Temazcal 101: What To Know About The Mayan Ritual
In case you were wondering, temazcal rituals are hot as hell. Imagine crawling into a tiny stone hut that fits no more than three to four people (if that) and having molten-hot rocks splashed with water until it's basically 1,000 degrees inside, your eyes are burning under a damp cloth that's losing it's chill quickly, and you're not sure if you're going to start hallucinating or just straight up faint, and that's what this experience is like.
I loved it.
I've always wanted to try the ancient Mayan cleansing ritual, but have never had the opportunity (because when do those come around that often?). So, when I found out they did them at the Playa Grande Resort in Los Cabos when I was staying next door at the Grand Solmar, I jumped at the chance to get my zen on.
Here's what the outside of the Temazcal looks like. When I said tiny I meant tiny — there's no standing room in this thing:
After you crawl inside and lie down on your mat, the hot rocks arrive. Every time one is heaved into the circular ditch in the middle of the space, you hold your breathe a little for fear of ashes flying out and hitting your almost-naked body (we wore bathing suits), leaving burn marks. It happened to my friend, but hey it's part of the commitment.
Next, the cloth blanket over the entrance is pulled down so it's completely dark inside and that's when things really start to take a turn. Now might also be a good time to mention that I'm super claustrophobic, so clearly this is the point at which I start to freak out.
Keep calm and try to at least make it through at least 30 minutes of this, I tell myself. Most Temazcals can last two hours or more, but there's no chance in hell I'm ready for that kind of advanced breathing today.
Our Shaman Ana (love her) starts pouring the water onto the rocks creating a steamy interior while reciting something in Mayan that no one can really understand, but it seems essential for what's to come later. Sweat lodge in full effect.
After that, she begins cleansing our bodies with a special tea she started prepared at 5 a.m. (she tells me later...to "rid our pores of toxins." (Well good, because the aforementioned friend and I hit El Squid Roe on the Cabo club circuit 'til about oh, I would say the time she woke up to get ready for this ritual. I could use a good cleansing.) Then she starts scrubbing each person down with an herbal sachet of sorts, that's heavy with a mint aroma. I try to shift my mind away from feeling parched and asking for a glass of iced tea with a sprig of that mint.
The problem I have with massages (and now Temazcals) is that I can never seem to shut off my mind. Instead of zoning out and letting the experience take over, I have a lot of questions. Like, how is she even moving around in here and can she see?? If she trips over something in the dark, how do we escape this place? Is my heart supposed to be racing this fast?
But all of these thoughts are interrupted once I feel aloe sliding over my hot sticky skin. Seriously, how does she get around to each person so quickly? This feels great, though. Considering the wet cloth is now 100 percent dry, I was in need of something cold right about now. SO.HOT.IN.HERE.
Not only is the Temazcal supposed to cleanse your mind, body, and spirit, but it's also supposed to be extra beneficial to your skin. Hence, another reason why I came. Leave with less baggage *and* a more glowy visage? Yes, please. "You leave feeling just as good outside, as you do inside, because you are now healthy. Good skin, good eyes, good body," says Ana in our post-Temazcal 1:1. (When I wonder if I can fly her home with me to be my personal life coach.)
Drumming starts to commence and I'm slowly forgetting what my fears were going into this. Maybe I'm also already cured of claustrophobia and still being scared of the dark at age 33? There's something about live music to really make you want to embrace everything that's happening and just give into it. I'm sure that's what everyone said about making bad decisions at Woodstock back in the day as well.
Now that I'm 100 percent in the zone, our Shaman starts to signal that we are wrapping things up. Maybe I should have agreed to the two-hour session? Still drumming, she tells us to let all of our emotions, bad energy, heaviness, and fears out with the steam, smoke, music, and vapors once the doorway is uncovered. Wait, I still need to make a quick mental list of what those are...bad ex/bad relationship — he definitely needs to go out with the fumes — staying in a job I was extremely unhappy at for almost two years — adios to that life — not investing in certain friendships enough — I'm basically ready to walk out of here with some newfound #goals and really soft skin.
The last bong on the drum strikes down as the blanket is lifted and we can actually see the light of day again, which I can only compare to that scene in The Lion King when Rafiki holds Simba up to the sky — same level of impact, really. Fully obsessed with Temazcals and now fully ready to chug three tall glasses of hibiscus tea.
Here's what the hut looks like afterwards with soaking wet mats and wilted herbs everywhere:
And here's me — more of a wet sweaty mess and not at all resembling the model who is giving off surprisingly matte vibes (despite being bathed in steam) in the photo at the top of this personal essay:
Obviously we couldn't leave before getting a group photo with our Shaman Ana, aka new best friend:
Visit http://www.playagranderesort.com/ to book a Temazcal treatment if you happen to be in the Cabo San Lucas area — hands down one of the best things I've ever done in Mexico. (Or in life.)
Images: Kelli Acciardo