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The Time I Wore a Shower Cap in a Temazcal (And Realized I was Missing the Whole Point)

My friends and I enjoying our ceremonial tea before entering the Temazcal. Under those robes are bathing suits. Which we had to wear among people we just met. While we bathe in our own sweat...

My friends and I enjoying our ceremonial tea before entering the Temazcal. Under those robes are bathing suits. Which we had to wear among people we just met. While we bathe in our own sweat…

In honor of today being Hair Appreciation Day, I realized it may be appropriate timing to share a story of just how ridiculous I am.

The setting for this story is Cabo San Lucas, where I visited earlier this week as a guest of Los Cabos Tourism Board. The visit was luxury themed, and we enjoyed an absolutely sinful amount of luxury — enough to make even the most grounded of individuals feel like something of a glutton.

It was fitting then that our final full day in Los Cabos began with a detox in a traditional Mexican Temazcal at Pueblo Bonito Pacífica Resort and Spa — one that, beforehand, I was totally apprehensive about.

My mother raised me with two very important life edicts that I’ve observed to this day: 1 – Avoid excessive sweating whenever possible and 2 – Don’t get your hair wet unless a blowout is immediately to follow.

To this end, my mother has trained me to always carry disposable shower caps. They assist me with all of life’s trials and tribulations. Dental visits? Water rides? Random spurts of rain showers on an otherwise sunny day? It’s always been there to save me — and, more importantly, my hair from anything disastrous that may come in our path.

I’ve always avoided saunas for this reason, despite knowing inherent health benefits. I always tell massage therapists to avoid putting oils in my hair. And facials? See above re: shower cap. I never even dreamed I’d allow myself into a sweat lodge, though. Sweat is pouring from my pores? Sitting in rivers of my own sweat, my hair saturated?

hairwetNot going to happen. Ever.

Except it did. And I must tell  you, after, I never have felt better. I think I even lost a bit of water weight. And that is an even better side effect than not messing up my hair.

But let me back up.

As you’ll see in the top photo of my friends and I pre-Temazcal, I’m holding ceremonial tea in one hand…and clutching my shower cap in the other. It seemed obvious to me this was the course I should take. If anything, capping it would effectively create a de facto hot oil treatment. I could not lose. Except for the bathing in my own sweat part…but what can a girl do. I was there for research. I had to give it a try, even though it went against everything I thought I knew and believed before.

I’m not afraid to admit I was wrong. On several levels.

Try to picture this: In a Temazcal, you sit in fetal position for approximately 90 minutes. The room is a clay hut, a round igloo shape that represents the womb of Mother Earth.  While you are submerged in earth, you are to get back in touch with it. The room is entirely black and silent except for the sound of the leader’s voice, who acts as a shaman, sharing blessings and soul searching guidance as he adds volcanic rock to the center of the room. It’s hot, and steamy. Not in a sexy way — in a “my body is sticky and gross and I can’t believe I’m doing this way” — but you stay at it.

It’s been a really rough patch this past year, we all know that — if anyone needs detoxification and spiritual rebirth, it’s me — and I’d also spent the prior three days enjoying copious amounts of chile-infused margaritas. I had a lot of “tox” to “de–” before retoxing commenced.

You enter the hut by crawling in our your knees — the symbolism is apparent. We are crawling  toward death from our moment of birth.  All of life is a duality, and for that reason, to crawl into Mother Earth’s womb is bringing the circle complete all at once, for one sweaty moment in time. We are asked to embrace sprigs of basil and leaves of aloe as we crawl inside, clockwise into a circle, left to right. It’s just like the solar system – our world, our circle, our cycle of life, brought to a microcosm yet again.

The basil is there for circulatory reasons, but as I held it in the heat, and watched it wilt, I felt the most peculiar sensation. My spiritual reawakening was killing the basil. It’s removing the light and life from it…to restore the life into mine. It was the oddest sensation as it went from smelling fragrant and delicious, fodder for a later pesto, until it was just — dead.

Also dead was my hair. For half of this spiritual journey, my hair was not a participant, locked away in its shower cap, shielded away by the elements of fire and water, earth and land, by the best protective shroud I could offer. One that protects in water rides and rain storms but not ancient Mayan sweat lodges, it seems. My hair was a soppy, wet mess, even beneath the cap. Perhaps even because of the cap — because I had not let it free – it had been trapped – and wilted, much like the basil now dead in my lap. We live inside ourselves (our our caps, maybe) and are afraid of living, of seeing what’s out there. Of experiencing things. And it leaves us a lost, soggy mess. It’s the reason that spiritual reawakening are necessary. Because so many of our spirits are lost in prisons of our own making. Disposable plastic caps.

My own fears had created the undoing of which I was so afraid.

And so I let go. I removed that cap and let my hair down — to sweat, to be free, to be as one with my body and spirit and take this journey with me. (For real: Check out the photo at left, post-sweat lodge. My hair is wet!)

Sometimes letting yourself get down in the dark clay and get a little dirty is extraordinarily freeing. It’s not for the faint of heart: Imagine being in the hottest sauna that you’ve ever experienced. Now stay in that sauna for two hours  – or more. But when it’s over, you feel like you survived something. And you and your comrades — people you may have JUST met — feel incredibly close because you survived it together. As we stumbled into the sunlight and our dirty sweaty hands grappled for bottles of water, we felt like we made it.  We’ve sweated together. We’ve survived together. We got terrible hair together.

There’s no amount of margarita-ing that can match that.

You’ll sweat buckets, you’ll feel kind of gross – but when it’s all over, you’ll feel more limber, more alive, LIGHTER, than you have in ages. And that…that…is worth everything.

Disclaimer: My trip to Mexico was paid for by Los Cabos Board of Tourism for the purpose of research. However, all opinions expressed are always my own. 



1 Comment

  1. Nancy Reid
    04.30.2014

    I was wondering how that worked out. I would love it. I always go in the steam room in the ships spa and at the gym if they have one. I love sweating the bad stuff out. Since I also do yoga and mediate from time to time I would be quite comfortable participating in the cleansing ritual. I wonder how much it costs. I’d be curious to know. Glad you got down in dirty. xox

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