The origin of Temazcal or “steam house” goes back to pre-Hispanic times and it consists on a ritual that involves the power of the elements: earth, fire, water and air; it is a purification practice that was used by Aztec and Maya civilizations. The Temazcal is a spiritual ceremony conducted within a hot vapor bath, and can cure practically any ailment, including physical, mental or emotional illnesses.
The ancient ritual of Temazcal, which originated in the early Mexican cultures, translated from the native Nahuatl language, “Temazcal” means “house of steam” from the words Temaz
for steam and calli for house. The structure, made from mortar, stone, clay or mud, is symbolic of Mother Nature’s womb. Through the use of steam and healing herbs, the Temazcal ceremony purifies the body and the spirit.
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.
A group of people is escorted by the guide through a personalized 90-minute ritual, which includes a series of cleansing and energy-enhancing steps. In addition to providing renewal for the body, the Temazcal is often an experience of emotional release and spiritual purification, leaving bathers at once invigorated and utterly relaxed.
In the traditional Temazcal, volcanic 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, these intervals are the four doors that are dedicated to each one of the elements. The leader or guide of the Temazcal may be referred to as a Temazcalero or Temazcalera, who is in charge of helping the participants reach a profound purifying experience.
Once inside everyone sits in a circle and the Temazcalera pours water on hot stones and the steam is released. While the people inside sweat and may rub their bodies with aloe, or swat themselves with herbs, the Temazcalera recites ancient prayers and chants, lights up herbs and Copal.
All these elements will guide the spirit, body and soul through a cleansing and rebirth experience.
Temazcal newcomers should prepare for the experience to assure that it's an enjoyable one. First, it's important to drink a lot of water on the day of the Temazcal ceremony. In any case of illness, you should comment on the situation to the Temazcal guide before participating in the ceremony.
Clothing requirements vary from Temazcal to Temazcal, depending on the group and guide, to assure that your clothing is appropriate, you may ask your guide. The usual clothing is a sarong or bathing suit.
The practice of rituals, prayers, and ceremonies accomplish the harmonizing of the energies of God, humans, and the natural world. Through its different rituals, Mayans and Aztecs connect the physical world and the spiritual.