The Mayan Five Elements and Your Yoga Practice

Connect to and honor the five elements found in ancient Mayan practices with these movements passed down to Miguel Angel Vergara Calleros and Kat Tudor.

Connect to and honor the five elements found in ancient Mayan practices with these movements passed down to Miguel Angel Vergara Calleros and Kat Tudor. Each set of movements is designed to evoke the healing power of one element. Start with your eyes closed, setting an intention to connect both to the heart of the earth and the heart of the sky. In the Mayan tradition, you are always touching both the earth and sky—and these two meet at your heart. As you work through the poses, keep moving and find a steady rhythm. Afterward, pause for a few breaths with eyes closed and see if you notice an energetic shift.

See also The Connection Between Nature’s Five Elements and Yoga

1. Earth

earth element yoga sequence Briohny Smyth

Rhythmically stomp your left foot forward, back, and out to the side, then back to center. Repeat with the right foot, and end by stomping your left foot 9 times. Repeat the full sequence 2 more times, speeding up with each round. Afterward, sense the energy in your feet, your connection to the earth, and your root chakra.

See also Elemental Yoga: An Earthy Sequence to Ground Vata

2. Water

water element yoga sequence Briohny Smyth

This sequence draws the energy of earth up through your pelvis—the body part most closely associated with water in Mayan culture. Start by standing with your hands in front of your hips, palms up. Then bring your fingertips together at your heart before reaching overhead in a V shape. Visualize a fountain of energy and love coming from your heart. Release forward and allow your arms to flow down like a waterfall until you are in a standing forward fold, similar to Uttanasana. Repeat this sequence 2 more times, flowing with your breath and letting go of physical or emotional baggage.

See also Be One With Earth: Elemental Energy of the Chakras

3. Fire

fire element yoga sequence Briohny Smyth

Hold your palms as if carrying a large conch shell—used in ancient Mayan culture to call people to ceremonies. Inhale to bring your arms overhead and touch your fingertips together. Then, release your hands out to your sides while you exhale sharply several times through your mouth. With each exhale, briefly stop moving your arms. Repeat this sequence 2 more times, connecting to your internal heat and power.

See also Elemental Yoga: A Fire-Moving Yoga Practice for Pitta

4. Air

air element yoga sequence Briohny Smyth

Bring your hands to your heart, one hand on top of the other. Inhale, breathing from your roots, and extend your arms out, as though they were branches extending from your heart. Move your fingers like leaves, and let your arms move all around you, exploring the air in all directions. Keep moving in this way for about 2 minutes, and then return your hands to your heart. Repeat 2 more times, spreading love through your hands—the physical extension of your heart chakra.

See also Elemental Yoga: An Airy Asana Sequence to Balance Kapha

5. Ether

ether element yoga sequence Briohny Smyth

Only goddesses are strong enough to connect with the cosmos, so channel this element in Goddess Pose. Step your feet apart, turn your toes out 45 degrees, and bring your palms together between your eyebrows. Then, bend the knees slightly and with an open heart, open your hands and spread your fingers wide, bringing your forearms and upper arms to right angles. Radiate energy through each finger, as if it were connected to a star or planet. With your exhale, say “Eeeeeeeeessssssssss” (an ancient name of the goddess Ix), hissing the final “s.” For the next 2 rounds, stay in Goddess Pose and chant Ix’s name 2 more times, bringing energy to your third eye and crown chakra, the seat of intuition and higher knowledge.

See also Tantra Yoga’s Key to Vitality: The 7 Chakras

Final Bow

final bow Briohny Smyth

End your practice by placing your hands over your heart, one hand on top of the other. Bow to the right, saying the Mayan greeting InLak’Ech (“I am you”), then bow to the left, saying Ala K’in (“You are Me. We are one”).

See also Bathe in the Elements

About Our Model
Briohny Smyth is a vinyasa teacher based in Los Angeles. Find her schedule of classes and international workshops at bryceyoga.com.

Where to learn
Travel to Mexico with Kat Tudor and Miguel Angel Vergara Calleros to explore ancient Mayan sites and rituals, along with daily meditations and movement practices. Learn more at casakin.org.

To explore South America through this lens, start with retreats with Kawoq Conscious Living School, founded by Juan Pablo Barahona, who has taught energy medicine, healing arts, and shamanistic yoga for decades.