Maty Ezraty is one of the first women to study Ashtanga Yoga with K. Pattabhi Jois and has practiced with senior Iyengar teachers. She is a co-founder of the Santa Monica-based YogaWorks which now has several locations across the US and has trained many of today’s leading yoga teachers, including Seane Corn, Shiva Rea, Rod Stryker, Kathryn Budig and Alexandria Crow. Yoga editor Ella Isakov speaks with Maty about her perspective on yoga and meditation and how to use them to lead life with more presence.
Parvati Magazine: You have been practicing yoga for over 30 years. How has yoga shaped you and the world around you in that time?
Maty Ezraty: My yoga practice made me more compassionate. It makes me walk with more gratitude and appreciation for the gifts in my life. I am better able to connect with people, and feel more alive within myself. I have greater sensitivity for the needs of other people and can sense people more clearly, thanks to my years of practice.
PMAG: You have studied in the Ashtanga and the Iyengar lineages. How are they similar or different, and how do they cultivate presence in our actions, words and thoughts?
ME: Ashtanga and Iyengar have some definite differences, but they are very complementary. In Ashtanga, you become so aware of the breath and your body, that it naturally makes you more present. You feel every tingle of your body, you become very aware. In the Iyengar method, you are so focussed on the alignment that it does the same thing. It makes you extraordinarily present. In fact, all yoga makes you more present, in your body, in your thoughts, and in your actions.
PMAG: What advice do you have for people to develop awareness, focus and presence when the world seems to be in upheaval right now?
ME: My advice is that you do your asana practice and your meditation practice. You can really only change your immediate self and surroundings. Also, put your money on what’s important, only buy organic, only support companies that are conscious, and do what it takes to take care of the environment. Do the things that will bring on the change you want to see in the world, and hopefully you will influence others to do the same. We can look at political figures as the problem, but really the problem is the lack of education of all of the people that voted for them. It is about education, and the change that has to happen from the bottom up.
PMAG: What is your advice for yoga teachers to stay authentic and present?
ME: My advice for yoga teachers is to study what they normally do not study and practice. Teachers should study with senior teachers, and study things out of their comfort zone to broaden their education and perspective.
PMAG: Your passion for yoga and meditation has stayed very strong over years. What is your secret to staying curious?
ME: I get a lot of my inspiration now from studying Vipassana Insight meditation. Asana practice is a preparation for meditation. Something different happens when you study meditation. When you sit to meditate and observe your mind as it is, you start to see patterns in how you function. When you start to recognize these patterns, you start to [see] how you function when you are doing your daily chores, so it makes you more aware in how you do all things. It is profound.
PMAG: When someone is feeling challenged in their yoga practice, sometimes it is hard to maintain focus. What is your advice for staying present even when you want to give up?
ME: The problem is we have gone away from the basics. When we teach students the fundamentals of yoga practice, these poses are settling and comforting. They take you out of needing to accomplish, and you eventually return to them. It is where the heart of yoga is. If students start with fancy postures, tricks and music, then they haven’t learned and it is hard to find the way back to the basic simple essence of the practice that can nourish people at any age. It is in the hands of yoga teachers. If yoga teachers just keep dishing out what’s not really yoga, then it’s the same thing as our political world, it is never going to change.
Maty Ezraty is a uniquely inspiring teacher known for her dynamic style of teaching, a keen eye for observation and a depth of knowledge. Maty discovered yoga in her early 20s, when she met Pattabhi Jois in 1985 and began a long journey with Ashtanga yoga. In 1987 she opened YogaWorks. In recent years, Maty has studied in the Iyengar system. Maty’s viewpoint is unique and holistic, gleaned from years of study in the Ashtanga and Iyengar traditions. She is a student of Vipassana meditation, and is devoted to bringing the spirit of yoga and her love of meditation to all her students. For more information please go to www.matyezraty.com