An Ancient Ritual

While vacationing in Guanajuato, Mexico with some friends we decided to make a reservation at a local SPA for a private Temazcal (An adobe rounded sweat lodge.)

The Temazcal is a round beehive like structure whose interior reminds me of a tepee, where a healer conducts an ancient medicinal ritual using steam and the vapors of aromatic herbs. Temazcal or Temazcalli is a Nahuatl word meaning bath-house. The interest on the tradition of the Temazcal has resurfaced in recent years and is promoted through much of Mexico’s eco- tourism advertisement pieces.

My introduction to a Temazcal was while visiting Mision del Sol Resort and SPA in Cuernavaca; I never forgot this singular experience. This place was built with biodegradable materials as if abandoned it would melt back into the earth. It is a luxurious SPA in Cuernavaca very near Mexico City. Meals at Mision del Sol are prepared with organic ingredients most from nearby farms. Everything is calm and comfortable luxury.

My second experience in Guanajuato was a bit different. When we made reservations, we assumed the Temazcal was situated inside the SPA conveniently located in downtown Guanajuato, so when we were informed that a SPA representative would meet us at the hotel to walk us to the Temazcal, although intrigued, we agreed.   Turned out that the Temazcal was located very near our hotel but about 300 steps up a hill! In Guanajuato, people build their homes up since it is surrounded by hills. Needless to say, the recurring question was; how much longer before we get there? Followed by the very typical Mexican response “It’s right there, we’re almost there”. Compared to the luxury of Mision del Sol SPA and Resort, this Temazcal was definitely a return to the indigenous ways.

After the exhausting climb, I WAS ready for some healing. We got there, sat around and changed into our bathing suits, (in the old days, people would not wear any clothing to allow for proper detoxification and healing).  We noticed a fireplace heating volcanic rocks which the healer uses to control the temperature with vapors from a variety of herbal teas especially eucalyptus. As bathers go into the Temazcal we are “cleansed” through the aroma of incense and eucalyptus branches to enhance the healing elements of this practice known to be very beneficial for improving circulation,  skin related problems, rheumatism, arthritis, gout and other chronic diseases. Once inside, bathers sit in low benches covered with straw mats known as “petates” in meditating position. Thankfully, we were given clay jugs with cold water to use in case the heat became overwhelming, it was at times, but we endured to the end.

Two hours later, relaxing and drinking a herbal tea outside of the Temazcal, we suddenly hear the soft thunder of an approaching storm; rain was coming just like every summer afternoon in colonial Mexico. It was time to head back down hundreds of steps leading back to civilization for a delicious siesta lulled by thunder and the pouring rain.

More about Mision del Sol Temazcal here

Please note that this is not a paid / advertisement.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Guanajuato”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 6 Jul. 2016, https://www.britannica.com/place/Guanajuato-Mexico. Accessed 9 March 2022.

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