Four years ago I decided to stop being scared of doing adventures stuff. Well, it wasn’t like I was terrified or anything, just that I never thought about doing them. I had my TIVO and I was happy. But when I decided that life was feeling a bit too short and I wanted to get out there more, I took the bull by the horns and decided to be a little more adventurous.
Since then I’ve constantly been saying yes to any adventure that’s been presented to me. I got my first grown-up bike, I started skiing again, I’ve starting hiking more, rock climbing, even scary waterslides and roller coasters.
In all that time, there’s been two times I was actually scared and unsure if I could complete the task at hand. The first was caving in Canmore, which was a fantastic experience, but it definitely pushed me past my normal capabilities, or at least what I thought they were. And the second was during my recent trip to Los Cabos, where I tried the temazcal experience at Hacienda Encantada. Translated from the native Nahuatl language, “Temazcal” means “house of steam” from the words Temaz for steam and calli for home. I think most of us know it as a steam lodge.
For hundreds of years, the temazcal has been used to treat a variety of illnesses including bronchitis, prostate issues, rheumatoid arthritis, liver problems, circulatory problems and more. It also helps your body to release toxins through sweating. And trust me, after a week of margaritas in Los Cabos, your body could use a little cleansing.
I think what I was nervous about was the unknown. I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into, both figuratively and literally. We asked someone about it before we went and he said, “The first five minutes feels like you’re going to die, but then it’s amazing.” Interesting. Talk about a range of emotions. It’s not that I was scared of the experience, I mean it takes place at a very well-respected resort and spa, obviously I knew it would be safe. But I honestly didn’t anticipate how challenging, and eventually rewarding, the experience would be.
The “lodge” is sort of like a concrete igloo. The centre of the dome is filled with hot volcanic rock, and then a variety of medicinal herbs and liquids are pour over the rocks, creating a thick steam that bring your body temperatures to 40 degrees.
Once the experience started, me and the other participants were greeted by a shaman who would be with us the whole time. The warmth of the structure was something that you immediately noticed, which was noteworthy since it was already 28 degrees outside. Once the lava rocks were brought in, and the doors closed, I closed my eyes and went a long for the ride.
I’m not going to say it was easy. I think I was sort of expecting something along the lines of a steam room, but this experience was so much more than that. It was hotter, steamier (and not in a sexy way), and it tested by bounds of being comfortable in smaller spaces. The steam was thick and I immediately couldn’t see anyone else in the lodge, but I could hear them. That’s because as the shaman will tell you, deep breaths are the key to getting the most out of the experience, and sometimes they feel necessary. The good thing about not being able to see anyone, is that you let your inhibitions go. Our lodge quickly filled with the sounds of deep breaths, sounds like would seem greatly exaggerated in any other situation, but relaxing in this one.
There were moments of pure zen. Pure relaxation. It’s incredible to have your body feel completely warm, especially if you live in Canada like I do. But there were moments of slight panic. I had never experienced anything like that, and after three decades of living, that doesn’t happen often. Your body’s mind is initially telling you to leave, I think it senses danger and uncertainty. But you just have to keep telling yourself there is no danger, there is nothing to be scared off. To relax, keep your feet planted and enjoy the experience. I mean, people have been doing this since the 15th century, it’s gotta be worth it.
At one point I was just crying for no reason. I don’t know if I was happy or sad, I was just crying. Also odd was my incredible urge to get naked, but I didn’t. I’m guessing the strangers around me wouldn’t have liked that much.
The whole experience was ninety minutes, but I think that includes the set up and the snacks and drinks afterwards. But honestly, I have no idea how long we were in the temazcal for. It could have been five minutes or it could have been the whole ninety minutes, I honestly have no idea.
There was about three different times that I wanted to leave. I just thought I couldn’t do it. And I even thought about writing the piece that I’m writing now, and writing about disappointed I was that I couldn’t complete the temazcal experience. But I stuck with it. Afterwards, we talked to the other people in the lodge with us and about half fought the same urge to leave that I did. But ultimately, we were all glad we stayed. It was truly something none of us had experienced before. I think what I enjoyed most about the temazcal experience was that it was the first time in a long time when I was forced to be alone with my thoughts. No cell phones, no cameras, no really talking to anyone, just me and my thoughts, which is a really good thing. Actually that alone was worth the slight fear and anxiety I felt.
What was also really interesting was that at the end of the day, we all agreed that we would do it again. Because even though it was a challenging, we survived and faced our fears. All while cleaning our minds and our bodies. In terms of accomplishments, challenges don’t get much better than that!