If you’re anything like I once was, the word “sauna” likely conjures up a rather unpleasant image in your mind: a steamy box full of sweaty, creepy strangers draped in wet towels.
Ew. No thanks.
When I was in college everyone would crowd the sauna on Sunday morning to “sweat out their hangovers” (terrible idea, by the way) and all I can remember is how their sweat smelled like stale beer. Okay, enough with the grimy imagery already.
Well I’m here to welcome you to the New Age of Sauna-ing. Forget the hot coals and steamy strangers. The modern sauna boasts incredible healing capabilities far beyond the traditional sauna, all in your own private hot box.
I formally introduce you to INFRARED SAUNAS!
So when I typically explain saunas to newbies, I say something like this:
“Imagine the traditional sauna as an oven which heats the air in order to cook the food. Now imagine the infrared as the microwave which penetrates the food and uses waves to heat the food from the inside out…”
Now, this isn’t ENTIRELY correct, but it’s serves as a nice metaphor for the sake of explanation. Let’s break down the real differences between the traditional sauna and the infrared real quick.
- Heats rocks to heat the air in the sauna to ~185-190 degrees
- Water on the hot rocks creates steam to increase humidity (and temperature) in sauna
- Takes approximately 30-40 minutes for sauna to reach “therapeutic” temperature
- Start perspiration as soon as entering the sauna because the air is significantly hotter than your body temperature.
- Infrared light is the same lightwaves that come from the sun, without the UV rays (so you’re not going to get a tan, sorry)
- Uses infrared lamps to project electromagnetic radiation (sounds dangerous, but this is the same technology that keeps newborn babies warm in neonatal beds).
- Infrared heat penetrates body more deeply than hot air.
- Can produce a more vigorous sweat at significantly lower temperature
- You can use it as soon as you turn it on (though most people wait ~10 minutes until it reaches 100-110 degrees)
- Doesn’t heat the air, still comfortable to breathe and not stifling.
- Receive benefit from only 10-20 mins use
But what are the actual benefits to using a sauna in general? Glad you asked…
1. Sweating = Detoxing
The most obvious side-effect of time spent in a sauna is the fact that it makes you sweat. A lot. Which is awesome and so good for you. The skin is the largest detoxifying organ that the body has, but if you’re not sweating regularly, you’re missing out on one of the easiest ways to remove toxic build up in the body.
We absorb toxins daily. Through the foods we eat, pollution in the air, coming in contact with lead and other heavy metals (ps. aluminum is in a lot of antiperspirant deodorants), medications, chemicals in our hair and beauty products, and the list goes on and on. Unless we run to the hills and grow our own food and breathe through a gas mask, there really isn’t much we can do to avoid these “toxins”. However, we CAN and definitely SHOULD do what we can to help the body get rid of them.
*Also, the effects of detoxification are accelerated when the sauna is used after a massage because the massage works to stir up the toxins in the lymph system and the sauna can quickly release them through the skin! Many of my clients take advantage of this combination by requesting a sauna appointment when they book their massage. I take care of scheduling the sauna for them as well as turning it on and setting it up while they get dressed after their massage!
2. Immune function
When the body gets sick, one common response is to create a low-grade fever to heat up the internal temperature of the body. The rise in body temperature triggers the generation of a particular type of white blood cell (lympocyte…in case you were wondering, but we won’t go into the details here). White blood cells are “the cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders.”
Native Americans, ancient Asian traditions, and Scandinavian cultures have harnessed this knowledge for thousands of years by using sweat lodges and saunas to increase their core temperatures and activate the immune response. Infrared saunas have the added benefit of increasing the core temperature without having to increase the surrounding air which leads to a far more comfortable experience than sweating it all out in a crowded lodge.
3. Pain Management
One of the most common reasons that people who exercise continue to exercise even when they don’t want to is because their body is releasing endorphins (those “feel good” hormones) when they exert energy and sweat. One major benefit of those endorphins, besides getting that “runners high” is a decrease in pain throughout the body. This is because “endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain”. As if that isn’t good enough, endorphins also leave you with feelings of euphoria, suppress the appetite, release sex hormones, and enhance the immune system.
Also, simply by warming the body temperature (especially during our brutal winters) the collagen that makes up our tendons, fascia, and other connective tissue becomes more loose and can move more easily. Think of it like gum, which can become hard as rock when cold, but loosens right up and becomes pliable when heated. This is what happens in your joints!
4. Decrease heart disease
A 10-15 minute sauna session can increase the heart rate and promote cardiovascular conditioning similar to that of aerobic activity, like running on the treadmill, but without the physical exertion or stress on the joints. How? When the core temperature rises, blood vessels in the body dilate (vasodilation), which then triggers a physiological response of increased heart rate, metabolic rate (yeah, faster metabolism!), and cardiac output. This minimal stress on the cardiovascular system trains the heart to pump oxygenated blood more efficiently throughout the body, and the blood vessels become more pliable from continual contraction and expansion.
*** Now, I will say, I believe that everyone can benefit from a little extra cardio training in their lives, BUT PLEASE consult with your physician and/or cardiologist if you have ANY existing or previous heart conditions! *****
5. Better skin
Sweating is one of the best ways to open and cleanse your pores. No fancy scrub or face mask will ever be able to penetrate your pores as effectively as sweating will, because sweating will clean them from the inside out! When you sweat you literally have to push all of the dirt and oil out of the pores in order for the sweat to come out!
Other than simply cleansing the beautiful skin you have, infrared light from saunas penetrate into the subcutaneous layer of the skin where it can increase the production of collagen and rejuvenate tissues. This eventually decreases the appearance of wrinkles because wrinkles appear when the skin starts losing collagen naturally over time.
Finally, studies have shown the pH balancing effects of using an infrared sauna over time and “infrared is the only known efficient treatment for psoriasis and eczema and other dry skin conditions.”
Essentially, all I’m trying to say is that no matter who you are, if you have a human body and mind, you can benefit from using our amazing infrared sauna! Try it out for yourself. Did I mention that our sauna is private AND that we provide towels for you to use free of charge??
Go here to book your personal sauna session now!