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Temazcalli Rejuvenation

Published Jan 12, 2005 - (Updated Jul 17, 2012)

Earth, water, fire and air are vital to the method of Temazcalli that has been practiced in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times. Central to the region of Oaxaca, this timeless approach to spirituality and cleanliness is reflected in the sauna of Finland, the Hamam of the Persians, the sweat lodge of the Southwest Indians and the Turkish steam bath.

Earth is the raw material of our being, our flesh and bones. Having our “feet on the ground” expresses stability, security. Water is the fluid that nourishes and cleanses us, causes things to grow. First life came from water in many aboriginal cultures, among them the Sami. Emotions are water based; they ebb and flow, ruled by the moon. Fire is the element of change, of creation, of the spark that gives us our singularity, our spirituality. Ruled by the sun, many cultures revered fire as divine. Air is the intellect, thought. In its angry form, it is a wind that causes damage. In its loving form, it is a breeze that refreshes. As the intellect, it represents movement unseen.

In the Temazcalli method, wet volcanic clay is applied to the entire body. As the clay dries, taking up to an hour or more, you have your first opportunity to rest and allow your energy to calm down. It’s common to be nervous the first time. Yadira at Piedra Viva Spa of Harmony notes, “When people first come in, their eyes are darting around, their energy is all over the place.” As you’re drying, the shaman, or guide, brings out a beautiful shell to invoke the four directions. It’s a haunting call, mournful. Next, water is used to wash the body, slowly, carefully, allowing the energy to begin to move again. Cold water rejuvenates.


Tierra, agua, fuego y aire son vitales para el método de Temazcalli que se lleva practicando en México desde tiempos prehispanicos. Central a la región de Oaxaca, esta propuesta atemporal de espiritualidad y limpieza se ve reflejada en el sauna de Finlandia, el Hamam de los Persas, el baño turco de vapor y las cabañas de sudar de los Indios del suroeste americano.

La tierra es la materia prima de nuestro ser, nuestra carne y huesos. Tener nuestros “pies en la tierra” expresa estabilidad, seguridad. El agua es el liquido que nos nutre y nos limpia, causa que las cosas crezcan. La primera vida viene del agua para muchas culturas aborigines, entre ellos los Sami. Las emociones se basan en el agua; aumentan y disminuyen regidas por la luna. El fuego es el elemento del cambio, de la creación, de la chispa que nos da nuestra singularidad, nuestra espiritualidad. Regidas por el sol, muchas culturas veneraban al fuego como sagrado. El aire es el intelecto, el pensamiento. En su forma alebrestada, es un viento que causa daño. En su forma amable, es una brisa que refresca. Como el intelecto, representa el movimiento que no se ve.

En el método Temazcalli, barro volcánico mojado se aplica al cuerpo entero. Conforme se seca el barro, proceso que lleva una hora o más, tendrás tu primera oportunidad para descansar y permitir que tu energía se calme. Es común estar nervioso la primera vez. Yadira, del Spa de Armonía Piedra Viva dice, “ cuando la gente acaba de llegar, sus ojos se mueven de un lugar a otro y su energía salta por todos lados.”

Conforme te secas, el chamán o guía saca un hermoso caracol para invocar a los cuatro puntos cardinales. Es un llamado que embruja. Después, se utiliza agua para lavar el cuerpo, lenta, cuidadosamente, permitiendo que la energía comience a moverse una vez mas. El agua fría rejuvenece.

Now thoroughly awake, you are led to the lodge, a round structure built of clay and sticks, a low doorway cut into it and a fire pit in the center. The lodge represents the womb of Mother Earth, the fire represents the male energy. The stones in the fire pit, volcanic, ragged, dark stones, have been heated to a red glow. You are invited to sit on the floor on mats while the shaman invokes the spirits. Water is sprinkled on the stones, steam fills the lodge and you smell the essence of herbs and plants. This original form of aromatherapy cleanses your sinuses and you begin to sweat. You may choose to sit cross-legged, recline, or even lie down.

There are four doors, each time the guide lifting the blanket over the entrance to bring in more stones for the next round. When each of the four doors has been visited, you are allowed to lie down on your stomach, outside again, to connect with Mother Earth. You may fall asleep, but you certainly will relax. You will be massaged and offered a cup of herbal tea. You will stand again, renewed, alive, invigorated and ready to face the world. In Vallarta, two facilities provide the opportunity to experience this wonderful way to rediscover yourself.

Piedra Viva Spa of Harmony in the Hacienda Hotel & Spa is hidden away in a corner past the swimming pool. Upon entering, the first impression is Asian, perhaps Japanese, a quiet retreat within the arms of the city. There is the sound of trickling water, ferns grow out of artfully placed clay vessels, the smell of essential oils fills the air. It is like entering a sanctuary. In addition to the Temazcalli, it is a full-service spa with massages, sea-salt rubs and Reiki.

The grounds of Terra Noble, on the hill above the city, were designed within the natural context of the terrain. Here Jorge Rubio, along with Suzy Odom, has created a hideaway with a view. Wandering among the spacious grounds, you can get lost in the details that are on all sides. Statuary, banana trees, “birds nests” hanging from a tree, candles, the aura is magical. Walking through the trees down a winding pathway, the Temazcál is hidden on a slope, surrounded by vegetation. Even the massage rooms have irregular windows for those who wish to gaze into the trees around them.

Don’t miss these opportunities to discover a method of rejuvenation that has been practiced for centuries here in Mexico.

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