Yoga has been practiced in many forms to serve many purposes for centuries. From its beginnings in Northern India some 5,000 years ago to modern-day adaptations, people have turned to this spiritual discipline for its wide variety of health and relaxation benefits.
For the Maya people, many yoga practices were an essential part of their lives. This ancient civilization settled in Mexico and Central America (Belize, Guatemala, etc.) and performed yoga (known as Yok’hah Maya) based on the profound understanding of subtle energy dynamics and an expansive cosmology. It incorporated aspects of Maya philosophy, spirituality, hand signs, postures, breath control, chants and meditations.
Yoga was frequently performed at Mayan pyramids. They were believed to be a gateway to sacred knowledge and an ideal place to conduct solar worship, meditation, yoga and other rituals important to the Maya.
The ancient Mayans used yoga practices for controlling energy, expanding awareness and influencing natural forces. Like the many who presently enjoy yoga, the Maya had a deep understanding of the seven energy centers of the human body called “chakras.” So what are these chakras that the ancient Maya people and those practicing yoga today strive to balance?
1. Root chakra – Being physically present and feeling at home in situations 2. Sacral chakra – Feeling and sexuality 3. Navel chakra – Asserting yourself in a group 4. Heart chakra – Love, kindness and affection 5. Throat chakra – Self-expression and talking 6. Third-eye chakra – Insight and visualization 7. Crown chakra – Wisdom and being one with the world
Pathways to health and overall well-being are sought universally, and yoga is one that has transcended many belief systems, geographic regions and time to positively impact people around the world.
Interested in learning more?
Life Time Journeys will be hosting a yoga trip to Belize in October 2016. One of the highlights of this tour includes practicing yoga with Life Time yogis at the base of Xunantunich — a 130-foot tall Mayan pyramid built in 800 A.D. It still stands today as the second-largest structure built in Belize.