Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Sweat Lodge

The sweat lodge or the medicine lodge is a tradition of many North American Indians, but most strongly associated with the Lakota Nation. It is a highly cereminialized sauna done for physical and spiritual purification.

A special heavily insulated hut was constructed, usually near a lake or river. In the center of this hut, a large fire pit covered with stones was constructed. The stones would be heated to extreme levels with fire. Water would then be poured on the stones. Steam would be generated. The hut would fill with this steam, and the Lakota would perform their ritualized sauna.

Essentially, the guys would build up a good sweat inside the lodge, and begin scraping their skin with semi-sharpened fragments of animal bone. The purpose of scraping the skin was to remove dirt and other impurities from the environment. It also removed dead skin. This would open and cleanse the pores of the skin. When the sauna ritual was complete, they would jump in the nearby lake or river. This would wash off any remaining impurities and close the pores.

I remember seeing a documentary on this subject when I was kid. I remember being impressed with this technique, and thinking it was a neat way to get clean. You steam cleaned your body. This had to be a great way to get the job done, and better than a shower. I have always wanted to do a sweat lodge.

Well folks, I did my first sweat lodge tonight at the gym. I could see no reason why I wouldn't be able to get the same effect out of the steam sauna at 24 Fitness. I took a nice black ceramic Santoku from Kyocera along with me. I knew it was dishwasher safe, non-reactive, and would never rust. In short, it is the perfect steam room scraping implement.

Furthermore, most people don't know anything about knives. To the average eye, a Kyocera knife looks like a plastic cake cuter. These folks have no idea, not even the slightest clue... In short, it would be easy to sneak this past the front desk, and nobody in the sauna would be alarmed by the knife. Now if I had taken my 255mm Gyuoto, everybody would have freaked out.

I dumped a load of cold water on the thermometers in the sauna, and gave the room a couple of minutes to head up. After about a 5 minute of steam baking, I began to scrape my skin. I have to admit, I was a little alarmed by the quantity of grey colored goop that came off my flesh. Of course, all of this grey stuff was nothing more nor less than dead skin cells.

I couldn't believe that there was this much of the stuff all over me. I am guy who likes to shower with a stiff-bristle scrub-brush, and brush pretty hard. I learned that a scrub-brush in the shower is no match for a Kyocera ceramic knife in the steam sauna.

My Kyoceras are not particularly sharp anymore, despite my best efforts with a belt grinder and diamond belts, so I was not concerned about nicking myself. I never bled at any point, so my my living skin cells were just fine. The grey goop was nothing more than steam-heated dead cells.

I walked out of the sauna feeling cleaner than I have in decades. I rinsed off quickly, as is the club policy, before jumping into the pool. That was an interesting feeling. I think they had just shocked the pool, because the chlorine was strong tonight. The chlorinated water itched my open and clean pores just a bit. Still, I am sure that chlorine did something to kill any external bacteria hanging around. It was an interesting way to further the cleaning process.

My skin looks pretty healthy and clean. I itch a little bit from the strong chlorine in the pool, but it's not that bad.

I look forward to doing this again tomorrow.