Alternative Therapies

Sweat Lodge Health Benefits

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The Great Lakota Chief and Prophet Black Elk perhaps said it best, when explaining the sweat lodge "The sweat lodge utilizes all powers of the universe: earth, and things that grow from the earth; water; fire; and air." They can be found in cultures of the native people from Alaska to Hudson Bay to Florida everglades to Mayan glyphs to the ancient legends of Peru and the Indian people still living deep within what is left of the Amazon. The sweat lodge is a ceremonial healing sauna bath and an important ritual that has been used by North and South American First Nations ( Native American peoples). There are various types of sweat lodges: 1. the domed or oblong hut, 2. the teepee, 3. the simple hole dug into the ground and covered with planks or tree trunks, 4. the stone mountain cave whose opening is covered with thick pelts are few typical examples.

Most ceremonial sweat lodges use stones which are heated in an exterior fire and then placed in a central pit in the ground inside the lodge. These stones are moany times made from quarried granite and cast a red aura in the dark lodge. The purpose, of the seat lodge went beyond getting the body clean and entered the ceremonial realm of 'vision quests' and restorative healing. These The hot steam baths provided a cure for illness, revitalization for aching muscles, and a sense of personal identity through purging the body of toxins.

Many explorers and settlers in the Americas recorded their encounter with the sweat lodges and the results they saw this ceremony have on the native people.

Roger Williams of Rhode Island wrote in 1643: "They use sweating for two ends: first to cleanse their skin; secondly to purge their bodies, which doubtless is a great means of preserving them..."

George Catlin wrote description of the Mandan's sweat lodge in 1845: "Such is the sudatory or vapour bath of the Mandans, and, as I before observed, it is resorted to both as an everyday luxury by those who have the time and energy to indulge in it; and also used by the sick as a remedy for nearly all the diseases which are known amongst them."

The native peoples of the Americas saw the sweat lodge as the "womb" of mother earth and returning to it periodically would heal and restore their spirit and body. The invasion of white missionaries to the New World sadly saw it as a threat and tried to abolish the ceremonial use of sweat lodges within the converted native people and villages. Fortunately for us all, they failed in this endeavor and we today have mini versions of the sweat lodge, called saunas found in many health clubs and fitness centers.

The benefits of the sweat lodge can be listed as:

- The sweating cleans the body of toxins and negative ions are released from the fatigued and stressed body.

- The purification of the body gives the skin a glowing radiance, while clearing blemishes and opening pores.

- The elimination of toxins helps restore the cardio-system.

- Body sweat flushes toxic metals such as copper, lead, zinc, and mercury from the body.

- Sweat lodges can also remove excessive salts, which may help cases of mild hypertension.

- Sweat lodges can also eliminate excess urea, a metabolic by-product that may can cause headaches, nausea.

- Elimination of toxins may also draw out lactic acid which is many times responsible for stiff muscles and contributes to general fatigue.

- The respiratory capillary system is usually helped by the sauna heat of the sweat lodge when a person is beset with a cold, asthma and bronchitis.

- Improved emotional well-being is experienced from sweat lodge visits, as stress reduction and relaxation occur.

- Weight loss can be a major benefit from sweat lodge sessions, also.

What do you have to lose give it a try and reap the benefits of a centuries old natural health treatment.

More about this author: Pam Uher

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