Keep in mind that, when you practice yoga, you’re not practicing to improve yourself. You are perfect. The practice is there to help you know that.
– Maty Ezraty
she would say, repeatedly. Ideally … both ? But if a teacher was as detailed, in today’s social media crazy world, reality is that students walk out or rant nonsense on Yelp, no matter how much of an expert a teacher may be. It’s true – as for so called “popularity”, in many cases, it’s sometimes just about the high-usage time-slots and the attitude of “just give them what they want” mindset sometimes in the gyms and studios that wins over. It is a practice.
I hadn’t been to a yoga class lately so I walk into local gym with minimally trained yoga or less seasoned instructor (everyone has to start out somewhere and I may have been guilty as well) who has 30+ packed bodies in the studio room, shouting out cues that may or may not make sense, nor truly … serve each student’s needs to optimize their health. More the half the class seemed to be barely keeping up … Maybe with the endorphins rush, the students may feel like they got what they needed – a temporary fix and a high but … was that really yoga? Just like for your child, you want better teacher/student ratio in that classroom, right? ; it’s really no different with a yoga class – unless of course it’s a practice not training and you know what you are doing for the most part; and there more for the “vibe” of a group class.
So it’s about the intention of every class. Yes, that is good for your health – to be in a community to practice your yoga – to breath the same air; to feel each other’s aura, the energy – it’s about the ripples of human connection – energy. Maybe it’s enough for me as a teacher to just hold space of comradery and safety – after all, it’s about sustaining and supporting repeated practice in continuum that’s essential.
Did someone mention she was a bit … intense?
Here I am in Anjaneyasana (AHN-jah-nay-AHS-uh-nuh) – Cresent Lunge – prep – I love her guidance in the use of props – Iyengar influence throughout – but it’s vinyasa flow too just to heat up our body furnace:) So get your legs/hips to that place of strength and balance before you raise your arms, okay? Yes learning about my own body’s idiosyncrasies, learned that my arms are a little short relatively for the floor reach with natural ease – I am not going to collapse my stance, I am getting the earth to meet me; not the other way around of straining to reach, thus, ruining my hips and back and chest – basically, the entire upper body alignment.
None of us are looking at the mirrors that surrounds us. Rather, we are directed to see our reflections with our own proprioception. It’s a training to avert our eyes away from the mirror to look inside – as we grew up checking ourselves in the mirror with the rhetorical – “do I look alright?” “is anything wrong with me?” “am I presentable?” hahaha – it’s all about the exterior image. (And as Judith Lasater used to say, the teacher holds the mirror where we see ourselves reflected. Comfortable or not, she shares the truth.)
It’s also all about safety and … patience. Patience with ourselves we find so many faults with – those self-defeating questions and self-doubts:
- I used to be able to do this, why not now?
- why can’t I do this?
- if only I were more flexible …
- why can’t I look like that yogi on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine, lol?
Then comes process of “acceptance” and then … “gratitude”. Gratitude for this life; for this beautiful and perfect body of imperfections. It’s not a defeat. It’s an awakening. Of the Mind. It’s beautiful how a repeated practice can transform us.
Lots of learning and to respect privacy, I cannot post all the intricate teachings that took place … and while we were serious students, there often were moments of laughter. Just wanted to show how hands-on and super detailed she was in all her cues and explanations. That’s why she’s a true teacher we, yoga teachers who had the privilege to learn from her, so respect.
Want to learn posthumously? I don’t think she released any of her teachings online – she was direct, in your face, in the same space, highly charged energy – a real teacher. But if you want to get a glimpse – a sense, there are some very good interviews and some video footage of her teaching.
When talking about tailoring or customizing a sequence or modifying an asana, she had quoted something like:
” as long as its for the benefit of that student; not benefit of teacher’s ego; benefiting your ability to be nicer to your knees, your hips, or this or that (just insert any problematic body parts) – it is a privilege to teach yoga to this student at that moment.”
I was saddened last night to learn that one of the greatest yoga teachers in the West, Maty Ezraty, died – of all places – in Tokyo, the safest mega-city in the world. How could that be? The press? release from the yoga studio Yoga Tree, Tokyo (no relation to Yoga Tree SF, I don’t think) states that she died in her sleep of natural causes. At Age 55? How is that?
I took her week-long intensive “Blue Print Asanas” maybe 5 years ago and never felt the presence of an incredibly authentic passionate and inspiring teacher more. I remember how I decided back then that should there ever be an opportunity again, I’d like to sign up for her more extensive TT someday for “motto” “motto” intense hours. So cute – she’d say “motto” “motto” which is Japanese for “more” “more” when the pose is held for a loooooooong duration and we are about to falter. A demanding and rigorous teacher she was. Yet, we knew she was full of love … she was … kind.
Within her small petite frame, she packed in so much of genuine real yoga – the knowledge, the wisdom and … decades of experience. Her yoga was yoga – not a brand name. I really liked how she brought the refined Iyengar teachings into the more brute (yeah, sorry – I think it’s a self-punishing, almost masochistic kind of practice – it’s only an opinion – for each her own – many want that to feel alive) Jois teachings – So it’s a flow but it’s alignment based and heavy use of props … there’s always the restorative (thank you !)at the end, the eye for therapeutics in-bedded even in the challenging pose because of her keen attention to body language – observations. I remember vividly how her words and teachings really got to me as she ended the workshop with a deep bow of reverence for the practice she had dedicated her life to. I recall I talked to her about her impending trip to teach in Japan (after teaching in Israel next) and how she responded she loved to visit Japan and how she loved all the great foods … I guess she had been teaching there for many years, with her former-partner Chuck Miller… another master teacher. I might have even emailed her with some recommendations for some vegetarian nourishment around Hiroo area to which she responded to with graciousness.
She can be quite the tough teacher, but at the same time, so humble. She can be so deep and profound, yet she can also be light-hearted with twinkle in her deep eyes, sharing the unexpected great sense of humor – even then, I really felt the aura of someone not quite of this world … in my Japanese blog I referred to as a natural spirit or a fairy-like ethereal creature visiting the secular world, even though her small frame glowing with well defined muscles is all about super-human physical inspirations. So I feel that she merely returned back to where she came from feeling that her mission accomplished, now contemplating how to reincarnate into another even more evolved being. Reminded of a Japanese fairy tale of a beautiful princess who returns to where she came from – the great light – the full moon. The princess has many earthly attachments so she does not want to go but … she must go. The heavenly royal family has send the emissary down to fetch her to escort her return home. For those left behind, such a loss. Because … that … ironically the most “down-to-earth”, unpretentious, luminous light … is … gone. A great loss for us earthlings; great gain for the after-life destination.
Looking for some photos from that week when when I find them, I hope to post some … she was an amazing teacher.
My mother has outlived my father for over 30 years now and she used to say self-deprecatingly when I used to worry over her declining health – Oh, don’t worry, the good, the great die young but a useless one like me will live on so I will probably live a long life, so don’t worry about me… when I shared what she said with a friend, she was alarmed that my mother suffers from depression … well, it’s actually very old Japanese talk. To be self-deprecating and modest considered a sign of good breeding, virtuous and high class in her times. Just the other day, my mother said over the international phone call – “I’ve been feeling so SOOO bad ” she says weakly, “I thought I might as well drop dead” … she continues, “but I didn’t !” ? She’s adorable.
Maty probably lived a life more dense, extremely rich and ultra concentrated that perhaps her 55 years lifespan equal 100 + years of a regular human. It was intensely lived where she accomplished so much in her 20’s and 30’s. I imagine that her life was lived with full of “motto” “motto” moments – “motto” “motto” just like her cues. She packed life full of rich experiences in there …It’s like a dog’s life where each human year is perhaps 7 dog years; it’s like that with her. Maybe someone lives hard, wastes no time and who lives her life to the fullest everyday would take off to another world a little faster and earlier than us regular mortals who takes a bit longer, slower to learn our lessons of enlightenment. She learned all the life lessons and mastered them at an accelerated rate … perhaps. Maybe being a continual high-achieving off the charts student, she had to seek out a greater teaching by leaving this world… I am saddened.
Let me go down the memory lane photos and find those capturing her teachings. I am sure she touched so so many – many the current rock star status yoga teachers – that they, having had the more extensive relationship and thus,huge memories – huge hole in their hearts – mine was that brief blip with her training, of course called the “intensive” “immersion”. That training’s powerful imprint will be somehow retained within me. Who can do that right? Just a week of learning and already, you feel that intense sense of a great loss rising up within. I can only imagine how it must be for those who spent many months and years under her tutelage.
In the meantime, I am remunerating on my mother’s teaching – so – if the good die young, should I be … bad? No no no.
Found some from that week:
Maty was definitely very HANDS-ON !
No, that’s not me in child’s pose with block under her forehead and her arms extended.
She’s showing the subtleties of arm rotations vis a vis the shoulder girdles. The entire sessions seemed to teach about how nuanced every parts of the body are; how each part in the body matrix network is connected – and how we can refine our senses to FEEL that when we practice with intention for integration, wholeness.
Thank you, Maty.