Tales of my first sweat lodge (Temazcal)
I remember thinking, oh...I'll be perfectly fine, I'm a seasoned hot yoga practioner, I've got this. My goodness was I ever wrong. In all fairness, I was participating in a liver cleanse simultaneously.
Let me just give a brief run down about what exactly a sweat lodge is...and how it works. The short of it...It's an earthen structure that sits low to the ground (pictured above). You sit inside the structure, around the edges and in the middle are scalding hot stones. Once the door is closed it's steam time. This practice of sweating and purification has been used for centuries by native american and indigenious cultures. It's no joke. The leader (Shaman) keeps your mind preoccupied with songs, stories and chanting. Every now and again they open the door, yes..hot air escapes and you get a bit of reprive. But honestly, it's just to bring more hot stones into the lodge.
I participated in my first sweat lodge on a winter night in the Sacred Valley. I joined a European group of travelers, I didn't know any of them, It didn't matter. They were naked, I wore underwear. They were older, I was younger. Let's say, for what felt like the first 25-30 minutes I felt on top of the world, I felt like I had a handle on this; I felt good. But, It could have been 10 minutes or 1 hour. I had no idea. Time stands still inside a sweat lodge, time doesn't matter. All that mattered were those bright red scalding rocks near my feet. That was all. They determined how I felt.
Let me just say, throughout the years, I've dabbled in all different styles of yoga, been a distance runner & swimmer, participated in vipassana meditation and gone through vigerous trainings. Those stones that I speak about above took me right back to the beginning, as if none of those mental practices had ever held space in my life. So, I'm sure you can guess...I had a bit of a freak attack towards the end. I gave up and it was the best damn decision ever.
I remember a drum beating, stories being told about coming down off the ledge. What I remember most was the kind spirits around me, I was a newbie. They assured me with looks or touches that everything was going to be okay. It was towards the end, I can only assume, that I started to get anxiety. It wasn't the heat, or the songs, it was the INTENSE urge to purge. Herein lies the issue; I was in the middle of a group of ten, meaning the furthest from the door, of course. I wasn't sure how this purge was going to happen. Was I going to shit or vomit? And who was I going to do it on?
I held out as long as I possibly could before I had to bolt out of the lodge. Like I said before, it was a good idea. I made my way as fast as I could across the bodies lining the sides of the lodge and flug myself outside. I crawled, not very far before lying on the grass in exhaustion. In the end I didn't purge... but I did calm down. As I slowed down, I started to focus. I was on my back, spread eagle, gazing up at millions of stars. It was a cold, cold winter night and I was in heaven.
That my friends, was my first sweat lodge experience. Was I perfect? No. Was IT perfect? Absolutely.