Sweat lodges in South Africa combine Native American philosophy and ritual with a bit of traditional African folklore and culture to create an experience that is designed to cleanse and purify the body and mind. For many, it's a bonding exercise with the mutual goal of detoxification and healing in an outdoor setting.

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Rustler's Valley in the Eastern Free State is popular with 'new-age' thinkers – once known for the annual Rustler's Valley festival in April, there are now smaller music and dance events aimed at the spiritually minded community.

The purifying sweat-lodge ceremony is most strongly associated with Native American practices, but the general practice of sweating it out together is also found among other ethnic cultures around the world, and in Africa.

The common principle is to detoxify the body and mind through intense heat and sweating to induce healing, to create a deep connection with a higher being and the self, and to stimulate spiritual renewal. Prayers, chanting and drumming are commonly part of the ritual.

The sweat lodge itself is a low-domed structure built out of natural materials such as wood and canvas, grasses or mud. Much like a sauna, the lodge is heated using rocks that have been heated over a fire outside and then placed in a central pit with water poured over them to produce steam.

It's a health and wellness concept that has started to catch on in South Africa.

The Jazzfarm, a weekend retreat centre and function venue in Lanseria outside Johannesburg, holds a monthly sweat-lodge and cleansing ceremony. The whole session lasts about two hours and you can finish off with a refreshing plunge in the swimming pool. Come armed with a sarong, bathing suit or loose-fitting clothes and eat sparingly on the day. Also avoid sugar, caffeine and processed foods.

Clear View Lodge in Broederstroom, 40 minutes from Johannesburg and close to Hartbeespoort Dam, is another retreat with a sweat lodge, where North American healer Tim Sikyea sometimes holds ceremonies. Tim also visits Simonskloof in the Langeberg mountains of the Western Cape for the same purpose.

In the eastern Free State, between Fouriesberg and Ficksburg, just 5km from the Lesotho border, there is the Sun Moon Lodge, which offers weekend retreats and regular sweat-lodge ceremonies.

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