Turtle Baths, Silky Clay, and Sister Friendships

My brother, four sisters and extended family were visiting our little boutique hotel, La Selva Mariposa, in the jungle near Tulum. I wanted to plan a memorable activity for my special ladies to culminate our reunion. I decided to take a walk next door and chat with my neighbor Maria Hurley. She prepares and packages a product called Mayan Clay, operates a spa on Tulum beach, and is a “goddess” in my eyes.

This one-hundred-percent Mayan green clay found in mines deep in the Yucatan that Maria refines in her studio in Macario Gomez contains magnesium, silicon, zinc, copper, and chromium and has amazing healing and beautifying powers.

Over an aromatic cup of tea, we discussed the possibilities for a unique spa day. She suggested that I bring my sisters and niece out to her Mayan Clay Spa at the south end of Tulum Beach across from Om and Ocho Hotels. There she would describe the therapeutic properties of the clay as she led us through a ritual using the silky product. Maria would then walk with our group over to the beach to take part in something she called a turtle bath, followed by diving beneath the waves to wash the clay from our bodies. This sounded like the perfect activity for the last day of their vacation.

Maria called that morning to confirm and made a suggestion that the ladies wear two-piece bathing suits, so that the abdomen area would be accessible. After stopping in Tulum to buy a few more woolen animals made by the Mayan women in Chiapas, we drove out to the beach.

To my surprise, Maria’s Mayan Clay Spa at Km 8 now has a new boutique with exquisite white clothing, colorful straw bags, an assortment of beautiful Mexican jewelry and art, as well as a lovely display of her clay products for sale. As usual, there was at least one sister snapping photos as we piled out of the car and were immediately greeted by Maria. She introduced us to Anna in the boutique and gave us some time to browse as she chatted with each one of us.

We followed her out of the bamboo gift shop and along the sandy paths that led through the chit palm forest to the changing room with its palm-covered roof, filmy white curtains, satin covered furniture and artistic touches. She gave us each a piece of gauzy fabric and asked us to bring it along and join her in the large massage palapa at the end of the raked paths when we were ready. We passed a small stone sculpture just before we entered this magnificent open-air room draped in red and sheer white curtains. The usual satin-covered massage tables were relocated among the palms just outside the hut to give us plenty of room for the activities to come. The white sand floor was raked and a large ceramic pot filled with the silky greenish-yellow clay sat in the center of the room on a chit palm leaf. When I saw the pile of coals sitting at the edge of the room in a clay receptacle, I knew we were in for a unique spa experience, laced with ancient Mayan ritual.

Maria was still dressed in her pristine white clothing when we arrived, and she asked us to form a circle. She gave us some background information on the history and origin of clay therapy along with its medicinal properties.

“Geotherapy, one of the oldest forms of healing known to man, can be likened to an “energy pill.” Toxins and metals like lead, mercury, preservatives, alcohol, and cigarette smoke are absorbed by the clay. The clay, applied to the skin, acts as an exfoliate and regenerates the tissue. Mayan green clay helps to reduce inflammation in skin lesions, mosquito and other insect bites, sun burn, rashes, and it even helps calm acne.”

Maria lit the tiny fire of coals and added some copal incense. Each one of us had an opportunity to stretch and breathe in the aroma of the copal. She disappeared to change into her bikini, giving us a minute to absorb the sensuality of our surroundings.

When she returned to our “closed circle,” she asked us each to think of a body part we most disliked then imagine ourselves without it. We then chose a partner and shared this intimate thought with them. Nothing was rushed; there always seemed to be time to ponder each word or action before moving on to the next.

Maria instructed us to take a handful of clay from the mound in the center of our circle and apply it to our abdominal area in a circular motion while moving our hips back and forth like a washing machine. “I always begin a massage with this part of the body because of its important two-fold purpose; assimilation and digestion of food, as well as a center for filtering emotion (gut-level feelings).”

From there we worked on the lymphatic system, the chest area, the extremities, etc., as she described the organs that lie hidden behind this miraculous covering of skin. Maria reminded us that we have two hands and do not need a masseuse in order to repeat this ritual on ourselves.

“By adding the application of clay to your daily beauty regime,” she continued, “You will see how it magically refines wrinkles, reduces bags under the eyes, and conditions your hair. A complete body mask of clay balances the electro-magnetic energy field of the body.”

When our bodies were covered in a layer of satiny clay, she directed us to take the soft mesh fabric she had given to us earlier and we began our walk out of the chit forest, across the street, along the path that leads through Om Hotel to the softest sandy beaches you will find anywhere in the world.

Imagine seven women covered in greenish clay from head to foot walking along the edge of the Caribbean Sea chatting with one another as if this was something we did everyday. My companions