Sauna Advice from Industry Experts

Thank you to the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-sauna-20140503-story.html for a great write up and report on this event.

This summit was organized by Mikkel Aaland, a Norwegian American and author of the book “Sweat” about this history of sweat bathing around the world; Mikhail Brodsky, President of Lincoln University who spend 10 years building an authentic Russian Spa called Archimedes Banya; and Greg Moga, an entrepreneur who has created a documentary out of Aaland’s “Sweat” book. 

This summit was packed with individuals that have been a part of the sauna community for years if not decades. Incredible knowledge and vision came was shared at this event in which we hope to cover in this post, we hope you enjoy this sauna expert advice!

Sauna Heating and Size

Risto Elomaa, president of the International Sauna Association described sauna units with infrared heating methods “glorified bread toasters”. Clearly he respects and believes in the traditional sauna methods that have been tried and true since sauna environments came to be. An authentic sauna contains stones that are heated by a forced heat method (burning wood, electric heater, gas heater, etc.). These saunas should have a bench within that is located 3.5 to 4 feet from the ceiling and temperatures within should be between 176 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures under 150 degrees fahrenheit will allow bacteria to grow and multiply. 

Time spent in a sauna should be like a spiritual ritual

This means that cell phones and electronics should not be used within a sauna. Also, just as when you enter a place of worship, you should be respectful of others. Same goes for a sauna – be respectful and as quiet as possible.

Go naked and don’t be ashamed of it

Many people, mostly Americans, find it strange or taboo to sauna in a public environment in the nude. It is the preferred method of most europeans and others around the world to sauna without clothing. Often times european families will sauna together and will do this in the nude with no issues or uncomfortable feelings. Saunas were built to help you relax, detoxify, and sweat and clothes are not a necessity for these things!

Take your time

Sauna Water BucketFor the full experience and health benefits of a sauna you should set around 2 to 3 hours aside. Now this is a lot of time to set aside for an activity like sauna bathing and can be the toughest part for many people, but the cycle of sweating then cooling down and repeating is the best way to reap the benefits. The typical sauna cycle consists of 3 hot to cold repetitions. This cycle often times begins with a shower to cleanse yourself of the day, then a 12 to 20 minute session within the sauna. This will then be followed up by a dip in a cool pool or shower of 5 seconds or more if you can endure it. Next relax in a jacuzzi or steam room, or at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat this cycle twice more. This process has been shown to provide the best results from sauna use. 

Jumping into the cold waters

cold waterIt may seem crazy or unnecessary to some to get out of a steaming sauna room, cover up in a towel, make your way to the nearest pool or shower and dip into cold, cold waters but this is the most beneficial way to finish a sauna. For those skeptics out there, you can put your trust in psychologist Stephen Colmant of New Mexico. Colmant is the author of “Sweat Therapy: A Guide to a Greater Well-Being”. Colmant mentions that a post-sauna dip into waters with temperature of 45-55 degrees fahrenheit reduces pain and inflammation as well as improving allostatic functioning. What is allostatic functioning? This is the body’s ability to achieve stability through physiological or behavioral change. Colmant puts it as being able to “roll with life’s punches” throughs the activation of neural, hormonal, and immunological mechanisms. A quote from Colmant on the experience from hot to cold environments is “Through such submission and ordeal, one becomes humbled, and wiser. We experience a kind of death and rebirth, and a deeper understanding of our limits and our potential.” 

Sauna with a Purpose

Sean Mullen is an assistant professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois and calls it “Purposeful sweating”. Mullen thinks that before entering a sauna you should have a goal in mind. Have something that you want to think about, process, resolve, or forget. When you go into a sauna, you can either be passive and just let your mind wander, or work with the heat and overcome what is ailing you. 

The sauna summit that many of these notes and findings have come from was an incredible event with a vast amount of knowledge and years of experience being shared. Keep in mind some of these thoughts and practices during your next sauna trip and it is sure to be one of your best experiences yet!

Thank you for reading. 

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