What We Can Learn From The Ancient Mayan Lifestyle
The Mayans are known to be one of the most advanced and impressive civilisations to date. And because of this, and my deep passion for health and wellness, I thought it’d be interesting to see what I could learn and share on the ancient Mayan lifestyle.
What did they eat?
How did they approach health and healing?
What kind of lifestyle did they live?
Many questions were popping into my mind. And after some research, here are some interesting aspects of the ancient Mayan lifestyle that can inspire us in our own lives.
A Deeply Holistic Approach to Health
The Mayan approach to health was obviously not based on western medicine.
Mayans believed that you couldn’t separate the spiritual world from the physical world. So, when it came to illness, they naturally looked at it from a very holistic perspective. And they considered how the illness affected both physical and spiritual aspects of a person.
And so, their Shamanic practitioners would blend together many different aspects, including science, rituals and herbal remedies.
Another interesting aspect of this holistic approach was that Mayans viewed health as ‘balance’ and disease as ‘imbalance’. When considering other truly holistic approaches to health, like Ayurveda, balance is always a primary focus.
When you approach health holistically, you also don’t focus on the symptoms. Instead, you seek to find the root cause. A great analogy is a tree – the leaves may be dying, but instead of focusing on them, go deeper and see what’s happening with the roots. There you’ll find what is truly causing the problem. And from there, as you heal the roots, health flows all the way up to the leaves.
So this is a wonderful reminder that our health is not just physical, mental or spiritual. It is all-encompassing.
Consuming superfoods like Cacao
Cacao comes from the cacao fruit tree, Theobroma Cacao. This tree is native to the Amazon Basin, and cacao is thus considered to be an Amazonian superfood.
Side note: Don’t get confused by cacao and cocoa:Spruce Eats
“In one sense, the two words mean the same thing as “cocoa” is the English adaptation of the word “cacao.” However, there are also important distinctions between the two.
While cacao refers to cacao beans that have not been roasted, what is called cocoa is made of beans have been roasted. So, in turn, a product that is labelled cacao is the raw bean and is often packaged as vegan chocolate that has been minimally processed with no additives. On the other hand, cocoa is a processed chocolate product, such as chocolate bars and powder.”
Cacao (kə-ˈkau̇) is often referred to as the “food of the gods”. It was first discovered by the Mayans, and it became a staple in their diet.
Cacao is a superfood offering many health benefits. It’s packed with essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals. Cacao also contains an incredible amount of antioxidants that help fight inflammation, which is a major cause of most diseases. It can also be a natural mood elevator and antidepressant.
Traditionally, the Mayans would harvest the cacao beans from the trees. Then they’d ferment, dry and roast them. After removing their shells, they’d ground them into a paste. They’d then mix the paste with water, and other ingredients like chilli, cornmeal and other spices.
This is known to be the most common way the Mayans enjoyed cacao. And often they enjoy this spicy chocolate drink after a meal. Sounds like a wonderful end to a meal to me.
Having community markets
It was lovely to discover that the Mayans embraced community markets.
This was a way to bring the community together, and connect the food growers and the people, giving people access to high-quality food straight from the earth.
It is known that Mayans loved to trade, so markets make local sense.
And while there is some mystery around what exactly the Mayan markets were like, there have been some discoveries.
The Mayan markets varied – some were permanent and some only happened on certain days. There was also a lot of variety at the markets.
You could find food – raw or cooked. This would’ve likely included some of their staples like squash, corn, honey, beans, vegetables, chocolate drinks or fish.
You could also find raw materials like jade, limestone, marble, wood, copper and gold. And because they were advanced and artistic, you could also find manufactured goods such as paper, books, furniture, jewellery, clothing, carvings, weapons, toys, cotton mantles or feather headdresses.
While there are many mysteries about the details of the Mayan markets, this is a good reminder of why community markets are so valuable.
They bring people together and encourage a sense of community. They also encourage trade and a boost in economy. And they make a wide variety of products available to the people.
Using natural medicine
The Mayans were very much connected to mother nature. And they intrinsically understood that all we need is essentially provided in the natural world.
They knew which plants contained medicinal properties. And they used a variety of herbal remedies to treat symptoms. These remedies were swallowed, or smoked, or rubbed on the skin.
And even more interesting:
Herbal remedies were often employed according to the colour of the originating plant:Mayan Medicine
Red for rashes, blood disorders & burns. Blue for neural sedatives. Yellow (the colour of bile) for diseases of the liver & spleen. White was generally avoided since it was seen as a signal of death.
This is a fascinating topic to explore, as Mayans used all kinds of natural remedies – including mushrooms, peyote and even tobacco to help with chronic pain.
Detoxing the body
If you’re into health and wellness, you should know that detoxification is very important. This is basically the process of removing built-up toxins from the body and supporting its natural healing process.
A big part of Mayan Culture were their sweat baths. These were like steam baths or saunas. The ancient Maya built them throughout their history and used them for a variety of reasons.
One of the primary reasons was to basically keep themselves healthy, by enabling them to sweat it out and get rid of toxins in the body. They’d especially use them when someone was getting sick or recovering, so as to support the body in the healing process.
Detoxification is so important. Not just physically, but also mentally and spiritually. To cleanse yourself of what is no longer needed, and find purity of body, mind and spirit.
It’s inspiring to think that the ancient Mayans thought like this, with the first sweat bath dating back to around 900BC!
Appreciation for art
The Mayans had a great appreciation for art. Some of the art they’re most known for include stone sculptures, ceramics, wood carvings, wall paintings, and architecture.
They were particularly skilled in stonework and stone sculpture. And many of their buildings would feature wonderful carvings inspired by their religion, divine beings and animals.
Mayans were also skilled at making pottery. They created simple cooking pots, as well as jars, vases and more. And these also sometimes featured decorations inspired by their religion and animal deities.
Art and creative expression is so important. It plays a big part in a person and a community’s health and wellbeing.
Personally I think we are all creative on some level, and it’s worth exploring and celebrating it. Through creative expression, in any form, we can find so much joy and connection.
The Mayan’s appreciation for art a wonderful reminder to celebrate it, in whatever form – be it through art, music, writing, dancing, or cooking. It is a way to express yourself, and add some colour and vibrance to the world. It can also be used as a type of therapy and can be very soothing for the spirit. And, it can be a way to tell stories and leave a part of us behind for new generations to discover.
Ancient wisdom for modern man
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article, and discovering a little bit more about the ancient Mayans.
It is fascinating to learn more about these incredible ancient civilisations. They can teach us so much, especially in terms of finding more connection with ourselves and our mother earth.
What is your biggest takeaway from this article? Are you inspired to take any of the above and try and incorporate it into your own life?
Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.
Written by Sian
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