanted.
Thank you, Maty— James Brown, longtime teaching assistant
Maty was my first yoga boss. She was my first yoga teacher. She was my first yoga friend. And then I was lucky enough to move on and keep her in my life as a tight connection. Maty’s dream was to spread yoga all over the planet, and she made that her lifelong goal – and she succeeded beyond! Now that she left us, she has left a piece of her heart all over the globe and her foot prints will guide the world of yoga forevermore.
—Maryam Askari, dear friend
Maty changed my life. She was a force. The moment I walked into her classroom 20 years ago, I knew deep inside I found a teacher. The first time I studied with her, her voice penetrated my being. Over the years, I continued to study and learn from her around the globe from India, Australia, New Zealand, and of course, Los Angeles.
Now I can hear her voice in my head as I move from pose to pose; she was a force that brought everything to the surface. When I teach, I feel her moving through me. Maty taught me how I could use my practice to keep my life on track and taught me how to teach yoga. She was an example of the dedication and devotion to the practice and the inner work. She made you walk the walk because she was the real deal. Much gratitude to this powerful woman who lived her most authentic life and influenced so many yogis worldwide. I love you Maty and may your spirit be FREE!
—Joan Hyman, longtime student
I had the great good fortune to assist Maty for the past four years. I owe her the hugest debt of gratitude; all my yoga accomplishments are due to her. I got to know her on a personal side too. Maty was extremely concerned with the future of yoga. Especially the ill-prepared teachers, and Instagram stars, reminding me that yoga has become the #1 most injurious practice there is.
She would remind us yoga is humble, it’s about going in. She lived in Hawaii, she said she could have taken plenty of pictures doing yoga on the beach, but that’s not a true representation of life. If you post, do something inspiring, like a good book you read. You don’t necessarily have to learn yoga from the flashy popular teachers, sometimes the person who practices so sincerely is the one to learn from, you’ll know, you can feel they care.
I miss her with my whole being, I was very much looking forward to assisting her again in Santa Monica this December.
—Dawn Stillo, teaching assistant
Sarah Ezrin is a motivator, writer, yoga teacher, and teacher trainer. Her joie de vivre is infectious. For Sarah, yoga is beyond the postures it is a guide for living. Bringing a background of psychology and life coaching, she uses yoga to connect people to their brightest and most authentic Self. Based out of San Francisco where she lives with her husband and their dog, Sarah leads trainings, workshops, and retreats at home and across the globe. Her fun and popular classes are infused with humor and positivity. Sarah is changing the world, teaching self-love one person at a time. For more information on Sarah please visit her website or connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.