Maty Ezraty, yoga teacher, co-founder of YogaWorks, and the creator of a rigorous teacher training programme that has trained tens of thousands of yoga teachers round the world, has died aged 55, while teaching in Tokyo, leaving many shocked and stunned at her loss.
Maty was an innovative teacher who combined the two main forms of yoga – Iyengar yoga and Ashtanga yoga – and merged them into a less dogmatic form that had a huge influence on the vinyasa flow-style yoga practiced throughout the world today.
Her Early Life
Maty was born in 1963 in Israel to Yossi and Miriam Ezraty. They emigrated to California in 1974, along with Maty’s sister, Haggit, where Maty attended Beverley Hills High School and discovered a love of ballet and dance. In her early 20s, she was introduced to yoga at the Center for Yoga in Los Angeles through a fellow dance student and found an immediate affinity with the practice.
Starting out working on the front desk in exchange for lessons, she became a teacher and then the director of the center. She and another yoga teacher, Alan Finger, co-founded YogaWorks in 1987. A couple of years later, she and her partner, Chuck Miller, bought him out.
Her Yoga Influences
Her early yoga teachers were mainly Iyengar yoga teachers, such as Dona Holleman and Gabriella Giubilaro, but in 1985, Ezraty met and indeed hosted Pattabhi Jois in her capacity as director of the Center for Yoga. This was the start of her personal journey with Ashtanga yoga and she undertook many trips to Mysore to study and practice there. She was, in fact, one of the very few women to have completed some of the advanced series of poses.
Recently Maty had returned to her Iyengar yoga roots and had frequently visited the Iyengar Institute in Pune, India where she attended B.K.S. Iyengar’s daughter Geeta Iyengar’s classes.
Together with her partner both in life and business, Chuck Miller, Ezraty has had a huge hand in shaping the way yoga is taught and practiced in the US today. Ezraty and Miller created a synthesis of both Iyengar yoga, famous for its focus on alignment and use of props, and Ashtanga yoga, known for its rigour and fluid choreographed poses linked through the breath. She brought the two systems together into a form of yoga that was both fluid and steeped in alignment and precision.
She encountered criticism and even lost friends over her approach to mixing yoga influences, for example, her use of props during her Ashtanga yoga practice. But she felt that to strain and force a pose during a yoga sequence was a less mindful approach than just taking the blocks.
As well as teaching her students, she also trained teachers all over the world in her explorative yoga methods and mentored many of the world’s leading yoga teachers.
Her Yoga Philosophy
Ezraty was a strong believer in being open, curious and non-dogmatic. In an interview with Stu Girling in 2015 Ezraty said,
“Yoga is so vast, that there is really no one way, and there’s no one way for one person in their whole lifetime.”
She felt that both Iyengar and Jois were brilliant teachers with so much to offer and it was short-sighted to choose one over the other. Responding to a question from Stirling about what method to choose, she replied that she chose “love”. In a world of fundamentalism, opposing camps and divisions, Maty Ezraty’s human and wise approach to yoga is a life-lesson for us all.
Read the full obituary of Maty Ezraty’s inspirational life here.