Maty Ezraty 1964 - 2019
The day Yoga Journal came in the mail with Maty Ezraty on the cover, I was so excited I plopped down right on the spot and opened to her article. Then I held her image close to my chest and inhaled, as if I could take in her energy on the spot.
If you don’t know which Yoga Journal I’m talking about, it’s the one that broke the internet in 2018. On the inside cover of my issue, there was the beautiful Jessamyn Stanley, a black yoga teacher and activist. And I thought, “How sweet. They have the teacher of teachers, and the newest generation, back to back, and in the same issue.”
Hindsight is hilarious, if you have a sense of humor.
You see, Maty was on my cover, but Jessamyn was on most others, and many people took her sharing the cover as an attack on race. I was just about to post something about how lovely it was to see them together, when the uproar began. The posts condemning the covers came in by the thousands.
I’m not saying the cover should have belonged to Maty or to Jessamyn. I’m not saying that at all. I immediately thought the intention was to honor the old and the new, the lioness and the cub, the teacher of teachers, and the teacher of Instagram.
This is what I am saying: When I read, over and over again, “Who is this skinny white old bitch who took the cover from Jessamyn,” it broke my heart. Not because the cover didn’t belong to Jessamyn. Perhaps it did. But it broke my heart:
BECAUSE THE WORLD NO LONGER CARED ABOUT THE SKINNY WHITE OLD BITCH.
Maty lit the way. Without her guidance, her commitment, her loyalty and passion there would not have been a Yogaworks or a giant yoga industry today. Her teaching inspired hundreds if not thousands of yogis and teachers today, including me.
I started my practice in Santa Monica, blocks from her studio. She was not yet my teacher (I was fiddling around in Brian Kest’s room down the street). My first “teacher” was probably Vanda Scaravelli (another skinny, white, old -- and now dead -- yogi). I googled “old people doing yoga” to see if there was any hope for me, and there she was standing on her head.
From Vanda, I found Kathryn Budig, who was everywhere back in those days. I have nothing in common with Kathryn except that I also love cookies. If you think that an older, menopausal woman looks at a naked twenty-something and thinks, “Wow, I could do that,” well, you would be wrong.
But here’s the thing: Kathryn, being a beautiful yogi inside and out, gave credit to her teacher. And that is how I found Maty Ezraty.
I googled her, I stalked her, I took her online offerings. I wanted to teach like her. I could push my students when they needed it, and be tender with them when the world was rough.
Maty Ezraty was a teacher of teachers and not just a founder of Yogaworks, but a founder of the western practice. She never left yoga, but in many ways, the yoga world left her. When I saw her on the cover of Yoga Journal I thought her time had come.
I’m turning off the comments on this article and I’ll tell you why: Unless you’re in the arena with the older yogis, the ones who show up with new knees and new hips, the ones who don’t really understand social media and what it has to do with practicing yoga, unless you are there with us, I don’t give two fucks for what you have to say about who should have been on the cover. That’s not even the point.
This is not a time to make this about race or equality. This is a time to remember Maty Ezraty, who taught quietly for 40 years and was almost celebrated on the cover of Yoga Journal for her accomplishments.
Michelle Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s written a lot of yoga books. She teaches a lot of other teachers. She hopes when her times comes, someone will remember her too.