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Yoga, L.A. Style

Like the eye of a storm, Yoga Works, the brainchild of Maty Ezraty and Chuck Miller, provides busy Angelenos a place to become centered.

By Loraine Despres

"And we respond to the needs of the community," Maty chimes in, noting their many special interest offerings, which include prenatal and postnatal classes, "Mommy-N-Me," and "Yoga for Kids." They also offer classes like "Relax Deeply," where busy people can replenish themselves through restorative yoga, and "Easy Does It," a very gentle, therapeutically oriented class for students with injuries and other special health concerns.

"From the beginning," Maty adds, "I wanted to create a space where great teachers from all over the world would want to come and give workshops. That takes a lot of preparation. We have two full-time staff members making arrangements, designing flyers, and sending out mailings. But it's fun to have a relationship with teachers who come back again and again."

The workshops also help strengthen the cornerstone of Yoga Works: its teacher training program. Although Yoga Works has always had good teachers, Maty was concerned about the lack of a clear, consistent standard for yoga teacher training. She wanted to be sure Yoga Works teachers knew what they were doing, had a high level of personal practice, and "were teaching from joy."

So a year after opening the studio, she inaugurated a training program. Today, the program begins with a six-weekend course taught by Maty and certified Iyengar instructor Lisa Walford. Students learn the theory and practice of asanas, study pPranayama as the subtle thread that connects us all with universal consciousness, and get a basic overview of the other "limbs" of yoga described almost 2,000 years ago by the sage Patanjali as steps to personal freedom and self-knowledge.

In addition, students consider such distinctly modern aspects of yoga teaching as the psychology of the student-teacher relationship and the prevention and treatment of injuries. But Maty stresses that the six-week course is only a beginning. Of the more than 400 students to go through this course, fewer than 15 have gone on to receive certification from Yoga Works.

To gain that certification, the student must assist in classes for six months with a senior teacher at the school (there are seven) and participate in prenatal and "Easy Does It" classes to understand how to work with beginners. Students working toward certification are also required to take a minimum of 80 hours of workshops with senior teachers, including at least one Iyengar-based teacher-training workshop. This year, for the first time, applicants must take a philosophy class and pass a written test. Next year, Yoga Works plans to require an additional 20 class hours on the anatomy of movement. Finally, after completing all this class work, the applicants for certification are tested by teaching a half-hour class in front of a panel of senior Yoga Works teachers.

"It's not an easy program," Maty admits. Eleven people took the certification test this year and only three passed. "But I'll tell you one thing, when they do finally get that certificate, they're good. This certification means something."

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