This year for her birthday one of my dear sister-friends decided she wanted to spend her 60th at a beach resort in Mexico with her friends. You know the type, they ask for what they want, and the Universe provides. Don’t you just love that? There were six of us and two out of the six were celebrating their birthdays. Five of us have known each other for nearly four decades. The other birthday lady turned 67, two of these fine sisters are 68, and the baby of the group recently turned 50. That’s right! I’m telling everybody’s age, LOL! We had such a beautiful and fulfilled time together. We have often communicated while there and upon our return how grateful we are for this experience and our long friendships.
Having spa services was a part of the package. I was delighted to be able to choose from a list of bodywork services. While looking through the spa brochure, I was immediately attracted to an ancient Mayan massage called Kukulkan named after the famous pyramid, Temple of Kukulkan. Back in 2003 on a trip to Tulum, Mexico I had a massage for female reproductive health that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Remembering that piqued my curiosity about the Kukulkan Massage.
Located at the Beach Palace in Cancun, the first thing that I noticed were the intoxicating essential oil aromas wafting as I approached the spa area. Arriving early for my appointment afforded me the opportunity to have a steam treatment followed by a cold shower. For the steam treatment, cucumbers are placed on the eyes, and then a chilled face cloth infused with a mélange of essential oils are placed over the face covering the cucumbers as well. Right then and there I could have floated off to heaven!
When that was done I awaited my massage therapist in the lounge, but instead of one, two therapists accompanied me to the massage room. Once there, I was reminded that in the tradition of this healing therapy, I was to receive a four-handed massage, two therapists working simultaneously.
Before the session began, I was told to sit on a stool while the process was explained to me. The massage therapist shared that in the tradition of the Kukulkan (which means serpent) the world is divided into three levels and that concept would be incorporated in the massage session. The first level is underworld or maya (illusion) which represents the past and its totem is a jaguar. During that part of the massage, they used their hands in a manner that felt like a jaguar was walking on me. The second level represents the earth and is represented by the snake. Snake-like movements were deftly performed up and down the body. The third level, evolution, is represented by the eagle. I did feel as if I was taking flight to an unknown land.
Before laying on the massage bed we did a short meditation. I was asked to close my eyes, and then I was given a small piece of copal incense and told to hold it near my heart and think about those things that caused pain that I wished to let go and forget.
I was then told to stand and to raise my arms while the smoke of burning copal was coaxed in my direction with the sweep of a feather to push the smoke over and around me.
Following that brief ceremony, they left the room while I disrobed and made my way onto the bed. With my face down in the cradle, the therapists returned and placed eucalyptus oil in a bowl below my face which I happily inhaled. All the while music was playing, music that seemed to be created primarily by a cacophony of birds and unidentifiable insects. Also chiming in was the blowing of animal horns or large seashells. I felt transported to the Amazon.
The four hands began in symphony as one. With one therapist on each side of my body moving in rhythmic and precise motions. For a while it felt like they were one; this was the first stage, the water stage. Just imagine four hands seemingly doing a dance on your body that soothes, invigorates and relaxes you at the same time.
In the second earth stage, one therapist was at the bottom working on my legs, ankles, and feet, while the other therapist worked on my shoulders, neck, and upper back. Just heavenly! Then they both began doing a message it seemed with their knuckles down either side of my spine. It felt like the sensation of cracking your knuckles, a very unique experience I couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t ever had before.
In the third evolution/ stage I was face up, and a heated pillow was placed around my neck and a warm towel placed across my breast, and the evolution stage of the session began. In this stage, deft movements on my stomach took me once again to Tulum. As before, at certain times they were working together as one and then they would separate, and one would work the bottom half of the body while the other worked the torso. There was a moment when they both lifted my waist from the bed several times with firm yet smooth movements, the sensation was that of being cradled like a baby. It was simply wonderful. They had earlier notified me that at the end they would roll my body back and forth. This was done using the sheets that I laid upon. I felt like an infant, swaddled and rocked. This was such a comforting experience.
If that wasn’t enough as this session was coming to a close, a rain stick was introduced to bring in the sound of water cascading like thousands of liquid crystals falling one way and then back in the other direction.
When the rain-stick stopped its music, the bells chimed, and I was informed the session was over. Of course, I didn’t want it to end and believe me there were so many other elements to this experience that were equally beautiful, soothing and transportive that I cannot now name or recall.
I had all five of my friends sign up for this treatment. Each one of them was blown away by the experience. A couple of them mentioned how they cried the end of their sessions. One of them who cried never cries, no matter what goes down. I was glad that this treatment was able to release this part of her. We all need that release from time to time.
I did not cry. I felt exuberant on the one hand, on the other hand, mournful of how this majestic, indigenous culture has been marginalized, plundered, and its people vilified in our society. We must do all we can when we travel to experience the true essence of the people whose land we are visiting. The next time you visit Mexico, I encourage you to have one of their incredible traditional massages. It’s not just a massage it’s a life-altering experience.