Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Temazcal

A temazcal is a traditional Mexican steam bath, similar to the Native American sweat lodge. It takes place in a circular, domed structure made of stone or mud. The size can vary; it may accommodate from two up to twenty people The structure itself is also referred to as a temazcal. Besides promoting physical well-being and healing, the temazcal is also a ritual and spiritual practice in which traditional healing methods are used to encourage reflection and introspection. While the body rids itself of toxins through sweating, the spirit is renewed through ritual. The temazcal is thought to represent the womb and people coming out of the bath are, in a symbolic sense, re-born. The word temazcal comes from the Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs), although many of the indigenous groups had this practice, including the Mayans, Toltecs, and Zapotecs. It is a combination of the words temal, meaning "bath," and calli, meaning "house." The leader or guide of the temazcal experience is usually a curandero (a healer or medicine man or woman), and may be referred to as a temazcalero. In the traditional temazcal, hot river rocks are heated on a fire outside the structure and are brought in and placed in the center of the lodge at a few different intervals (traditionally four times) while the people inside sweat and may participate in a ceremony, rub their bodies with aloe, or swat themselves with herbs. Water that may have herbs soaking in it is thrown onto the hot rocks to create fragrant steam and increase the heat. Upon exiting the temazcal, participants may be invited to bathe in cold water by taking a quick dip in a cenote, the ocean or a pool, or to take a cold shower. In other cases, they may be wrapped in towels and their body temperature is allowed to come down more gradually.


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