July 11, 2011

Ancient Medicinal Steam Bath

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Written by: Nydia O
Temazcal Mision Del Sol - Cuernavaca, Mexico

While vacationing in the City of Guanajuato, Mexico with some friends we decided to make a reservation at a local SPA for a private Temazcal. My introduction to a Temazcal was while visiting Mision del Sol Resort and SPA in Cuernavaca; I never forgot this singular experience.  The Temazcal is a round beehive like structure whose interior reminds me of a tepee, where a healer conducts an ancient medicinal ritual using steam and the vapors of aromatic herbs. Temazcal or Temazcalli is a Nahuatl word meaning bath-house. The interest on the tradition of the Temazcal has resurfaced in recent years and is promoted through much of Mexico’s eco- tourism advertisement pieces.

My second experience in Guanajuato was a bit different. When booking, we assumed the Temazcal was situated inside the SPA conveniently located in downtown Guanajuato, close to our hotel, so when we were informed that a SPA representative would meet us at the hotel, although intrigued, we agreed.   Turned out that the Temazcal was located very near our hotel but about 300 steps up a hill! In Guanajuato, people build their homes up since it is surrounded by hills. Needless to say, the recurring question was; how much longer before we get there? Followed by the very typical Mexican response “It’s right there, we’re almost there”. Compared to the luxury of Mision del Sol SPA and Resort, this Temazcal was definitely a return to the indigenous ways.

After the exhausting climb, I WAS ready for some healing. We got there, sat around and changed into our bathing suits, (in the old days, people would not wear any clothing to allow for proper detoxification and healing).  We noticed a fireplace heating volcanic rocks which the healer uses to control the temperature with vapors from a variety of herbal teas especially eucalyptus. As bathers go into the Temazcal we are “cleansed” through the aroma of incense and eucalyptus branches to enhance the healing elements of this practice known to be very beneficial for improving circulation,  skin related problems, rheumatism, arthritis, gout and other chronic diseases. Once inside, bathers sit in low benches covered with straw mats known as “petates” in meditating position. Thankfully, we were given clay jugs with cold water to use in case the heat became overwhelming, it was at times, but we endured to the end.

Two hours later, relaxing and drinking a herbal tea outside of the Temazcal, we suddenly hear the soft thunder of an approaching storm; rain was coming just like every summer afternoon in colonial Mexico. It was time to head back down hundreds of steps leading back to civilization for a delicious siesta lulled by thunder and the pouring rain.

If you would like to learn more about the Temazcal I highly recommend reading the following article written by Dr. Horacio Rojas Alba for the Ultimate Oaxaca Travel Site through this link


I  would also like to recommend Mision del Sol SPA and Resort in Cuernavaca, Mexico (Main Photo)….it is simply amazing! Visit


My husband Lupe Gonzales took this photograph of the Temazcal in Guanajuato, inside, you see a German Sheppard, the healer’s pet, who was looking for shelter from the upcoming storm.

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About the Author

Nydia O
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" my life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts, nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most importantly, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .


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