Mexico & Guatemala Research Trip - Video Highlights


Yaxchilan Ruins


The Superior Sauna team hit the road at 6am yesterday morning, this time heading southeast to the Archaeological site of Yaxchilan. The site is located on the border of Mexico and Guatemala along the Usumacinta River. The research team arrived at the boat launch at approximately 10am and piled into a gondola-style boat called a ‘lancha’. From there, they traveled an hour to the site - passing alligators and a dead cow drifting down the river along the way.

Yaxchilan Boat Ride

Upon their arrival, the team hiked 800 meters to find the ancient Mayan city of Yaxchilan. The rugged hiking trail had remains from an ancient stone pathway that was once home to shops and trading centers running beside the river, leading the way to the sacred location.


The first report of Yaxchilan was by a young explorer, Juan Galindo in 1833, published by the Royal Geographical Society in 1881; however, the first documented experience was in 1892 AD by Maudsley when he came and stole lentils from the abandoned city. Maudsley had permission to take lentils from the Guatemala side but happened upon Yaxchilan where he struck gold – and by gold we mean lentils. Sometime later, Charnay arrived at the site and was believed to be the first explorer to discover the ruins until he happened upon Maudsley and his crew. Charnay had high hopes to name the city and stake his claim, so in order to accomplish his mission, he made a deal with Maudsley and promised not to turn him in for stealing if he could claim to be the first explorer to discover the land. In the end, Yaxchilan received its name from a small creek that ran by the town and into the river.

One of the reasons Yaxchilan is so famous is because of its location. Like most Mayan sites, this one was constructed in a place where the river boasted roaring rapids and tended to be quite difficult to navigate. Why would the Mayans build on a place such as this? Because they realized travelers would have to stop at some point. They used this challenge to their advantage by taxing travelers that would pass through.


As you enter the city plaza, one of the first ruins you’ll spot is the steam room - also referred to as “pipinas”, which means the house underground. Travelers would stop there to bathe and cleanse their bodies and souls before entering the holy land. This steam room was believed to have been built for religious ceremonies, hygiene, and to enhance one’s overall health and wellness.

Yaxchilan Temazcal

One would bathe in the steam room after traveling for weeks on the river. The same techniques that were used in Palenque were also utilized here – a combination of hot stones, water, and a blend of herbs and plants to heal various ailments. Some patrons would utilize the site for religious ceremonies, offerings, and prayer. The goal was to be blessed and purified before entering the city and being in the presence of the gods.

The Crew at Yaxchilan

One of the team’s guides, Alberto Gomez-Cruz, is of Mayan descent and gave an outstanding interview in his native Mayan tongue, and graciously translated to English for the video.

“We can see that this Mayan city is very close to the river. This steam bath is how we would talk to our ancestors and do our rituals. This wasn’t merely a shower or an opportunity to simply relax your body, it was so much more. It connects you to the gods and enhances your spiritual life. You go in to mediate and consent to your mind. It truly becomes a spiritual connection to the gods. We’ve seen women who were pregnant go in before and after birth to bless their unborn child and heal their bodies after delivery. In some ways, many of the rituals are still used. When you go where the gods are you should be shiny and pure,” says Alberto.

This particular steam room was measured at 6’ 10” x 6’ 3”. It featured one large room that had a stone altar in the middle, which was most likely where the stones were placed. In Palenque, the steam room was located in an administrative building, but in Yaxchilan the room stood alone, having space for more people. There have been no reports to show what organics were used in the steam room because no one has done the research to see what pollen residue was left. We know eucalyptus, pepper, rosemary, and mullein are among some popular herbs and plants that they would use, but we also know that each shaman would grow their own gardens full of plants that were only to be used in the steam rooms.

None of the hot stones were left behind at this site, either. Alfonso is confident that they used volcanic rock due to its ability to withstand such high temperatures. If you were to heat limestone, it would explode, so the type of rock that was used was extremely important.


Yaxchilan Boat Ride

As the crew wrapped up their filming for the day, they packed up and headed back to the boat launch, where the dead cow they had passed at the beginning of the trip had finally caught up to them. Mark pointed out some toucans soaring above the team in the trees, and James Netz captured an amazing shot of an alligator with butterflies resting on its head. They arrived back at Chan-Kah Resort Village late that night, where they rested for their next adventure to Bonampak the next morning.



A team from Superior Sauna & Steam will embark on a 12-day journey early next week to research and document  the techniques that were once used in ancient steam rooms in Mexico and Guatemala. They will bring what they’ve learned back home to  Ashland, Wisconsin where they will incorporate these ancient techniques into their current, cutting-edge sauna building technologies - all in an effort to bring their customers a new and innovative product that is backed by thousands of years of traditions.

Chuck Porter, owner and managing partner of Superior Saunas, has one mission: to help educate others on how they can live out their best lives - with saunaing being a major factor in one’s health and wellness journey.

“I’ve dedicated my life to helping others extend their own,” says Porter.


The crew is made up of six individuals: owner and founder of Superior Saunas, Chuck Porter; videographer and photographer, James Netz; Sauna Technician, Elliot Wood; Investor and part-owner, Colonel Mark Follett; on-screen talent and Mexico native, Olga Vargas; and blogger, Kassie Dalsveen. They will start their expedition in the small town of Palenque, Mexico, where they will visit one of the most important archaeological zones of Maya Culture, Palenque. They will then spend the next few days exploring Yaxchilan, Bonampak, and Piedras Negas in Guatemala.

“We are essentially going on a safari in the jungles of southern Mexico and Guatemala. We’ll visit five Mayan and Aztec ancient cities, all with the help of an archaeologist who will serve as our guide and translator along the way,” explained Porter. “Our goal is to use what we learn to create a sauna experience that uses a combination of ancient healing techniques along with the modern-day technologies that we have access to here now.”


For centuries, saunas have been enjoyed around the world for various health benefits. Saunas are known for being a major stress reliever.They help soothe sore muscles and joints, improve blood circulation, burn calories, and flush toxins from the body through sweating.

The sauna bath is a holistic experience which produces a psychosomatic event. There are measurable and predictable physical, psychic and social impacts. Additionally, the sauna leads to relaxation, enjoyment and a feeling of well-being. While there are many physical and mental benefits, a primary outcome is simple pleasure. In the sauna, psychic and somatic elements come together in a unified experience. The sauna can provide a needed escape and refuge and is a place where bathers leave the rational mind, unnecessary analysis and criticism on the outside.


The crew will document their experience along the way through daily blogs and filming every step of the way. Stay tuned for more updates as the team prepares for departure.

Established 18 years ago, Superior Saunas is a leading manufacturer and distributor of custom and prefabricated saunas located on the beautiful shores of Lake Superior in Ashland, Wisconsin. Our saunas are sold worldwide. Superior Saunas is a health and wellness company that is dedicated to helping people live their best lives.