Posted by: lifeinlonsdale | September 15, 2009

My First Sweat Lodge Experience

A picture of a typical sweat lodge

A picture of a typical sweat lodge

I just returned from Kettle Falls, Washington, where I went for two weeks of relaxation and massage training.

During the two weeks, I had the opportunity to participate in not one but two Native American sweat lodges, which have given me a much greater appreciation for the health benefits of sweating and saunas and such.

In a sweat lodge, for anyone who has never been to one, you sit in a circle in a dome shaped structure made out of branches that was traditionally covered in buffalo hide, but is more likely today to be covered in tarps or blankets. It is very dark and womb like inside. Stone “Grandmothers” that have been heated to red hot in a fire are welcomed in and then the door is closed.

Each person in the circle goes around and makes prayers. After each prayer is made, the water pourer puts a dipper full of water onto the stones in the center of the circle, creating steam. As each persons prayer is made, their steam joins the steam from all of the other prayers which is believed to rise and carry the prayers to God when the door is opened between each round. The safe, dark, womb like space makes it easy to speak things that are hard to speak, and to generally get things off of your chest.

After each round, the door is opened and the prayers and steam excape to rise up to God, and water may be passed around. Then, more stones are brought in to add to the stones that are already there. Soon, I was sweating more than I knew that it was possible for me to sweat.

By the end of the four rounds, many prayers has been made, and it was time to come out of the womb to be reborn. All I can say is, “Wow”, what an incredibly cathartic experience! Afterwards, I just had this incredible, peaceful, empty feeling (not empty in a bad way, but empty like a blank canvas full of possibilities).

Sweat lodge helped me to get rid of the physical and emotional things that I did not need any more to make room for other, wonderful things that would help with my growth. It helped me to make myself a hollow bone again so that the healing powers of Creator could flow through me.

On a physical level, sweating in a sweat lodge, sauna or steam room is incredibly detoxifying for the body. Opening up all of the pores helps the body to get rid of many toxins. I have clients who regularly use a sauna and they, too, report incredible health benefits from it. I know for a fact that it helped me…I felt great afterwards, and even after two weeks of sleeping on an air mattress and a stressful flight home with a delay in the Denver airport, when I came in for my massage the next day, my therapist almost couldn’t find a knot in my whole body.

Wow, what wonderful Medicine for the body and spirit!



  1. Your information about sweat lodges is comforting in light of the news about the Arizona deaths. I could not believe death should occur from such a spiritual event. I appreciate your take on this.

    • Thank you. From what I gather from what I have heard in the media, this was not a Native American group conducting the sweat lodge where all of the people died. I am sure that many Native Americans are concerned that this will cast a nagative shadow on their spiritual practices, which from my experience are very safe and done with an intention to take good care of those that participate.

  2. Thank you for your positive description of your sweat lodge experience. When I worked as a family advocate for an American Indian Agency in the inner city, we used the sweat lodge with our families and homeless teens. It was buried deep in the woods in Minnesota and only American Indian Elders lead the very spiritual experience. We never forced anyone to participate and if anyone felt ill, the door flap to the small tarped lodge was opened for that person to exit. I feel I should add that I was the only non American Indian and have worked as a community social worker with many cultures of families. Respect is the most important aspect of my work and during the sweat lodge experience I showed my utmost respect following the lead of my Elders. In between prayers and the passing of the pipe, I whispered to my Elder co-worker that I was hearing tapping sounds on the tarp. She said that was the Spirits. When the ceremony was over I circled the lodge looking for a tree branch that might have been tapping or scratching the tarp in the winter wind but there was nothing. There was a couple feet of snow too and I couldn’t picture squirrels scampering around in the frigid moonlight. All in all it was a good experience and done in a respectful, safe way when lead by the Elders who knew what they were doing and most importantly, why.

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