Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2013

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Page 33 of 51

IN THE ANCIENT SWEAT LODGE RITUAL, INTENSE HEAT IS A PATH TO TRANSFORMATION S ince its January opening, spa-goers have been sweating in style inside infrared sleeping bags at Larchmont's Shape House—an "urban sweat lodge" geared to the luxury detox crowd. But for those interested in a transformative experience more rooted in spirituality—one you won't see on Daily Candy any time soon— consider trying a traditional sweat lodge (or temazcal, as it's known in Mexico). hough the cleansing ritual varies somewhat across cultures, sweat lodges typically take place inside a small hut heated by hot rocks and involve a prayer ceremony led by a shaman or other spiritual leader. And they're happening right here in Los Angeles, though oten under-the-radar and shared mostly by word of mouth. Currently, regular sweat lodge gatherings can be found in housand Oaks, Encino, Pasadena, and Malibu (at the Wright Land). LA-based yoga teacher Erin Kirk still vividly remembers her irst sweat lodge experience in Ojai 14 years ago: "It was a very 34 wholelifetimesmagazine.com ancient, authentic Native American-run sweat lodge," she recalls. "I remember putting dirt up my nose to keep my nostrils from burning. We were packed in there— bodies on top of bodies, singing and chanting. I was so surprised with the prayers that came out of me; it's amazing what comes up when you're confronted with that heat." What to Expect he symbolism behind the sweat lodge is the idea of rebirth. "he metaphor is about crawling back into the womb of Mother Earth to be reborn," explains Patrick Harbula, a spiritual teacher who hosts sweat lodges ovnce a month at his private property in housand Oaks. "When you come out, you see the world in a whole new light." hat was the case for Kirk—her experience made so deep an impact that she has been ofering monthly sweat lodges in Pasadena for the last eight years. Inluenced by the Native American tradition, both she and Harbula follow a somewhat similar structure for their ceremonies. Each leads the group in four rounds of prayer: the irst for self, the second for others, the third identifying special gits one can give to the world, and the fourth a guided meditation. Between rounds, more heated rocks are brought in, creating a progressively hotter environment. "I like to feel spirituality in my physical body—the heat that happens in the sweat lodge, sitting right on Mother Earth," explains Harbula. "I'm a minister, but I'd much rather be in a sweat lodge than in a church. At a Sunday service you might get a little bored or tired, but that could never happen in a sweat lodge. he heat requires you to be completely focused." Chanting, singing, and/or drumming are other common elements of the sweat lodge ritual, which typically takes anywhere from one to three hours. A unique aspect of Kirk's rituals is, "We do a primal scream, which turns into loud screaming and howling at the moon. A sound bath ends up happening and it just might be the most powerful part of the sweat lodge." he actual setup for most sweat lodges is simple. An outdoor tent-like structure is created from bent saplings or branches lashed together, then covered with wool blankets (historically it was animal hides) to seal in the heat. here may be a simple nondenominational altar adjacent to the ire pit that heats the rocks, which are gradually brought inside the lodge by the "irekeeper." Ater the ceremony starts, water, sometimes infused with healing herbs such as rosemary, is intermittently poured over the rocks for hydration and to intensify the heat. If it's a co-ed lodge, traditionally women will be sit- Photo: courtesy of CentraCare Health by Jen Jones Donatelli

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