Hot times in a Mexican temazcal
Mexico is known for swaying palm trees and stunning beaches that make it popular with honeymooners, spring breakers, and sun bathers. However, more culturally focused trips are becoming common as travelers seek to explore Mayan history and archeological sites.
One such indigenous experience is a temazcal, a dome shaped outdoor clay sauna. During my last trip to Mexico, I had the opportunity to partake in this sort of spiritual sweat lodge. It was on the resort's spa menu as a way of purifying your pores as well as your mind. I thought it would be one of those healthy good-for-you things like relaxing in a steam bath. However, I learned it is a much more intense experience that should be approached with a healthy dose of caution.
Exiting the comfort of a luxury resort, I followed a dirt pathway through the woods along with the other temazcal participants. We prepared for the treatment, standing outside the clay dome while ceremoniously covering ourselves in mud. I started to break a sweat in the hot weather and stared at the windowless hut thinking this might be a bad idea. Looking around at the other mud-covered travelers, it seemed like an episode of the TV series, Survivor.
While I survived, I didn't outlast. After 20 minutes in the temazcal, sweating out every ounce of fluid in my body, I left the experience before the cleansing ceremony had ended. It is considered bad etiquette to interrupt the process, but my pounding heart and shortness of breath were sending me a clear signal to leave. Thankfully a fellow travel blogger and friend assisted with my exit. Once outside, I sat near a cenote, sipped some tea, cooled off and reflected on how it could have been a better experience.
Here is what I came up with:
Do your research. This may seem like common sense, but don't take anything for granted. If there is something on a spa menu that doesn't look familiar, whether it's an ingredient in a massage oil or a type of treatment, look it up before you travel and know what you're getting into.
Safety First. Before you begin, talk with your treatment facilitator and make sure there is open communication about your comfort and well being. If at any time you are uncomfortable or in pain, speak up immediately.
For the temazcal specifically, prepare by drinking plenty of water and practice yoga and deep breathing. But if it still ends up being too hot to handle, don't be afraid to ask to leave.