If you know me, you know I read online reviews of just about everything. Want me to try your favorite new restaurant? I quickly consult with Yelp and then debate whether the reviews warrant a reservation. Discovered a new face cream that’s given you baby-soft skin? Before paying a visit to my local Sephora, I make sure beauty YouTubers also consider it a “holy grail” product.
So naturally I followed the same approach when I was invited to participate in the temazcal ceremony, an ancient Mayan ritual, during a recent trip to Cabo, Mexico. I had an afternoon appointment with Anna María Quintero Palacios, a temazcal healer, at the Playa Grande Resort & Grand Spa. Since reviewers mention that the temazcal experience is unbelievably hot, I figured there was no better way to prepare than to jump into the spa’s steam room. There, I chatted with a guest about traveling and the importance of embracing new experiences because, as you know, life is way too short. That brief chat put me in the right frame of mind for the temazcal session.
It was finally time to meet Anna, who has been conducting temazcal rituals for nine years. I walked up a long, narrow pathway to the site. With an open mind (and sporting one of my favorite swimsuits), I crawled into a small, igloo-like stone structure with one other guest. It was such a tight space with no room to stand, but Anna was so welcoming that my typical claustrophobic nature didn’t rear its ugly head.
Anna began the session by sharing the temazcal’s benefits: to improve circulation, purify the respiratory system, energize muscles, clear your skin, refresh your mind, and uplift your spirit. You get the picture. According to Anna, the ceremony signifies rebirth. “The temazcal has such fame because it represents the womb of Mother Earth, giving a new opportunity to be reborn,” she said. “Sign me up,” I thought. Who wouldn’t want that?
Anna continued by touching on its benefits for pregnant women. I couldn’t help but to reflect on my own pregnancy experience, which included way too many uncomfortable days. Wish I had booked this Cabo trip back then.
Anna’s assistant then began throwing granite stones into the pit located at the center of the space. The intensity of the heat increased with every stone he dropped. Water was then poured over the stones to create steam. There was a bucket of tea as well as herbs by my mat.
Once the pit was filled with the hot rocks, the man closed the chamber’s curtain for Anna to officially begin the ceremony. It was pretty dark, which added to the experience. Anna asked that I lay flat on the mat with my eyes closed. She promptly began bathing me with water and the fresh bunch of herbs, including peppermint, chamomile, rosemary, and basil. Every so often, I could hear Anna pouring more water over the hot rocks. Of course, the sizzling sound made me jump each time. I was certain that an ash or two would hit me, but thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
The room smelled divine — so good that I plotted how I could re-create this herbal bath at home. A few times during the treatment, Anna pressed a cloth drenched in cold water onto my forehead and rubbed it behind my neck. It was a bit too cold for my liking, but somehow it still managed to feel good. The discomfort quickly transformed into relaxation. Anna continued bathing me with the herbs, and as the ceremony came to a close, she began singing “Canto a los Elementos en Temazcal.”
The song is an expression of gratitude for the temazcal ceremony’s benefits and four elements: earth, water, wind, and fire. The lyrics are:
Tierra mi cuerpo (Earth my body),
agua mi sangre (water my blood),
viento mi aliento (air my breath),
fuego mi espíritu (fire my spirit)
There couldn’t have been a better way to end the temazcal experience. I didn’t want it to be over. After the temazcal ceremony, I felt completely relaxed. It felt like my body had been reset somehow. I, surprisingly, had a clear mind and was in such good spirits. You know the feeling of being on vacation somewhere far away from home without life’s daily stresses? Do you remember the last time you enjoyed a massage and how your body felt immediately following the session? That’s the best way to describe the level of calm that came over me. It was an interesting kind of bliss.
From the aromatic herbs to the closing song that made the experience feel that much more authentic, I’d highly recommend the temazcal ceremony if Cabo is ever on your agenda. Your body will thank you!