How To Build A Sweat Lodge

If you're interested in getting more in touch with your spiritual side, you're sure to enjoy these easy instructions for how to build a sweat lodge. Used for centuries, sweat lodges are ceremonial saunas for purification rites and spiritual journeys. Many people are surprised by how easy it is to build a sweat lodge. In order to build a sweat lodge, you will need the following:

  • A safe and quiet location
  • A hatchet
  • A shovel
  • A pitchfork
  • A fire pit
  • Water
  • Rocks (lava, limestone or granite) that are completely dry and free of any cracks or air pockets. 
  • 12 small sapling trees, roughly a quarter's size around
  • Cording
  • 1-3 black tarps, depending on the size of your lodge
  • Blankets
  1. Since it's dangerous to sweat alone, have someone help you build your lodge too. If this is the case, assign someone to dig out the fire pit, start the fire and get your rocks heating first off. If done properly, your rocks will be perfectly heated by the time your sweat lodge is complete.
  2. Choose where you want your lodge located. Now take about ten strides away from your fire, in the direction you want it (depending on your traditions).  Here, you will want to dig a small pit about 1 foot deep and about 2 feet in diameter. This will be your rock pit.
  3. Sit down, cross-legged about 1 foot from the rock pit. Take your cord and measure a length of it that stretches from the center of the fire pit to a few inches behind where you're sitting. Using this string to help you measure, you can now determine and mark off the circumference you will need to build a sweat lodge.
  4. Take your saplings and remove all branches then sharpen the bottoms of each. When this is done, you will want to sink the sharpened ends firmly into the ground, placing them at an equal distance around the circle you've marked for your circumference (but make sure to leave room for the door). This will be the foundation for your sweat lodge. 
  5. Bend your saplings to form a dome, securing them together with cord. As you’re building your sweat lodge, keep in mind that you only want it to be roughly 4 to 5 feet high, at most. Be sure that a grown man can sit comfortably within, but bear in mind when you build a sweat lodge; the larger your sweat lodge, the more difficult it will be to heat. 
  6. Cover the sapling dome with your tarps, tying them down well and securing them so they won’t blow away if it gets windy. This will help to insulate the lodge, as well as making it waterproof. Next, cover your tarps with your blankets that you brought, which will also help insulate, heat and will serve to block out any light in your sweat lodge. Using cord to tie the blankets together will prevent slippage and a final blanket can be draped over the door area once you’re ready to begin.
  7. For safety’s sake, stand at the door of your sweat lodge and then take three strides in the direction of your fire pit. Here, you will want to drive a sharpened sapling into the ground and adorn it with something vivid, that will attract attention. This will help prevent disoriented people from wandering into your fire pit as they emerge from the sweat lodge.
  8. As soon as your rocks are glowing red, you’re ready to begin. Using the pitchfork to transport your rocks over to the lodge, you may begin your spiritual journey now that you’ve learned how to build a sweat lodge.

Never use porous rocks in your sweat lodge and be sure all are completely dry before heating, otherwise there is a risk your rocks will explode and cause you injury. Be sure to remove all metal jewelry and contact lenses to prevent burns and always sweat responsibly; be sure to have a friend to help oversee the fire and assist if trouble arises. Knowing how to build a sweat lodge isn’t enough; also learn how to properly use it.

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