Understanding the Sweat Lodge Ritual
The Lakota term for sweat lodge is inipi which means “to live again.” Inipi is a purification rite, considered necessary to help the vision quest seeker enter into a state of humility and to undergo a kind of spiritual rebirth.
The word temazcal, on the other hand, comes from the Nahuatl word temāzcalli [temaːsˈkalːi], which means “house of heat.”
Both words refer to very similar ceremonial principles with different traditional backgrounds.
Participating in “sweats” has enabled countless generations of people to deepen their spiritual connection and feel closer to the earth, to seek wisdom and to ask for advice.
It’s important to understand that each sweat lodge experience stands alone, unique from previous or future sessions. Therefore, it is best to keep your expectations in check.
Let’s start with a basic understanding of this sacred ritual.
The temazcal obeys a sacred geometry that is made by sowing and tying wood rods in a ritual way, symbolically representing the universe and its forces. When this geometry is activated during a ceremony, these forces “shelter” not only the people but all kingdoms.
The four rows of horizontal branches surrounding the cabin symbolize the four worlds: mineral, vegetable, animal and human. The last rod, intertwined on the ceiling with all of the 16 vertical branches, forms an eight-pointed star representing the planets and the universe.
In this way, the cabin symbolizes all of creation and the sacred womb of Mother Earth. In her navel are placed the grandmother’s stones, wise possessors of the genetic code of the history of our planet.
The following are some benefits of this sacred ceremony.
La Cabaña de Sudor (sweat lodge), temazcal or inipi can all refer to a powerful therapy of connection with the earth, opening the door for us to awaken our ancestral memory.
Currently it is known that the temazcal stimulates the lymphatic system, helping to eliminate toxins. When the temperature rises above 40 degrees Celsius, the skin essentially serves as a “third kidney.”
The high temperature inside a temazcal causes the body to sweat, while the humidity does not allow the sweat to evaporate. So the body’s sympathetic and parasympathetic self-regulation system responds. Circulation is accelerated and sweating increases even more, eliminating toxins to the maximum. The skin reddens, indicating that excessive heat and cold are being expelled. In this way, the harmony required for health is achieved.
During this process, the amount of sweating is greater than for any type of exercise. As a result, the body’s metabolism during and after the temazcal reaches a pace similar to running or swimming for a long period of time.
Would it be crazy to ask yourself right now how amazing this sounds?
As growing numbers of people become interested in sweat lodge experiences, safety is of utmost importance. Temazcal participation should always be under the supervision of an experienced temazcalero who is qualified to safely carry out these ceremonies.
Our next Howler article will review more benefits of the sweat lodge healing ceremony. Stay tuned.