Journeying the sweat lodge

The sweat lodge or temazcal/temaskalli is a ceremony or ritual that is part of many Native American as well as Latin American traditions. In the north, the indigenous Samii people had/have similar healing and self care rituals, using steams/saunas together with herbal medicines. Traditional medicine men and women have past on this tradition about being in contact with nature, the plants, and the four elements through this purifying ceremony. The healing work aims at working therapeutically on the physical body, spiritually purify, and to meet/heal/cleanse fears and negative aspects of the mind.


Some of the therapeutic uses of the sweat lodge/temascal are:

to eliminate toxins through the sweat of the skin

to improve the texture and color of the skin

to de-intoxicate body and mind

to increase vitality

weight loss

improve fertility

treatment with plants’ healing properties (herbal medicine) and the water steam

thermotherapy; viruses and bacteria don’t survive in the heat, the heat also stimulates the endocrine glands and remove impurities in the circulation.


(Read more in La Pipa de obsidian Danza de Luna, Anita Carmona Itzpapalotl.)

Sweat lodges can be built in various ways depending on the surrounding environment and tradition. It is, however, always the same with water poured on hot stones to create the healing water steam. According to the Mexica tradition, and others I have been fortunate to come into contact with, it is also important that the participants are co-creators when building and preparing the sweat lodge ceremony, under the lead of a temascalera/abuela/shaman.

Local medicinal plants are used in the ceremony. Usually there would be some aromatics, some calmatives, or maybe some with properties to heal infections and inflammations. The plants may for instance be hung in the roof of the sweat, used as herbal tea drunk before and/or after ceremony, or leaves can be spread out on the floor where they come into contact with the open and receptive skin and, thus, work healing. Herbs are also put directly on the hot stones, which allows for their healing properties to come inside the body through respiration.



The temascal has its navel in the middle and this is where we put the rocks or hot stones.  These rocks are our ancestors, coming to share their wisdom to us through the ceremony of the sweat. The stone people have been on earth since creation and carry deep knowledge. It is with great respect that we welcome and listen to them. Inside the temascal, we greet the ancestors with herbs such as copal, cedar or sage and prayers. The sweat lodge is covered in leaves and blankets and when everyone (including the stones) are inside the door is closed. Inside is humid and dark, representing the womb of the Mother as well as the darkness of ignorance we ought to overcome to heal. We enter the womb of Mother Earth to remember where we once came from, to remove the ignorance and, thus, to remember who we truly are. It is a ceremony that is profound, healing and nourishing. 

We share the ceremony in darkness and individual introspection, guided by the temascalera/shaman/medicine person. We conduct and create the ceremony together but as in all spiritual work/ceremonies it is crucial to understand the responsibility of the individual. You are in your journey as much as we are in one journey together- just as life itself and in both you are responsible for your own wellbeing. The temascal gets dark and hot and usually cramped. To honor and listen to the body is key to a good experience. 

Vestido de temascal 15 mil colones o 30 dolares

Vestido de temascal 15 mil colones o 30 dolares

To be able to sit somewhat comfortably, avoid heat on the skin and to wear clothes appropriate for the ceremony, in the Mexica tradition we use long dresses. Preferably, the ceremonial dresses are made of pure cotton and in a beautiful color that doesn’t get transparent when wet. On the pictures you see Abuela Lorena and Abuela Jane in dresses perfect for the temascal (or other ceremonies!). Personally, I prefer having the dress long so that I can curl up inside it if it gets too hot on the legs or feet. An aspect you don’t take into consideration in rituals I’ve encountered in Sweden is the surface underneath the bum. It’s one thing sitting on soft sand, grass or muddy dirt but in Costa Rica the temascal might be in the mountains on hard rocky surface. I like having some fabric between my butt and these sharp rocks! Yet a side of the coin is to create the feeling of ceremony by “dressing up” for the spirits. I know that when I put on my ceremonial dress (may it be for a sweat lodge or other), I am already focusing on doing my spiritual work and I am connected. Some traditions don’t have this policy but (my interpretation is that) focus on the fact that one ought to be comfortable in their nakedness as you are being reborn inside the womb. In the Mexica tradition, we wear clothes and if you’d like to get yourself one of these lovely dresses let me know at Service By Magie or! They are 15mil colones or 30 dollars and the money goes to preserving an ancient and very important tradition: Danza de la Luna/the Moon Dance. 

Sweat Lodge dress 30 dollars

Sweat Lodge dress 30 dollars

The temascal helps you with what you need as long as you enter it with faith, humility, respect and determination to do your work. Personally, I always enter ceremony with the intention and prayer that my heart will expand and be open enough for me to be able to fully receive and listen to the messages brought to me by Great Spirit. 

Inside the temascal/sweat lodge we pray through silence, shared words, storytelling, songs and music. The temascalera or medicine person guiding the ceremony intuitively receives messages about the work we need to do and guide us through it as a group as well as individual beings. Remember that you are on your own personal journey inwards towards cleansing and healing the body and mind to find clarity and love.

Please, share your own stories and any questions below!

In love and in harmony 


Sofia-Magdalena Chandrakaí

Studying Abroad in Costa Rica: this is all you need to know Part 2

Read Part 1 here

1. Flight tickets. Can I enter Costa Rica without a return ticket?

No, you cannot. All countries require that you can prove that you are going to leave before your visa expires. Upon check-in, the airline are ought to check your departure ticket. If you have bought a two- (or more) way ticket with them the computer says so, and they won’t ask you to show it again. If you have a one-way ticket, they are required to ask you to show your departure ticket or they won’t let you on the plane. Sometimes (most times, like always) we don’t know when we want to leave though.

So what are the options?

Get a student visa. With a student visa you don’t need to have your return flight booked within 3 months. Read more here.

Buy a student ticket with Kilroy or the like. They are more flexible and most times cheaper than their regular tickets. In addition, you can change the dates of the return flight for 500 SEK or less. Note that this option requires you to have an ISCI card.

Buy loose flights and cancel. Find a ticket on the same day you are leaving that you can buy and then cancel after 24 hours (after having entered the country) and get a refund. Look for cheap flights between Costa Rica and USA; there is a variety to choose from!

Buy a bus ticket. In some countries, and especially when walking across borders, it is enough to show a bus ticket that proves your departure from the country you are entering. I have never tried it myself in Costa Rica, but there are trustworthy companies driving to both Panama and Nicaragua. You might not be able to cancel the ticket and get your money back with this option though; then again it might be cheaper.

Lovely Montezuma on Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica  

2.             Home stay vs. Finding your own place

For the record, I have never lived with a family but always on my own. For me the choice is easy as I am an adult that likes to take care of myself. There might be a bunch of positive things about home stay that I yet haven’t heard of though, please share in the comments below!

Homestay You pay a set amount each month that covers your room, all meals and laundry, and the school hooks you up. Easy! Keep in mind though that you are part of the family you are visiting and have to stick to their rules, there are usually many people living in a small space and they expect you to sit down and have dinner with them unless you tell them differently. In other words, it is like living at home as a teenager. At least for Swedes that might be a huge challenge since we generally move out when we are 17 or 18 (not into dorms but apartments). My American friends told me that they found the food challenging and I don’t doubt that one second! If you have any allergies or eating differently from the Tico norm (such as vegetarian, gluten free or vegan): don’t choose this option! Traditional meals (and big ones) will be served. If I recall correctly, the cost is about 300 dollars per month. The upside with homestay is the inevitable language practice. Even though a lot of Ticos speak very good English nowadays, you get to meet the entire family where grandmothers, nephews and cousins don’t. It really offers a great opportunity to work your everyday language skills.

Finding your own apartment. Depending on where in the country you are, this might give you some extra work. As a rule of thumb, look on craigslist, Google and check with friends and the school even before coming to Costa Rica. While in the country, read local newspapers and ask locals how to go about finding a good apartment in your town. In San José it shouldn’t be a problem finding something fairly quick, depending on how picky you are with location, price and standard. In the smaller areas (unless touristy) I recommend trying to catch the suggestions the school might give you straight away! I did and I never regretted it. I paid 300 dollars a month plus electricity and food. Being able to do your own grocery shopping, cooking and coming and going as I want plus having my own space when I need it are worth maybe spending a little more (in the end I’m pretty sure I spent less than the others anyway since they ended up buying a lot of meals). This option too gives a great opportunity to practice your Spanish, should you choose so (as with homestay- you make the choice weather to practice or not). Your landlords will most likely speak Spanish, as your neighbors. Outside that, life is like anywhere else: i.e. you have to go out to socialize and meet new friends and people to talk to. Actually, I would say this option offers more language learning opportunities than homestay since you have to get to know people outside school in a different way. For instance, the grocery shopping- every week me and my roommate went to the local market to buy our veggies and we made time to stay and talk with the vendors about the fruits, vegetables and Costa Rican life. You won’t learn that in school!

Pura Vida Siempre and Good Luck!

Studying Abroad in Costa Rica: this is all you need to know (part one)

Studying Abroad in Costa Rica: this is all you need to know (part one)

Tourist Visa vs. Student Visa This means that after 3 months, you will have to leave the country and stay out for 72 hours before coming back in again...

Read More


Nu har jag inte uppdaterat på en stund. Detta beror delvis på att internet stundtals är väldigt opålitligt men även nedanstående anledningar påverkar mitt skrivande.

Åter i Puntarenas avslutade vi lördagskvällen med att se ett lokalt reggae band som spelade på en klubb några hundra meter hemifrån. På söndagen började skolan. Vi satt i flera timmar och hade genomgång av saker som jag glömde lika fort. Tur att vi fick ett tjugotal papper med info, som ligger någonstans i röran.

Första veckan var väldigt intensiv och det fortsätter i samma tempo. Jag ska läsa fyra spanska kurser, och efter ett oroväckande svårt test placerades jag i fortsättningsgruppen (tack och lov!). Den första av dessa kurser har börjat och vi har lektioner varje dag (måndag till fredag) 8-10.30 (!!). Utöver dessa tar både Ellen och jag en kurs som heter Environment and Society. Det innebär att vi går i skolan 8-16 på torsdagar och läser 15 credits (vilket motsvarar lite mer än 30 hp, som man normalt läser under en termin i Svedala). Har eventuellt tagit mig vatten över huvudet, men E&S kursen verkar intressant och har en engagerad och kunnig lärare.

Plugg i hamacan

På kvällarna är vi dödströtta eftersom vi är aningen för ambitiösa och pluggar ett flertal timmar efter skoltid. Dock vill jag gärna försöka repetera så mycket som möjligt nu i början, så att man snabbt kommer in i både studier och språk.

Jag har läxa varje dag, tenta varannan vecka, två böcker att läsa i månaden, en muntlig presentation varannan vecka och en mini-uppsats att skriva varje vecka. Detta är alltså bara i spanskan. Jag är inte van vid denna typ av studier, så det tar en stund att acklimatisera sig. (Detta innebär alltså inte att jag är på någon typ av semester bara för att jag råkar befinna mig på varmare breddgrader). Denna vecka (vecka två av studier) är totalt kaos. Vi sitter just nu med mängder av text att läsa och ansikten som frågetecken.

USAC- skolan

På eftermiddagarna försöker vi tillbringa några timmar på stranden, när vädret tillåter. Oftast är solen framme mellan 10-14 på dagarna, sedan kommer regnet och har man tur även åskan. Häromdagen var hela staden utan vatten i ett halvt dygn. Sådant som händer såklart, men det är extra frustrerande i värmen.

För er som inte redan vet: jag går på en amerikansk skola, dvs jag och Ellen är de enda som inte är amerikaner. Landet är till stor del amerikaniserat och de flesta turister är från USA. Nu är vi dessutom omringade av amerikaner hela dagarna. Det är frustrerande många gånger (de allra flesta är dessutom i lille brors ålder), men jag försöker att ha ett öppet sinne!

Puntarenas från sin vackra sida

I helgen blev vi med katt! En väninna hittade en mager kattunge på gatan som vi tog hand om i några dagar medan vi letade efter ett hem åt honom. Tyvärr tycker costaricaner (ticos) inte om vare sig hundar eller katter, så det visade sig vara lättare sagt än gjort. Det har dock löst sig nu.


Ikväll fick vi besök av en skorpion! Jag har aldrig sett en skorpion inne i ett hus tidigare. Varken Ellen eller jag visste hur vi skulle reagera på detta. Tack och lov kom vår granne och löste problemet. Vi fick även veta att det är vanligt den här årstiden. Skorpionerna kommer in när det regnar mycket. Där fick jag för att jag precis sa att jag älskar regnet! Det var en snabb och stor rackare, som tydligen är ”mas o menos” (mer eller mindre) farlig.

Nog om plugg, men många har undrat över skolan och vad jag egentligen läser! Kurserna är bra och lärarna långt över förväntan. Studentskaran hade kunnat vara mer varierad.

Stay tuned för att höra om mötet med krokodilerna!

Pura vida!


Fran djungel till oken

Lago Titicaca

The tiniest plane I've ever seen. Needless to say, we didn't feel very good during that trip.

Capybaras living by the river.

Montito. Tiny moneky or simply Herr Nilsson

Looking for anacondas. Yeah, we found a skinny one. And a dead black mamba.

This little guy kept me company in the hamaca.

Caiman, sunbathing. 

Swimming in the river. No caimans or alligators at the time, only pink river dolphins that wanted to bite our toes...

We also wanted to see if we could find any red and yellow eyes in the dark. Yes, heaps!

New Years Eve in Sucre with new friends at restaurant Amsterdam.

Sucre view point

Project: Help the working children of Sucre

The children's graveyard, where graves have been dug up to make room for new ones. The bodies? They are usually stolen to make experiments in the doctor's lab, or just thrown away. 

Lovely crowd at La Dolce Vita. Asian food and good friends.

Nu ar tanken att vi ska dra oss soderut, mot saltoknen, men ar skeptisk till hur det kommer ga. Sakerheten i en jeep i fyra dagar i Bolivia? Skulle garna stanna langre har och volontara. De har simskola for barnen i Help the working children of Sucre som vi blev erbjudna att hjalpa till pa, men tiden...tiden....

Skriv garna en rad