A temazcal is a low heat sweat lodge coming from pre-Hispanic Indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica. What is referred to as temazcal is this traditional structure as well as the temazcal ceremony held inside. The term temazcal originates from the Nahuatl word temāzcalli, meaning house of heat, or a combination of words teme (to bathe) and calli (house). Temazcals are usually igloo-shaped and made from volcanic stone, wood or cement. Traditionally tTemazcal is a small space where only a few people can fit in at the same time; however modern tTemazcals, which originate from Lakota culture, can take up to 20 people. There are volcanic rocks in the center centre of the tTemazcal and water is poured on these stones for steam. Herbs like sage or copal are also added to the steam for the cleansing and spiritual purposes. Temazcal ceremony involves sitting in a sweat lodge for spiritual, mental and physical therapeutic benefits. This ritual is not just a steam bath; there is an ancestral context and a meaningful spiritual significance that shouldn’t be overlooked. Ancient temazcal ritual has been used by South Americans for around 1,000 years. This practice is historically important for the emergence of good hygienic and spiritual practices. Ancient practitioners worshipped Goddess Tonantzin (Mother Earth) and the temazcal represented her womb. Therefore whenever a person steps out of ceremony, they are symbolically reborn. Temazcal was used as a cleansing ceremony for warriors before and after wars and as a place to give birth in for women. Unfortunately, many temazcal structures were destroyed by the Spaniards however, some hidden locations were used to help this tradition stay alive until this day. Nowadays Temazcal temazcal has gained popularity and is practiced in different regions as well.
Temazcal rituals can differ from region to region however, typically they take around 2 two hours and are led by a shaman or a temazcalero who guides the group through the process. Benefits of Temazcal temazcal include:
- Improving mental performance: Being exposed to high temperatures frequently increases the production of norepinephrine which leads to increases in attention span. In addition to attention span, heat promotes the growth of new brain cells by increasing the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Regular thermal therapies are also associated with a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as well.
- Increasing stress resilience: Heat stress is linked to reduced anxiety levels. Regular heat exposure decreases the levels of cortisol, helping relax and rejuvenate the body.
- Helping with mild depression: Regular thermal therapy exposure helps with mild depression and reduces symptoms such as insomnia, appetite loss, and anxiety.
- Increasing recovery: With respect to the new scientific studies, thermal therapies such as temazcal can help with blood circulation and help with recovery.
- Detoxifying the body: This ritual cleanses the body of toxins and impurities as sweating is associated with detoxification.
- Spiritual Impact: Aside from physical benefits, many people attend these ceremonies for spiritual wellness as it was believed that the temazcal had the ability tocould heal and cleanse the soul as well as the body.
- Reducing chronic fatigue: High levels of heat can help with the symptoms of fatigue, pain and sleep disturbances, according to studies.
The structure and ceremonies of temazcal may vary from tribe to tribe however there are some common components which include:
The dome: Tribes and natives use local materials such as adobe, willow trees or stone to construct the dome. The dome is designed to block airflow and light.
Altar: The altar is designed to represent the cardinal points. Altars are decorated with feathers, flowers, candles, food, crystals, incense, instruments, animal bones and many other ceremonial pieces. The function of the altar is holding to hold the prayers of the groupgroup’s prayers until the relevant spirits catch them.
Fire and Earth: Also known as el Abuelo (grandfather), the fire is produced using the stones which are referred as las Abuelas (grandmothers).
Water: Herbs such as eucalyptus and rosemary are soaked in water tubs for the ceremony. Steam produced with herbs is the an essential part of the ceremony. The helpers can brush the groups with herbs and splash some water before entering the dome as well.
Temazcals purify and cleanse the body, mind and the soul. Ceremonies can have a specific aim or healing intentions. Typical medicines used in these ceremonies are sage, sweet grass, copal resin, and Brazilian Pepper Tree leaves. The ceremonies can involve singing, praying and chanting. Things can go wrong if there is a lack of proper supervision, therefore people should be careful when choosing the location. In a typical ceremony, after the group is invited into the temazcal, everyone sits in a circle. There is an element of “‘’sensory deprivation and a collective state of vulnerability”’’ in the darkness and heat. More rocks, water and medicine is are introduced through the rituelritual. If the experience becomes too overwhelming and you are not feeling good, you can inform the shaman or temazcalero and stop at any point. After the ceremony is over, you might be directed into a cool shower or a pool to help lower your body temperature. Before a temazcal ceremony, make sure to hydrate well since you’ll be sweating. Sometimes tea drinking is incorporated into these ceremonies to help with hydration. Also iIf you have a health condition which that can be triggered by exposure to high temperatures, you should avoid temazcals.
In our retreats we incorporate many ancient traditions that resonate with modern day life and its needs. You can try ice baths and temazcal in serene surroundings.
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