For the last several years, sweat lodges have gained much attention in the media. However, they’re not a new trend.
Sweat lodges and sweat lodge ceremonies have been a critical element of many indigenous cultures for thousands of years.
This guide explains everything you need to know about Temazcal, from its history to the unique wellness benefits it offers.
Temazcal ceremonies are believed to have originated in Mesoamerica and have been practiced by indigenous cultures in Mexico, Central America, and South America for thousands of years.
These ceremonies are typically conducted in a group setting in a dome-shaped sweat lodge, and may last for several hours. They’re led by a type of shaman known as a “temazcalero.”
A Brief History of Temazcal
The word “Temazcal” comes from the word “Temāzcalli” — the Nahuatl word that translates to “house of heat.”
During the pre-Colombian era, Mesoamericans used Temazcal ceremonies for curative and healing purposes. These ceremonies cleansed individuals following physical activity or trauma. They also supported women after childbirth and were used to promote overall health and well-being.
Those who participated in Temazcal worshipped the Goddess Tonantzin or “Our Sacred Mother.” The dome where the ceremony takes place represented the belly of Tonantzin, and practitioners who entered the dome symbolically died and were reborn.
What Happens During a Temazcal Ceremony?
Every Temazcal ceremony is a bit different. In general, though, they include the following elements:
● A temazcalero chants, sings and leads the ceremony
● The ceremony takes place in a dome-shaped structure made from clay or adobe bricks
● In the beginning, participants step into the sweat lodge and sit in a circle or semi-circle
● Once everyone is settled, steaming stones are placed in the center, and water is poured over them, producing steam
● The water may contain herbs with unique healing and therapeutic characteristics
● More hot rocks are continuously added throughout the ceremony to maintain the temperature
● Some people drink hot tea during the ceremony
At the end of the ceremony, participants exit the dome and take a cool shower or step into a cold pool to reduce their body temperatures.
Wellness Benefits of Temazcal
Temazcal has long been practiced because of its myriad health and wellness benefits. The following are some of the most important benefits people report experiencing after participating in this ceremony:
Cleansing and Purification
Temazcal ceremonies expose participants to extremely high temperatures, which naturally leads to increased sweating. The sweat produced during the ceremony helps to cleanse the body, eliminate toxins like heavy metals, and promote healthy, glowing skin.
Spending time in a sweltering environment, such as the dome where Temazcal takes place, increases the heart rate and improves blood circulation throughout the body.
Better blood circulation allows nutrients and oxygen to reach the muscles and organs faster. It also removes waste products more efficiently.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Many people find that they feel less stressed and anxious when they leave the Temazcal ceremony. Even if they are nervous going in, they’re calm and feel more at peace when the ceremony ends.
Exposure to high heat (also known as “thermal therapy”) has also been shown to minimize the symptoms of mild depression. Exposing yourself to high temperatures could be a practical element of your overall treatment protocol if you need a mood boost.
Improved Breathing and Respiratory Health
The steam produced during the Temazcal ceremony can clear the respiratory passageways and help you breathe more easily. It can be especially helpful if you’re dealing with respiratory health issues like bronchitis or asthma.
Potential Risks of Temazcal
While Temazcal has many benefits, it also comes with some potential risks. Potential participants should consider the following risks:
When you spend time in a hot environment, including the dome where the ceremony occurs, you run the risk of overheating. The ceremony might not be the right option for you if you’re particularly sensitive to high temperatures.
Because you sweat so much during the Temazcal ceremony, your body loses a lot of vital fluids and electrolytes. If you don’t replace them soon after finishing the ceremony or are not well-hydrated beforehand, you could become dehydrated.
Tips for Your First Ceremony
If you’re thinking about participating in a Temazcal ceremony, you can take some steps in advance to increase your chances of having a positive experience. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Report Health Conditions in Advance
You should consult a healthcare professional before participating if you have any health conditions that could be exacerbated by time in a sweat lodge — such as cardiovascular conditions. Report your situation to the people in charge of the ceremony, too, and they will let you know if it’s a good idea for you to participate.
Most people wear bathing suits during the Temazcal ceremony, but you could also wear other, lightweight clothing. Most people are barefoot during the ceremony, but some wear sandals.
Drink Water Before and After
Drink plenty of water before participating in the Temazcal ceremony. Being adequately hydrated will help you reduce your chances of overheating.
Drink more water afterward, too. Consider adding some electrolytes to your water to replace those lost through your sweat.
Stick to Light Meals
Don’t eat a heavy meal before stepping into the sweat lodge. Having a lot of food in your stomach could cause pain or nausea during the ceremony and will make you uncomfortable.
Do not drink alcohol before participating in a Temazcal ceremony. Alcohol is a diuretic that causes your body to lose fluids more quickly. If you drink alcohol beforehand, you’re more likely to become dehydrated.
Follow the Guide’s Instructions
Finally, listen to the person or people leading the ceremony. Follow the instructions and pay attention to the exit route in case you need to leave before the ceremony ends.
Try Temazcal Today
Now that you know more about the Temazcal ceremony and its healing benefits, are you interested in checking it out?
Many resorts and spas throughout Mexico and other parts of South America offer it as an attraction for tourists. Add it to your next travel itinerary today!