Inspiring Maty Ezraty Reveals Her Latter’s Approach To Ashtanga

Practicing yoga is not always easy, as most of us who have tried it will know. During a session with my yoga teacher Karina Scherbina last week, I struggled to keep my balance in the mountain pose “Utthita Hasta Padangustasana”, so she sent me a link to a very interesting and inspiring YouTube interview to calm me down and give me some guidance ;)!

In it, anatomy master Stu Girling speaks to Maty Ezraty about her approach to Ashtanga. Maty is truly inspiring and first I would really like to share her share a bit about her background!

 Who is Maty Ezraty? And what does she stand for?

Maty is an iconic figure, instrumental to the development of yoga in the United States. She is described by the Yoga Journal as an “innovator”.

She was an experienced dancer when she stumbled across yoga in her early twenties. Like all of us, she was also searching for meaning in her life. She found what she was looking for in yoga: peace of mind, a great feeling of being centred and confidence.

Maty developed and reached her full potential as a yoga teacher with a dynamic style, a sharp eye for observation and vast knowledge born through years of experience.

Sunset Warrior Pose Yoga - Grace Guru

Being in Los Angeles gave her the chance to train with and learn from the top three best yoga educators at the time: Donna Holleman, Pattabhi Jois, and Gabriella Giubilaro.  In 1985, while teaching and serving as director for the Center for Yoga in Los Angeles, Maty met Pattabhi Jois with whom she would embark on a long journey of learning and practice. This included many trips to Mysore, India, where she became one of the few women able to complete some of the more advanced yoga sequences.

She continued studying in at the Iyengar Institute in Pune India and attended the classes of Greeta Iyengar. The Iyengar system is known to have deeply influenced Maty as shown in her teaching and practice.

The year 1987 was a milestone year for Maty as she opened her own Yoga Works, a unique school of yoga that nurtured diversity and dialogue in the community of yoga. It offered classes for different kinds of yoga such as Iyengar and Ashtanga plus workshops involving many of the best yoga authorities and iconic figures worldwide.

Her purpose was to  make the curriculum consistent, while at the same time mixing the various elements from different traditions.

Classes were broken down into levels and used the Vinyasa concept of Ashtanga, coupled with the precise directions of the Iyengar system.

Yoga Works is a success story that grew into a progressive yoga school with 120 classes each week with more than 700 daily students. Although it was sold in 2004, it remains to be the leader of the pack, perhaps due in part to its reputation of having produced some of the best yoga instructors in the United States.

Currently, Maty conducts workshops, teacher trainings, and retreats around the globe. She is also studying Vipassana meditation and has studied with Joseph Goldstein at California’s Spirit Rock and Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts. Her years of learning the Ashtanga and Iyengar traditions have resulted in a holistic and unique point of view. She is highly regarded as a teacher’s teacher, and is popular for having a style that is determined but yet joyful and engaging. She continues her purpose and draws inspiration from her years of experience, Maty has a whole-hearted devotion to impart the spirit of yoga and meditation to all of her students.

A Quick Description

Iyengar Yoga:

Named after B. K. S. Iyengar and developed, is a form of Hatha Yoga. It has a great attention to detail, precision and alignment in the performance of posture (asana) and breath control (pranayama). The development of strength, mobility and stability is gained through the asanas. Iyengar yoga has 200 classical yoga poses and 14 different types of Pranayama with the variations from the basic to advanced. It is very helpful for students to build up their strength step by step and develop their mind, body and spirit, from beginners to advanced.

Ashtanga Yoga:

A system of yoga recorded by the knowing Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta, an ancient manuscript “said to contain lists of many different groupings of asanas, as well as highly original teachings on vinyasa, drishti, bandhas, mudras, and philosophy” (Jois 2002 xv). It was summariesed and popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois and is often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. (Sanskrit for “eight-limbed”) Yoga.

Yoga -

 None Is Superior To The Other

Maty does not believe that Iyengar or Ashtanga is superior to the other because both are Yoga. Granted, each has an approach that is different from the other and their objectives are different. However, they are not in conflict and none is better than the other. Ezraty chooses which one applies to her at a specific time.

The Essence of Iyengar

According to Ezraty, Iyengar emphasizes precision, details and alignment when performing asana and controlling breathing since this is the best way to develop mobility, stability and strength. Iyengar also allows for props like pillows and benches to be used for support during the initial learning stages.

Avoiding Fundamentalism

Ezraty asserts that we must avoid fundamentalism – believing that our way is the best and the rest are wrong. Flow is a state of mind and revolves around concentration, which can be attained at any time while performing any task and focusing.


Ashtanga Depends On The State Of The Practitioner

On Ashtanga, Maty advocates for no particular approach and rather suggests that one should adopt the approach that best applies to them instead of forcing themselves to do what is not possible within their ages. Yoga requires flexibility and satisfaction, not rigidity. The state of the student determines which approach to use. Yoga is a therapeutic practice and depends on what the student is feeling or has experienced. Ashtanga tends to be a little bit masculine and women should not attempt to compete with men. Men should also learn to be a bit softer.

Not Coercion

Maty opines that Shri Pattabhi Jois also adapted Ashtanga for students. Although this approach to Yoga was meant for internal healing, he did not force anybody to engage in a sequence. Sequences would be developed to fit into current practices. On Vipasaana and meditation techniques, Maty urges people to let go of the technique and engage in open meditation. She says you should go with the moment unless you get lost and return to what you are taught to do.

Indian VS. Western Minds

Iyengar helps to know the right body techniques. He taught a lot of westerners to practice yoga. He observed that the Indian mind is different from the west. Indians are more confident of themselves. Westerners are critical of themselves. They hate themselves and feel unworthy. Iyengar wanted to help westerners find solutions to such problems through Yoga.

Yoga Inspiration Post - Grace Guru

A Yoga Diehard

Maty Ezraty comes across as an enlightened person on matters of Yoga and one who advocates for continuous learning. Apparently, Yoga is a flexible art. All you need to do is listen to your body with an open heart and mind. In the final analysis, Maty is deeply ingrained in Yoga to the point of being sensitive and wise about it.

If you want to see the interview in full, here it is! Enjoy!

With Love,

Your Grace Guru



International Yoga Day!

Wow! Today, June 21st 2015, was announced as the official International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly. Tens of thousands of people were motivated and guided by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi in a yoga session on Rajpath in New Delhi to celebrate the first International Yoga Day and cheer a ‘new era of peace’ to ritualise the ancient Indian practice.

International Yoga Day - Grace Guru

As you may know already, Yoga is a mental, physical and spiritual practice or you can call it discipline that originated in India 5000 years ago. Suggesting June 21, which is the summer’s longest day of the year within the Northern Hemisphere, it has special significance in many parts of the world.

From the viewpoint of yoga, the Summer Solstice (the sun rises over the longest day of the year) marks the transition to Dakshinayana (the six-month period between Summer solstice and Winter solstice). The first full moon after Summer Solstice is known as Guru Poornima. According to Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Lord Shiva, the first yoga practitioner is said to have begun imparting the knowledge of yoga to the rest of mankind on this day.

Crowds of people doing yoga - why? - Graceguru.netThe Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed to the UN General Assembly on September 27, the following:

 “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.”

—Narendra Modi, UN General Assembly

Since early morning all over the world, millions of yoga fans, have been bending and twisting their bodies into multiple postures and positions to mark International Yoga Day! Yay!

Grace Guru - IYD June 21st

I think this is a great idea; Yoga has become a big part of many people’s lives across the globe. We should all definitely come up with celebrating and developing this practice next year in London!


With Love,

Your Grace Guru 



Take Control And Say Bye To Stress Today!

One of the most common phenomena in human life is stress. No human being is immune to stress. Experts say that some level of stress in life is necessary. However, when stress builds up to unmanageable levels, it can result in sickness or senseless or even violent behaviour. It is therefore necessary that you become aware of the presence and role of stress in your life, as well as strategies that you can use to overcome it.

Let us look at some of the triggers of stress in your life. Imagine you have had a bad day at work, with your boss harassing you when you know very well you did not commit any mistake. On the way home, your car decides to break down right in the middle of the highway. It takes time before you get a breakdown service to tow your car to the garage. By the time you reach home, it is already late and your spouse will hear none of the reasons you are giving.

The night is long. Since you skipped food, your stomach begins to rumble in the middle of the night. You cannot sleep because your boss wants a solution to the problem you had during the day. The dogs in the neighbourhood decide the will hold a barking competition this very night. Just as sleep begins to invade your territory, that annoying neighbour begins to play loud music. As you reach out for headphones to save yourself from this new form of terrorism, your clock alarm rings to remind you it is time to wake up – or is it to just rise from the bed?

By the time you reach your workplace, you feel like the world is completely on top of your head. The first person you meet will be lucky if you greet them. They might even escape with a few scratches. The entire day will be punctuated by irritability, conflict and mistakes in your work. At the end of the day, if nothing is done, you will arrive home spoiling for a fight with everybody. That is what stress does to you.

Fortunately or unfortunately, you may not even be aware that you are stressed. Many of us think they are having a normal day. Isn’t conflict part of life? Are people not created differently and likely to clash? What we do not know is that something is eating us up inside. Sooner or later the small problems we ignored begin to grow and become a river of stress and internal conflict that we cannot stop. Stress management is the solution but stress awareness is the beginning point.

How Do You Know You Are Stressed?Look Out For The Following Stress Indicators!!

  • Your blood pressure increases uncharacteristically.
  • Blood sugar increases, and this is dangerous if you are suffering from diabetes.
  • Your heart begins to beat faster than normal.
  • Food takes longer to digest – you are likely to have constipation.
  • Your sex drive takes a nose dive.
  • You become irritable and likely to get into clashes with people around you.
  • You lose concentration and begin to multi-task without accomplishing anything in particular.
  • Your immunity decreases and you begin to suffer from colds and other illnesses.

These 15 Practices Will Help To Relieve & Manage Stress Or Anxiety!!

  1. Meditation: This practice brings relief, peace and contentment to the body, mind and soul.
  2. Take a walk: Take time to walk through the woods, along riverbanks and lake shores.
  3. Sleep: Practice sleeping in a dark room for about eight hours daily.
  4. Massage: Have somebody perform body massage on you to relax your muscles.
  5. Music: Listen to your favorite, soothing music.
  6. Sports: Engage in a favorite sport with friends.
  7. Humour: Watch a television program or attend live comedy performances.
  8. Visualisation: Practice visualizing positive images that you would want to see in your life.
  9. Diet: Eat more fruits and vegetables and drink a lot of water while minimising on starches.
  10. Beverages: Avoid caffeinated drinks, carbonated beverages and illegal substances.
  11. Rest: Take time off your busy schedule to visit a quiet place where you can relax.
  12. Family time: Don’t take office work home; instead give time to your family.
  13. Yoga: This is an established exercise regime for rejuvenating the body and mind.
  14. Charity: Find a way to bring relief into the lives of less-privileged people.
  15. Aromatherapy: Internal and external use of aromatic herbs will bring relief.


With Love,

Your Grace Guru