MAYA, Mexico — It’s definitely not for claustrophobics — or for anyone who has ever filed a fire claim — but Temazcal could be this summer’s hottest spa treatment. In fact, what could be hotter than sitting around a pile of red hot lava rocks in a pitch dark pyramid, sweating it out for about 45 minutes?

Offered at Maroma, a secluded resort on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, this Mayan steam bath revolves around a rebirthing ritual where guests sing, chant, perspire, and slather themselves with papaya and volcanic mud, all the while looking for images of animals in the fiery rocks.

This story first appeared in the July 16, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The ceremony kicks off at dusk with a single blast of a conch shell on the white sandy beach, then it’s down a few steps and into a pit, which is sealed tighter than a cabin on a Mexicana 757. Singing Mayan songs, the leader splashes herbs and water onto the rocks to extinguish the slightest trace of light, and in this womb-like setting guests are encouraged to recapture childhood dreams and release negative energy.

By the halfway point, watermelon and papaya wedges are a welcome sight. Depending on the perspiration factor, some opt for a snack; others go for exfoliation, rubbing the rinds on their skin. Next comes a coating of mud, then participants let loose with a body-shaking scream.

Set free, a dunk in the ocean and a mug of molasses tea are the final reward. And for those who saw little creatures dancing in the fire, visions are analyzed by the temazcalera, the Mayan front woman. After all, at those volcanic temperatures, who wouldn’t get a little delusional?”

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