Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Maty Ezraty

This year, I am deeply grateful for my teachers. Those I have studied with for many years, the few I have met this year, the one who started me on my path, and those that I have learned so much from but have yet to meet.  My new and old students. My partner. Each teacher has woken up a different part of me. Each in his or her own particular way, has shed light on parts that were previously obscured from my knowing, internal eye. Some have shown by way of example, others by merely seeing. Some have called attention to their own darkness so that I may also be brave enough to examine my own. Some have planted a seed in years past that has just began to come to surface, to flourish.

This past weekend, I met another teacher, Maty Ezraty. She was in the category of those who I had already learned so much from but had yet to meet. Her teachings had reached me through her students, and the general consciousness around this practice. She has had a large hand in shaping my approach to teaching and practicing yoga. I believe it was in the first ten minutes of meeting her, when she had us gathered around as she adjusted a student in a posture, that I felt my eyes welling up. The joy with which she was teaching, her sense of purpose, her dedication to that particular student in that particular moment were incredibly moving. Perhaps I was so moved because I knew the particular brand of joy that she was feeling, that sense of purpose when teaching is something that I often feel. Being in the presence of a teacher who in so many ways embodies what I hold dear is a powerful, affirming, and life-altering experience. For the next three days, I set aside my notepad and pen, my recording devices that I often use in workshops lest I forget a single word uttered, and I allowed myself to revel in the experience of being a student. Not a student who is mining everything for future use, but a student totally absorbed in the experience of learning.

And how sweet it is to be a student. To be in awe of a teacher, to be inspired. What a privilege it is being a student, a practitioner, inviting the transformative powers of practice into one's life. As a teacher, it's also necessary to go to the well of the teachings, to drink from its waters, and be full, so that others may be nourished by you.

This past weekend filled me up to the brim.

Maty is not what you would call ethereal. She is real, fierce, and deeply grounded as a teacher. All she wants is for you to wake up. She wants you to grow, to do the best you can, and to take care of yourself. And she wants to teach you how to do it on your own. There is no talk of melting of the heart, but she does ask you to get quite, be poised, and go inside. Her adjustments are not soothing, reassuring massages, but rather, messages to your muscles to wake up, beckoning to raise your awareness in every sense of the word. 

And then, there's that smile. The smile that is as wide as she is tall. As you are pulling on all your reserves to do as she says, and just wake the fuck up, she unleashes that smile, and then it's all alright because you know that she has, also, been there. She has done the work, she has practiced, and she has played around with the tools of the practice, with its subtleties and nuances. And that she is gifting you with such deep, intelligent tools that you may not even realize their power for years to come.  And how generous of her to share her work with us. 

The day after the workshop, I stepped onto my mat. I decided that I would use the tools that she gave us in the few postures that we explored--plank, down dog, warrior one, triangle, and tree--to teach myself the intermediate series. I placed a mirror on one side, and I recorded my practice from another angle. I went slowly--two and half hours for the whole series--and I used the mirror and the recorded images to give myself a private lesson through the lens of Maty's teachings. It was possibly the deepest  practice of my life to date. What she had taught me in a handful of simple postures were principles that could be applied to the most advanced postures in the intermediate series. For the first time in five years, I worked my way into some of the postures in a way that were pain-free, comfortable, and even pleasant; if it were not for the fact that I had recorded evidence, I may have not believed it. She hadn't taught us party tricks, no 'fancy' stuff, no 'drama'. Instead, she had empowered us to be responsible for ourselves, for developing a deep intelligence in the body, for waking up over and over and over again in each posture, in each breath.

That is the kind of teacher I have always strived to be. Not to create a dependence on my teaching, but to give the proper tools to my students so that they may take it anywhere with them.

After the practice, I felt large. I felt as if I had eyes in the back of my body, and that the sphere of my awareness reached way beyond the boundaries of my physical self. Something inside had changed; a shift had been catalyzed. And what is a teacher if not a catalyst for perceptible change?