Tulum, Mexico can hardly be characterized as a secret holiday spot. Many authorities on the topic of travel have beat us to the punch on offering best-of guides to this popular destination (click here for the New York Times' take on what to do with 36 hours in Tulum). However, there is one experience that we would regret not recommending to you. This experience is known in Mexico as a temazcal, an ancient Mayan ritual similar to what we refer to in Canada as a "sweat lodge".
The temazcal, or sweat lodge, or shvitz, is a ritual of mental and physical fortitude. Presided over by the goddess Temazcaltoci the aim is to experience a re-birth and re-connection with your inner self and cure physical and spiritual ailments. Prior to entering the temazcal we were each cleansed of our negative energies by pouring the smoke of burning copal on our bodies.
We entered the igloo-like structure and sat in a circle around a centre pit. Once we were inside, the pit was filled with glowing volcanic stones, which had previously been cooking in a fire. A herb-infused water was poured over the stones creating a thick, oxygen thinning steam. The air became so thick we could taste the rosemary and basil from the water. The door was closed and then began our temazcal, which was led by a Mayan woman. We sat in complete darkness, as to mimic the environment of the womb of Temazcaltoci and we began chanting, singing and confessing. It got very, very hot (we're not talking your favourite sport club's steam room here, but something much more intense).
We stayed inside the temazcal for four 20 minute sessions (called "doors") to a total of 80 minutes. At the end of each door, the blanket acting as a barrier between the outside and inside was opened for a moment in order to procure additional water to pour on the stones (and sometimes to pour on the participants for brief relief). As additional herb water was poured over the stones, the air got very thick, or thin, I don't remember. We all laid on the ground to breathe the oxygen rich air. We shed our egos, our walls, a few tears and at the end emerged euphoric with strength and clarity.
When we exited the temazcal and re-entered reality the sun had set and the night sky was drenched in stars. We enjoyed cold water outdoor showers, sat around the fire pit and noshed on fresh fruit and lemongrass tea. Enraptured on fulfillment, gratitude and emotion we floated back to our hut brimming with positive energy and what onlookers must have thought was public intoxication.
For more information, or to book a temazcal in Tulum, contact the lovely people at Yaan Wellness Spa. A special thank you to Yaan for providing the images used in this post and to Amanda Hamilton Interior Design for loaning us your main babe Jamie Gerus, as a co-travellor and co-blogger.