In the Nahautl language it is a Temazcal.
I have never sought out a sweat lodge. I don’t like saunas or steam baths because of my tendencies toward claustrophobia. Historically, wiithin 3 to 4 minutes after settling into position, I have gathered my things and departed. Even in hot tubs I am usually sitting on the edge dangling my feet in the water after ten minutes.
So why try a sweat lodge?
Well, I was on my way to retreat at Teotihuacan. I was heading into the unknown with a desire to be open to new experiences. And our host in Tepoztlan is in shamanic training. Talking with him about his family background in relationship to the healing arts was fascinating. So why not?
Although this was spur of the moment for me and in spite of my limited language skills, I understood the sacred spirit of the ceremonies surrounding the process. Hector was reverent and respectful when he handed me a sheet and pointed me to the (un)dressing room.
I was handed a bouquet of branches and flowers called a ramo with which I wasinstructed to rub (rameada) myself before and during my time in the lodge.
I closed my eyes as instructed and was called to attention by the haunting sound of the caracol. In the cold mountain air I fell under the spell of the chanting and the ethereal sounds of the flauta andina and ocarina.
The lodge is a small hut with a door covered by blankets. There are vents in the top and a fire of hot coals at the back. Small benches circle the edges. The floor is covered in leaves and flowers. I was guided into the lodge and waited while Hector threw water on the coals over and over. Waves of steam filled the lodge. I was to wave my ramo in the air in order to bring the steam down and keep it active.
When the door closed I reminded myself that I could call “open” and Hector would appear. I wasn’t trapped. There was a bucket of water with a cup just inside the door if I needed to pour it over myself. Soon I was too busy reminding myself that I could do this to worry about my blood pressure!
At intervals Hector played music in the courtyard outside the lodge. The ethereal music of the flute wound through my mind like a snake being charmed into graceful curves. It soothed me. At one point he brought in a light tea. (Or was that twice?)
I only know that I made it to the end of the hour. I spent much time lying down on the bench to be nearer to cool air. But I spent much time waving my ramo to bring on the heat, too. Unlike the other woman in the lodge with me, I never threw more water on the coals, but I sweated it out…literally.
I can recommend the sweat lodge. The meditative state of returning to my breath to remain calm felt purifying to my mind. Sweating profusely for an hour is certainly purifying to the body. I did feel lighter in body and spirit as I wandered the streets, hydrating and contemplating.
I’m sure I would know more of the tradition if I entered a sweat lodge with preparation in my own language. But I’m not sure it would be more meaningful than experiencing this in Nahua country in the shadow of El Tepozteco, the pyramid which sits on above Tepoztlàn.
La Flor de la Vida is Hector’s spa. I believe this to be an authentic Sweat Lodge experience.