Two days ago, news of the unexpected and untimely death of Maty Ezraty rocked the yoga world. She was a pioneer, an astute entrepreneur, but also an incredibly fierce and profound teacher. I remember one of the few classes I took with her in New York City, I left thinking “this woman is no joke.” I reached out to a few friends I knew who had been close to her, had been her dear students, had known her for years. They were devastated, shocked. One woman wrote to me, “It’s the strangest thing… I literally cannot feel anything right now.”
About a year ago, the yoga and meditation worlds were being rocked by other news, news that has by now become a part of our everyday dialogue, at least among colleagues I share words with. Abuse, namely sexual in nature, at the hands of leaders of yoga and meditation lineages from India to Nova Scotia, was loudly being unpacked in the wake of #metoo. It was uncomfortable and debilitating for many of us. I questioned my role as a yoga teacher. I questioned my spirituality. I questioned everything.
Today I saw a post on Facebook from an outspoken woman long known for her questioning of the systems and doctrines around yoga. She was publicly attempting to call into question the cause of Maty’s death, attempting to politicize it by pointing to its proximity to another piece of news that came out of the Ashtanga lineage around the same time: Sharath Jois, the grandson of Pattabhi Jois (serial sexual abuser and yoga teacher), had finally come out to publicly apologize for the actions of his father. Her reasoning was that somehow Maty knew about this announcement, the implications it had for her personally, and had a heart attack. Attached to that very thread was yet another post claiming Maty also could have died because of veganism and went onto espouse her vast knowledge of Ayurveda. This is all less than 48 hours after Maty’s death.
I can recall this need for people to inject their personal story or agenda into death in a very different circumstance, that of the passing of my best friend a few years ago. Death has a way of bringing us all out of the woodwork; it often forces us to rehash our past and lost connections… and social media has made that exodus into a sort of public and recorded display of our hunger to be included and remembered. Yet it somehow completely erases the humanity of death itself.
I can’t help but be shaken by what I read today. Here we are, as self-proclaimed practitioners and teachers of techniques that encourage us to be mindful, to be “whole”, to be respectful and kind, to listen, to pay attention. And yet we cannot allow even an inch of space for the profundity of death to settle upon us, to allow the silence that follows that passing to wash us in her sweet and dark waters. We have forgotten the magic of holding that space. We have forgotten the magic.
In my own path and process since the abuses in lineages I have and still hold dear have come to light, I also moved away from magic. I moved away from anything that gave me a working ground on how to be with my heart and mind because I had lost faith in the systems and I did not want them anywhere near the most subtle emulations of my spirit. It was clear and remains clear that too many teachers have taken advantage of the vulnerability that arises when we work with these subtle aspects of ourselves so I shut it all down to protect myself. I was heartbroken. I was numb. Like my friend shared so poignantly, I literally could not feel anything.
But in the last year of deep introspection and hundreds of hours of self-practice and self-reckoning, I have reached another conclusion. I cannot ignore the magic. it is written in the folds of each breath, every clear moment of attention, every careful and beautiful and compassionate action carried out in the name of yoga or meditation or mindfulness. It is the very reason why I continue to share this work. It moves me at my essence because it is, by its nature, founded in a profound exploration of who we all are. It is founded in magic.
I did not know Maty at all, really. I only had a few hours with her commanding spirit as a yoga teacher. I do honor her, and I honor her by making space for the grief and despair that those closest to her are feeling right now, some of whom are my own teachers and colleagues and dear friends. I make space for her humanity and the humanity of all she touched. I make space for the profound ways in which she has shaped yoga communities around the world, and if I am very honest, has shaped my own life. From my limited experience, and from what I gather from countless stories about her is that she was someone who touched the magic in people. She seemed to do that and simultaneously hold space for others rather than extract their vulnerability for her own gain. She was a true teacher.
As we attempt to heal ourselves from the wounds of abuse in our communities, let us allow this moment to give us a chance to pause and reflect. To listen. To hold space and silence. To allow the true teacher in all of us to stand in her ferocity and clarity and profundity, and perhaps… if we feel safe and supported enough, to allow some magic in.