By Maureen Santucci
I don’t particularly like being hot. I’m not one for steam rooms or saunas. I do like Jacuzzis but only because there is the cooler air surrounding them to keep me from overheating too badly. Despite this, I’d always been intrigued by sweat lodges, primarily because of the traditional spiritual aspect to them. I’d never gotten around to trying one in California, despite a number of opportunities. I waited instead until I moved myself to Peru and happened to be at the right place at the right time in the Sacred Valley.
The temescal, or sweat lodge, can be various shapes, sizes and constructions. How hot it will get is going to depend on the size of it. If you aren’t sure how you are going to feel, it can be nice if the first time you are in a larger one so that you can get farther away from the fire. It’s also not a bad idea to stay closer to the door so you can get out easily if you need to and also have a bit cooler air.
The one I went to (which is unfortunately in the process of being sold right now) was quite large. The floor was covered in Eucalyptus leaves for the ceremony which made the place smell great and also helped with respiration. Since it was my first one and I was nervous about my ability to stand it, I stayed close to the outer wall and cooler air.
The heat came from rocks that had been heated outside in a fire… these need to be prepared ahead of time as it takes some time for them to get to the necessary temperature. Once situated in a pit in the middle of the room, water can be poured over them to create some steam. In the temescal I attended, hotter rocks were brought in twice more during the session, each time raising the heat in the room.
Although I didn’t expect to make it until the end, I did. People sang songs, recited poetry, meditated. Everyone responded as their spirit moved them to over the several hours we were in there. Enduring something that is so strenuous on the body is an ideal way to get the mind to release its stress, which can result in great mental clarity.
Many of those who attended the sweat lodge stayed together for the night in a type of temple, not wanting to let go of the feeling of community that you get from participating in something like this together. For me, I was anxious to leave and be alone with my thoughts to see where they would take me. One of the beauties of these types of events, or should be, is the respect for each person to do what they need to do to feel complete.
If you would like to experience a sweat lodge in the Sacred Valley, contact Paz y Luz or El Molle in Pisac or Tribu Holistica in Urubamba or book in advanced with a specialist in Peru travel packages and trips to Peru.