Steam Your Way to Health with Temazcal


I have a friend who travels to New Mexico every other weekend to attend traditional Navajo sweatlodge ceremonies. I’ve never tried it myself, but I’ve learned a lot from him over the years. So when he told me he’d just tried his first Temazcal ritual bath in Tulum, Mexico, I wanted to hear all about it.

I learned that Temazcal sweat baths originated as ceremonial centers in ancient Mayan culture. They’re similar to a sweatlodge but instead of a teepee, it’s a pitch-dark hot stone/adobe dugout, filled with the vapor of burning herbs and the sound of a chanting shaman.

Why Try Temazcal

Physical benefits can include improved digestion and blood circulation, muscle relaxation, and clarification of the skin. The high heat increases sweating, the humidity decreases evaporation, and that helps the body sweat out toxins. It’s common to sweat out a liter of liquid, which is consistent with what your kidneys can filter over a 48-hour period.

One thing that makes Temazcal different than your average steam bath is the way it’s tailored to each person. A highly trained healer (called a Temazcalera) will meet with you to assess your health and any issues you want to address. Specific herbs and chants will be chosen specifically for your needs. Your Temazcalera will use a hand-held fan made of herb leaves and a small vent at the top of the Temazcal to adjust the heat to a level that’s perfect for you.

Most Temazcal baths last around two hours, then you’re led to a quiet place to rest. Some people report a feeling of spiritual euphoria or “rebirth” when exiting the womb-like heated darkness of the Temazcal. At the very least, you’ll enjoy the effects of the physical equivalent of nearly two hours of heart-pumping, sweaty exercise … and all you have to do is sit and breathe!

Where to Find Temazcal

Temazcal ritual baths can be found all over the Riviera Maya. Spas and resorts there and in the Yucatan Peninsula often have their own Temazcal on site.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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