Yes you read that right, my FIRST Yoga Journal Conference! My knowledge of this conference is solely based on the advertising. No one talks about it. No one in my yoga communities mentions it. This could be because Yoga Journal Magazine does have some questionable articles, not too many scientific articles, and way too much emphasis on Vinyasa over all the other forms of yoga. But regardless, as soon as I saw Maty Eztray on the list of Yogis presenting, I knew I had to go.
Maty Ezraty is one of what I like to call the “Original Six”. When you Google “Ashtanga Yoga”, the first video you see is “Primary Series Ashtanga With Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.” Eztray it one of the only 2 women demonstrating Primary Series alongside San Diego’s own Tim Miller of the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Carlsbad. Eztray has been around for years, and has achieved yoga fame on her own, outside of being known for that awesome purple full body leotard in the 1993 Yoga Works Productions video. Ezraty founded Yoga Works in 1987, when I was 2. Ezraty went on to study with Geeta Iyengar. Her exposure to both Ashtanga and Iyengar practices is why I really wanted to take a class with her.
Ezraty was amazing. I took a class on strengthening the low back, since I have a low back injury, and learned so much. Eztray is this tiny little woman with a dynamic and magnetic personality. She did not even need to mic herself in the giant room, where we all were against the walls. She was funny, enthusiastic, hands-on and deep. She really wanted every student to understand how to hold each posture.
Besides Ezraty, I was able to take a full day workshop with Shiva Rea, learned how to twist my entire spine with Aadil Palkhivala, and discover the pathway to enlightenment with Dharma Mittra. Rea was inspiring in how she taught Vinyasa. I really enjoyed her and her class, but wished she herself gave more hands on experience. She had 2 helpers who gave the great adjustments. Rea also gave good instruction and description for tradition teachings of Surya Namascar and Chandra Namascar. She taught interesting flows with Mandala Namascar and Chakra Namascar. I appreciated her views on movement and felt very uplifted, though rather exhausted, after class.
Mittra was a soft-spoken, happy man. He devoted half of the entire practice to discussion. I was looking forward to taking a class with him since I visited his studio when I was in New York a few years ago. I am not a Vegan, but do strive to attain a low meat, high vegetable diet using sustainable and humane meats. Mittra made it clear that one must be Vegan to attain enlightenment and that “eating animals is unevolved.” I did not disagree with him at all and he was very persuasive, stating that we look for things to give us happiness. One of those is food, and most of us eat meat. We don’t like to give up our meat because we equate it to our happiness. Profound yes, but can I really give up meat? I can’t process tofu well, or grains, so most of my caloric intake comes from oils, nuts and seeds and meat. I definitely understand the point of giving it up, and would love to see enlightenment.
But of all the presenters, Palkhilvala spoke to me the most. The enlightened disciple of B.K.S. Iyengar just had so much to share. We did not even have the time to delve into 0.005% of his knowledge. He knew everything. Ayurveda (was a holistic doctor), Iyengar (studied one-on-one with Iyengar for hours a day starting at the age of 7), his website says he is a lawyer, he was awarded Advanced Teacher Certificate at 22, and he founded Purna Yoga. So we all wanted to pick his brain. It was my smallest class and I was shocked.
This guy seemed to know everything. yoga, he says, is “your connection to your spirit.” He said we all need to bring more spirit into the world and be less connected to our ego. He reminded us that there are only 3 important relationships: our self; others and the world as a whole. Palkhilvala informed us that asana practice is not important. He said “it is necessary, but not important.” Compared it to brushing the teeth, and explained how we don’t compete with each other while brushing our teeth, so we shouldn’t during asana. He also said to look for the good in everything, because our perception is our reality. If we look for the good in everything, we get bliss. And then he quoted Sri Aurobindo, “Bliss is the secret stuff of all that lives, Even pain and grief are garbs of world-delight.”
I learned way too much for my brain to absorb in such a compact setting. I cannot wait to continue to learn more but I am ready for some time with my own thoughts to let it all just sink in.