Temazcal is a place where the elements, air, fire, water and earth intersect. Physically it is a small hut with a pit in the middle where rocks (typically volcanic) are burned along with medicinal herbs. The participants are encouraged to breath deeply in the steam produced, occasionally chanting sounds led by a Shaman guide.
I did Temazcal with my New Year New You Yoga Retreat Group in Tulum. The ceremony opened by standing in a circle and conjuring the energies of the four directions each of which corresponds to one of the elements. After, we entered the small hut. Up to this point I was fine. I felt open and present under the night sky and close to my recently deceased grandfather who came to my mind as the Shaman referenced “Grandfather Wind”.
Inside the Temazcal I sat crossed legged and straight spined in back, waiting for what was to come. We were asked to share an intention or prayer for the ceremony which I did, choosing something deeply personal and setting the stage for an intimate experience. Then, without warning, the door dropped shut and the sound of a gong reverberated. I couldn’t breath. The Shaman asked us to imagine the safety and warmth of the womb, but all I could think of was the claustrophobia of the casket I’d end up in if I hyperventilated. I crawled out not sure the Temazcal was for me.
Outside I considered returning to the hotel but knew I’d regret missing out on an important experience. I looked for an opportunity to return. That came fairly quickly, when between elements, the Shaman opened the cave door. I sat back down (this time close to the exit) ready to try again. I felt immediately more safe, knowing there would be breaks in intensity and reclaimed my spot in back.
What happened next can only be described as like what one experiences when hallucinating. Images so vivid I became them entered my sphere. I literally saw though my third eye, testing this often by making sure my physical eyes were actually closed. I was assured of my purpose, my ability to fulfill that purpose, and my connection to the Universe. I am forever changed.
I came out of Temazcal reborn and with the feeling of exiting a holy bath. My eyes were brighter which I photographed. It reminded me of the way my students look once a year after our New Years Eve Candle Lit Yoga and Meditation which also involves a lot of sweat and a fire ritual, though never before directly conjured the four elements. This year it will. I now know how I am able to transform others and how to do it more deeply and authentically and we will enter that Temazcal space this December 31st. I invite you to join holy bath and emerge in 2016 reborn.