These five ancient wellness practices from Mexico make great additions to wellness rituals today.
Cultures all over the world have their own set of rituals, some religious, some celebratory, and some connected to wellness.
To achieve long-term health and fitness goals, consistency is essential, which is why creating our own set of daily rituals can be so powerful.
In this series, sponsored by Rancho La Puerta wellness resort, we explore ancient traditions from around the world that can enhance you modern wellness practice.
Wellness in Mexico
Wellness traditions in Mexico find their origins in the folk medicine of the Mayan, Zapotec, and Aztec cultures. The holistic approach to health is rooted in a pre-Columbian cultural tradition of connectivity between the natural world and spiritual dimensions of wellness, and even today many believe that physical ailments are rooted in emotion, spiritual, or environmental imbalances.
The Tradition: Plant-Forward, Protein-Packed Diet
The pre-colonial Mexican diet was based around corn-based dishes flavored with chilies, garlic, onions and herbs and enhanced with beans, squash, and small amounts of meat. Fruits like citrus and mango rounded out the legume-heavy diet. The cornerstone of the diet was the "three sisters" combination of beans, corn, and squash (with the more recent addition of rice), which provides essential amino acids and protein, as well as fiber, B vitamins and magnesium. Over the millennia, these three plants were grown together in a complementary fashion - the beans and squash climbing the corn stalks, providing shade and enhancing soil quality, and much research has been done on the complementary nutrition of the three foods, which became hugely important for the vegetarian and vegan movement.
The extensive use of hot chillies has been shown to have major health benefits, as they are packed with vitamin C, aid in healthy digestion, reduce pain and inflammation, and offer a variety of other benefits outlined by nutritionists at Bastyr University, not to mention fantastic flavor.
The Modern Ritual
Swap sugary breakfasts for hearty Mexican-inspired dishes that include beans or eggs for protein, avocado with salsa, or even simple slices of bell pepper and beef in a kind of breakfast fajita.
Alternatively, go traditional with a dish like huevos divorciados, which includes two fried eggs, one topped with green salsa and the other with red salsa, served alongside beans, sliced avocado and a corn tortilla. The eggs will give you your protein for the day, the beans and tortillas provide ample fiber, and the salsas are packed with antioxidants to get your day started right.
The Tradition: Physical Healing of Emotional Wounds
In Mexican folk medicine, it is believed that disease is caused by disharmony of body, mind, and spirit, so treatment often begins with finding ways to physically deal with emotional issues.
As part of a treatment plan, healers incorporate prayers and rituals, like digging a hole and speaking negative experiences and emotions into it before covering it, and even humor, as laughter, releases endorphins.
The Modern Ritual
Remember the importance of your mental health to your overall health. Make laughter a part of your mental health routine, whether turning off the news and watching something funny after dinner, visiting a comedy club, or just getting together with friends who make you laugh.
And when it comes to trauma or sadness, give it the care and time it needs, seeking support and creating new ways to integrate ritualistic ways of healing that feel right with your beliefs, family, and lifestyle.
The Tradition: La Comida (Lunch)
Traditionally, the main meal of the day in Mexico is eaten in the late afternoon, between 1pm and 4pm, and can be a multi-course affair that is lingered over. Dinner comes much later, around 8 or 9pm and is typically a light snack.
Studies have shown that having a large midday meal and a lighter evening meal can aid in weight-loss, promote better sleep, and give you more sustained energy throughout your waking hours.
Taking the time to slow down and share a meal is also a great way to maintain work-life balance.
During the week, it’s probably not realistic to have a big family lunch, but on the weekends, aim to make lunch your largest meal of the day so as to allow your body plenty of time to digest before bedtime.
The Tradition: Temazcal (sweat lodge)
Used for psychological, physiological and spiritual healing, Temazcal is another indigenous Meso-American tradition that offers benefits in the 21st century.
Traditionally, a shaman-lead ritual takes place in a hut where the temperature is kept over 100 degrees and water is sprinkled on hot stones to produce steam.
It is thought that the first temazcal ritual was performed by Mayans to help warriors returning from battle to recover from the physical and mental injuries.
Though the heat does help to detoxify the body, open the lungs, and even promote healing through a fever-like state, the main focus of a sweat lodge experience is spiritual and emotional. It is a time to reflect, to experience discomfort, and to gain a sense of peace.
Some studies have shown that regular exposure to heat can help to relax the body and lower cortisol levels (which reduces stress). You likely don’t have a sweat lodge nearby, but you can spend some time in a sauna, which uses dry heat to promote muscle relaxation, or a steam room that uses moist heat to aid in body detoxification.
Tradition: Prioritizing Family and Friends
Multi-generational families and frequent large gatherings have been the norm in Mexican culture, and while in today's world, people's needs differ and change, but the love, support, warmth, and joy you'll find at Mexican family gatherings offers much inspiration.
Studies have shown that having a supportive network family or friends can actually promote longevity and, in day to day life, make navigating life’s challenges far more manageable.
Creating your own family support system requires being willing to ask for help and being willing to reciprocate. Even if your biological family lives far away, create your own community of “cousins” and “abuelas” who you can count on for everything from watching the kids when something comes up, to offering a listening ear when your partner is driving you crazy.
About Our Sponsor
Rancho La Puerta has been changing lives for over 70 years. Family-owned and operated since June, 1940, the first guests arrived at a beautiful Baja California campsite created by Edmond Szekely and his young wife Deborah. Since then, the Ranch's approach to sustainability has been "Always Better," as the property and its employees offer the best guest experiences possible, while continually striving to reduce their environmental impact.Throughout the property’s history, programs have been developed to initiate and explore forward-thinking activities in the community of Tecate, the trans-border region, and beyond. With a depth of activities at Rancho La Puerta coupled with the organic evolution of Ranch itself, no two experiences are ever the same, but guests can expect the unexpected as they connect with themselves and the natural world around them.