Yoga Journal

It’s all elemental

IN KAT TUDOR’S YOGA CLASSES, things start as you might expect: with warm-up asana. But 30 minutes in, you might find yourself unapologetically stomping your feet and playing a rattle as you call upon the healing power of natural elements like earth, wind, and fire. Which could leave the uninitiated to wonder: What do the elements have to do with yoga?

As it turns out, quite a lot. Tudor’s teachings are inspired by what she calls Mayan Yoga—a tradition she learned from Miguel Angel Vergara Calleros, her teacher in Yucatan, Mexico. With mytho-historic roots, their practice combines classical yoga with Mayan rituals from approximately 700 years ago, many of them considered shamanistic, to channel the energy of the natural world and elevate consciousness. “In every way, Mayan Yoga is linked to what we Westerners consider yoga,” says Tudor. “The words are different, but Mayan Yoga addresses all the levels of a person through mantra, , breath, poses, and stories.” For starters, the elements can relate to the chakras, internal energy centers associated with various moods and ailments and that yoga practices aim to unblock or keep in balance. For example, if you’re feeling ungrounded, your root chakra or the earth energy) But the yoga-element connection goes deeper than that. The idea that you can heal mind, body, and spirit by mastering the balance of subtle energies within you —energies that carry the qualities of natural elements —originally comes from ancient Hindu philosophy and the underpinnings of yoga and Ayurveda, explains contributing medical editor Timothy McCall, MD. “Then, around the fifth century BCE, Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) started talking about elements that exist within us … I think the Greeks likely got many of their ideas from Ayurveda,” says McCall. Later, colonists brought those Hippocratic ideas of mind-body balance— their conventional medicine—to Latin American cultures, possibly including the Maya, he explains.

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