By Brant Secunda and Mark Allen The Huichol people, an indigenous tribe that lives in the mountainous region of central Mexico, are some of the happiest, healthiest, wisest people on earth. Many of them are shamans, and a surprising number of their tribe surpass age 100 and work in the fields up until the day […]
So what are you doing this New Year’s Eve? Watching the ball drop over Times Square on television … again? For many of us, the typical New Year’s celebration can feel like old hat after a while. We start looking for more profound ways of honoring the space between letting go of the old and embracing the new. For those seeking a spiritual connection during times of transition, the world’s wisdom traditions—including Peruvian shamanism, Kabbalah, and yoga—offer rituals rich with meaning.
Shamanic philosophy sees the turning of the year as a time to honor and give back to Mother Earth, and a way of tapping into and acknowledging nature’s cycle of transformation. According to Ray Crist, founder of the Jaguar Path, which fuses yoga practice and the philosophy of Peruvian shamanism, the Q’ero of Peru believe that we’re all shamans—each of us possesses an intuitive power and wisdom that connects us to both the world around and the world within. Rituals empower people because, he says, “through ritual, we can be the catalysts that bring forth healing and change into our own lives.” To celebrate the power of change that the new year brings, the Q’ero shamans perform rituals such as the despachio, an offering of gratitude to Mother Earth for all she provides.
Where Yoga and Shamanism Meet, Bold Directions Unfold
In 2006, Kripalu faculty member Ray Crist was recovering from a debilitating illness. A yoga teacher, martial artist, and Reiki practitioner, Ray had spent four years traveling the world seeking those who could heal him. His quest took him from the Buddhist monasteries on the borders of Cambodia to the clinics of the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. But when he ventured into the jungles of Peru to study with Incan shamans, the experience opened new doors of perception—and healing—within himself.
Guided by Don Manuel Portugal, a shaman in Cuzco, Peru, Ray discovered the culture, mythology, and practices of Incan shamanism. “Shamans are the medicine people of their tribe,” Ray says. “Their methods of healing center on the ‘energy body’ and plant medicine.” The deeper he delved into Incan shamanism, the more he began to notice profound similarities with yoga. “Yogis and shamans view the world as a physical world,” he explains. “Traumatic experiences are embedded in the body—near a joint, muscle, meridian, internal organ, or chakra. Yoga and shamanism help us delve into the root of our traumas to find healing on physical and emotional levels.” Ray began incorporating shamanistic principles into his yoga practice, imbuing it with a new richness. “Shamanism brought to my practice a direct awareness of energy moving through my body, a visceral understanding of what each asana offers,” he says.