Shock waves are reverberating throughout the global yoga community as Maty Ezraty, a Master Yoga Teacher passed away in her sleep while teaching abroad in Japan on Tuesday, July 9th, 2019. At 55 years young, Maty was a giant in the yoga world. Maty’s love for yoga was contagious; unwittingly she might convert most anyone in to a yogini by sharing her joy filled passion. Teaching since the young age of 22, at only 24 she established Yoga Works on the west coast of California, which has grown to be one of the most renowned yoga studios in the world, with its name reaching well beyond the shores of North America. She was one of the strongest influences of yoga in America having studied in India for years directly under Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois.
While Maty had many devout students (many of them famous in their own right), I am blessed she was also my mentor and friend. I am humbled by her humility, her greatness and her authenticity. Making a huge impression in the time she graced the Earth, Maty inspired me to eat better, to live more fully, to teach yoga, to simplify and to live with compassionate reverence. With the means to live in opulence, she chose to live very modestly in harmony with the Earth. What most people might consider luxury camping at best, she considered home. By her grand example, I made tremendous lifestyle shifts to curtail consumerism and to live with consciousness. Even sporting tattered clothes, Maty reigned as a queen and a master of diplomacy. Casual as she was, Maty was the epitome of a larger than life personality, a force of nature. Brilliant in mind and bright in her spirit, she possessed great integrity and was not shy to express her valued opinion when it mattered most. Full of spunk and with a voice for truth, Maty was one of the most influential yoga figures in the world bringing Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga to mainstream America. As Founder of Yoga Works in Santa Monica, California in 1987, along with her partner, Chuck Miller, Maty taught well over three million students. She was renowned for her precise teaching style emphasizing posture and alignment to maximize strength and flexibility while minimizing risk and injury. While her practice was always demanding, it was guaranteed fun. Her innate sense of humor often left students grimacing in stitches. She pioneered teacher training programs and left a legion of world class teachers. Maty was coined ‘ A Teacher’s Teacher’. Her style might be described as militant and demanding yet she was hands-down the most inspirational teacher I have ever worked with. Not only would my body be sore following a practice with Maty, but my cheeks would ache from smiling, my belly would hurt from laughing and my Spirit would always shine brighter than before. She had a natural ability to see and feel in to a person’s body, helping them to align themselves through yoga asana fostering recovery from injuries, healing within, building balance, strength and power while cultivating internal expansion, flexibility, heartfelt expression and empowerment.
The way I teach, practice and live has been forever changed by Maty’s influence. Visiting with her just prior to her departure for Japan, I am deeply saddened by this sudden and devastating loss. My love goes out to her friends and family, the yoga community and to the world at large. Maty was compassionate, down to earth, beautiful inside and out and embraced the spirit of yoga. Mastering the art of living, Maty was walking inspiration. She lives on in the hearts of her loved ones, her many students and proteges, her friends and family, and by the multitudes of people who never met her but who followed her yoga teachings. Besides founding YogaWorks, Maty wrote for Yoga Journal and dedicated her life to teaching around the world. She was passionate about her art and was one of the most humble people I have ever met in spite of her international fame.
When I first met Maty back in 2010, it was at a two-day workshop that she and her partner, Chuck Miller, put on to benefit an organic grass roots school program in Honoka’a on the Big Island of Hawaii. I registered with trepidation as I was recovering from a hamstring injury a few months before which impaired my flexibility and strength. By the end of the grueling intensive which revealed ‘the work’ in the most simple of poses, while the rest of my body was positively sore, my hamstring was fully healed. It was then that I contacted her for private lessons that opened up another chapter of life. My Yoga Fundamentals class best reflects the essence of the essential empirical teachings Maty and I shared that open the gateway for students to progress in their practice. Over the last nine years I have seen her present many more classes for charity, to benefit someone else’s cause other than her own. This is the heart she had, to lift others up to be the best they could possibly be. She had a way of making you feel you were her only student while she literally had innumerable students whom revered her teachings. Maty empowered people to excel above their own imaginings.
She took her love of yoga to a higher level and lived yoga in her life applying the principles to many of her activities. Most recently she had taken to working out. In her own words, she had become ‘obsessed’ with it and was excited to be building more strength in an expedient manner enriching her lifelong intensive yoga routine. She always brought a smile to my face with the smile on hers. She was truly a light being and the world is a richer place because of her presence in it. While most renowned for her contributions to yoga, she was a spiritual giant in a tiny package (5’4″ barely over 100 pounds). She will forever be etched in to history with her distinct, authentic and effective style. The best part is her lessons have not stopped. When I begin to feel sadness knowing I will no longer see her, practice with her or talk with her, I hear her voice resounding in my ear, “Don’t be ridiculous! I lived a great life. Go live large.” She reminds me to live in the moment, to stay present and to sit in the presence and the beauty of self. Another yogi and follower of hers wrote to me and said, “it is a reminder of how temporal things are, that the most valuable thing we have is time; time to love, time to live. I vow not to waste any more moments in needless emotions, but to live fully without regret.”
Thank you for these reminders Maty. Good bye – until we reunite again. You are a star, you continue to shine down from the Cosmos above. You will always be in our hearts and in our practice of yoga and of right spiritual living. Thank you for the gifts you shared with the world, namely for the gift of YOU. Continue to radiate your beauty from the Heavens above. The world needs your light more than ever for we have truly lost a giant.
Above: Maty and LaRen Below: My two champions, my husband Jim and Maty