Mexico is a country rich in history and culture. And for those looking for a deeper and more authentic Mexican experience during their Mexican family vacation, a temazcal ceremony is not to be missed. The many amazing temazcal benefits can make your trip to Mexico more meaningful and memorable.
This cleansing ceremony dates back to pre-Columbian times, and is still practiced by many people in Mexico. But what exactly is a temazcal ritual, and what are the temazcal benefits for travelers? Read on to find out.
A temazcal ceremony is a traditional Mexican sweat lodge ceremony led by a shaman or temazcalero. Some might call it a Mayan sauna, although this would be an oversimplification of this intensely spiritual ceremony.
A temazcal experience is often conducted in the evening. But it can take place any time of day, and any time of the year. Most of these ceremonies are conducted in Spanish and Nahuatl, but you may encounter a temazcal in English.
While it’s hard to pinpoint one specific reason why you would want to participate in a temazcal Mexico experience, the health, spiritual, and cultural temazcal benefits truly do offer travelers a unique opportunity to experience Mexico from a different perspective. Taking part in this steam bath ritual offers a glimpse into another side of Mexican culture - apart from the beaches, resorts, and tourist attractions.
It's a deeply personal experience that will leave a lasting impression on your travel memories.
Want to learn more about the rich culture of Mexico? Read our Mexican culture posts.
While the history of the temazcal is often associated with the Mayans (and is still practiced by Mayans today), the Aztecs also practiced temazcal ceremonies. In fact, the word temazcal is thought to come from the Nahuatl word, temazcalli, which means "the house of heat." Nahuatl is the language spoken by indigenous people of Mexico.
Temazcal ceremonies were historically a ritual to cleanse warriors before and after battle, offering plenty of spiritual temazcal benefits to the warriors. This is similar to the rituals surrounding sweat lodges of other indigenous cultures.
But there were also feminine elements to the ritual. The physical structure of a temazcal is typically a dome to represent the mother's womb. And there are historical connections to the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican goddess Tonantzin, who represents the earth mother.
These traditions from the Mayans and Aztecs continue on today, practiced by contemporary Mayans and Aztecs.
To fully maximize the temazcal benefits of your experience, it’s important to know what’s going to happen during a traditional temazcal ceremony. If you’re new to the Mexican temazcal experience, here are a few things to expect.
During the ceremony, participants sit inside a darkened and enclosed circular room. In the center of the room is a pit of hot volcanic rocks, called abuelas, or grandmother stones. The temazcal ceremony lasts for about two hours. It is divided into four parts, called puertas (doors). At the beginning of each puerta, more stones are added to the center, so that each puerta becomes progressively hotter.
The shaman, which can be either a man or a woman, serves as guide through the ceremony. A tea of herbs and plants is poured over the stones by the shaman to create steam. He or she leads participants through a series of songs, chants, and meditation, using drums and other percussion instruments.
The temazcal ceremony ends with participants cleansing themselves in cold water, almost like a Mayan bath to close out the ceremony.
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If this is your first time doing a Mexican temazcal, take some time to prepare yourself, to ensure you get the best temazcal benefits from your experience. It’s important to drink plenty of water ahead of time. The steam and heat will make you sweat, so make sure you’re hydrated to avoid passing out from heat exhaustion.
Come in your bathing suit and bring a towel. And also come with an open mind. This is a unique experience, and may also be uncomfortable at times. Keep the temazcal benefits in mind as you work through the discomforts of the experience.
At the same time, it’s important to understand and acknowledge your limits. For example, if you are uncomfortable in small and enclosed spaces, this might not be the right experience for you. Or, if you experience mild depression, the emotional intensity of a temazcal may bring up past traumas.
If the experience is too hard or difficult in any way, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, know that it’s okay to stop. Don’t feel pressure to continue. Additionally, make sure that your shaman is experienced, properly trained, and supportive of your personal journey. This will ensure that your experience is a safe one.
While adults typically take part in temazcal ceremonies, these types of experiences are certainly open for kids as well. In fact, some places offer special temazcal ceremonies that are shortened experiences for kids.
You may be able to book a private temazcal ceremony for you and your kids. Just be sure to tell the shaman ahead of time so that he or she can prepare.
One of the temazcal benefits for kids is that it gives them an opportunity to experience something new. And it encourages meditation and spiritual connection within themselves.
If you’re planning to do a Mexican temazcal experience with your child, make sure they are mature enough to handle uncomfortable situations. Also, be sure to listen to their needs throughout the experience. If they express discomfort or difficulty in any part of the process, be sure to stop.
Temazcal ceremonies are offered all throughout Mexico. You can use tour and experience platforms to find a temazcal. Or you might be able to find a temazcal spa, or a place that specializes in temazcal.
Take a look at these temazcal offerings to book for your next trip to Mexico.
For a temazcal Playa del Carmen experience, book one of these Mayan temazcal ceremonies:
If you’re looking for Cancun activities, these temazcal ceremony Cancun experiences are worth booking:
For those visiting Acapulco, this tour, offering a temazcal experience along with a market visit is a good one to book:
And if you’re going to Oaxaca, consider booking this temazcal experience, located in San Sebastián Teitipac.
There are plenty of temazcal benefits for travelers. A temazcal ceremony helps detoxify the body and purify the mind. It also offers people an opportunity to do some inner work and connect with others. Temazcal ceremonies also offer travelers a chance to understand Mexican culture on a much deeper level.
In terms of physical benefits, one of the most basic temazcal benefits is detoxification of the body. Because of the heat from the thermal therapy, this experience cleanses the body of toxins and impurities through sweat. Respiratory cleansing and increase in blood circulation are also said to be additional temazcal benefits.
Another set of temazcal benefits involves purification of the mind. Although varying slightly depending on the shaman, a temazcal Mexico experience always involves some sort of singing and chanting. The singing and chanting involved in a temazcal provides a vehicle for meditation and connection with spiritual elements.
A temazcal Mexico ceremony is not an easy experience. The heat of the stones, the darkness of the space, and the length of the ceremony makes this experience an endurance challenge. In fact, an average temazcal temperature can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). However, with the challenges come many temazcal benefits.
The difficulty of a temazcal experience provides an opportunity for personal growth. The challenge of the heat can help you overcome other challenges in your life. And being in the darkness opens the metaphorical door to address latent or dormant issues in your life.
Many of the chants and songs in the temazcal revolve around the four elements: earth, fire, water, and wind. Focusing your attention on these four elements helps you ground yourself and reaffirm your connection to the earth.
Another aspect of temazcal benefits is a deeper connection to yourself and to others. There’s a sharing component to every temazcal ceremony, as participants take turns sharing their intentions. This gives you a chance to connect with your fellow temazcal participants.
By far, one of the most unexpected temazcal benefits involves a deeper connection to Mexican culture. Many Mexicans participate in a temazcal ceremony on a regular basis. Some do the ceremony weekly.
Temazcal gives you more insight into Mexican culture, as well as the richness of pre-Columbian traditions. This in turn helps you become a more culturally respectful traveler to Mexico.
Learn more about the different regions of Mexico, and things you can do there.
The temazcal benefits that come from this ancient ceremony extend far beyond the experience itself. The insights gained from a temazcal Mexico experience can help you in your daily life.
Additionally, this experience can help you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Mexican culture. There is so much more to Mexico than tacos, beaches, and ancient ruins. Mexican culture is rich with ancient traditions that continue even today.
Have you had a temazcal Mexico experience during your travels? Drop a comment on our Facebook page with your favorite temazcal benefits.
Read more about the many unique experiences in Mexico you can have with your family here: