By Marina Aagaard, MFE
Enjoy a Finnish sauna, alternate baths hot and cold,
it supercharges your body, mind and soul;
boosts skin and looks; look youthful, not old …
One visit to the sauna and you too will be sold!
Being ½ Finnish (½ Danish) it is only natural, that I am a sauna fan … and no matter what your nationality, you ought to be a sauna fan, too. Yes, even if you live in hotter places than Finland or Denmark … because a Finnish sauna experience involves alternating hot and cold baths and this is ideal for anti-aging, anti-stress, anti-cold, beautiful skin, general well-being and excellent recovery from workouts or stressful periods at school or work.
The Sauna: A sauna is a small room or house, all wood, with wood covering the floor, walls and ceiling, wooden benches and an electrically heated stone oven (some saunas use wood for heating). There is a small bucket with water and a ladle for pouring water on the hot stones, so humidity is increased.
There should also be a thermometer, a hygrometer and an hour-glass.
There are also infrared saunas, which does not heat the sauna air, but the body. The sauna temperature is lower, 120-140 degrees F and you can stay in them for longer –suitable for some patients. Infrared saunas have many of the advantages of traditional saunas as well as a deep body-penetrating heat. However, traditional sauna gives a more authentic experience; a stronger heat and the possibility of changing the humidity.
There are modern saunas with light and sound effects or aromatherapy. They provide for variation. Personally I prefer a traditional sauna; dimmed normal lights, a scent of wood and complete relaxing silence.
Saunas not only exist at exclusive spa’s, but also at pools and sports and holiday resorts. Find a sauna near you and have a wonderful mind-body experience.
The sauna bath: Sauna is a dry, hot bath, from 60-100 degrees C (140-212 degrees F), norm 80-90 degrees C (194 degrees F). By pouring water onto the hot stones of the sauna oven, you will increase humidity from 5-8% to approx. 15%.
There are several advantages to sauna use:
- Relaxes the muscles and reduces soreness and muscle tension. Alternating hot and cold baths speeds up recovery and hence increases sports performance.
- Reduces and relieves various aches and pains.
- Relieves stress and mild depression.
- Reduces the incidence of common colds.
- Flushes toxins from the body, is detoxifying.
- Sweating cleanses the skin, rinses bacteria out of the epidermis and sweat ducts.
- Induces physical and mental relaxation and wellness.
As a warm-up: The muscles will get warmer in the sauna, but it is a passive warm-up, which does not prepare the body for dynamic physical activity. Use an active warm-up.
As exercise: Blood circulation is enhanced, however, a.o. the neuromuscular system, nerves and muscles, is not active, so there is no real training effect.
Sauna use (time and temperature specific to the user) is safe for almost everyone; children, young, adults, seniors and pregnant women. And sauna use is beneficial for reducing the symptoms of a number of diseases. However, caution is advised, especially in the case of cardiovascular diseases. Check with your doctor – also ask about medication and sauna use.
You may use the sauna in the morning – it is refreshing, when you finish with a cold bath.
You may also use the sauna in the afternoon or early evening, it is very relaxing and may improve sleep quality.
Set aside plenty of time for a sauna séance, if possible at least 1-2½ hours.
Do not eat a meal later than 1-2 hours before going to the sauna.
Drink water during the day, so you are hydrated, when going to the sauna.
Listen to your body: Staying in the sauna should feel good; if you feel overheated, dizzy or uneasy, leave the sauna and cool off.
How to Use the Sauna:
- Heat up the sauna, temperature 140-212 degrees F, norm 194 degrees F.
Avoid temperatures higher than 212 degrees F, as this can be harmful.
Note: New users should start gradually with shorter time and lower temperature.
- Take a bath, cleanse thoroughly. Leave off jewelry, watches, glasses, a.o.
- Go naked – or in swimwear – to the sauna; depending on the setting and country.
- Always bring a towel to sit or lie on; for hygienic reasons and comfort.
- Sit or lie down. It is warmer at the top bench in the sauna.
- In a Finnish sauna you ‘whip’ yourself gently with birch branches to stimulate the skin and remove dead skin cells.
- Poor water on the stones to increase humidity.
- Stay in the sauna heat for 5-15 minutes, or a little longer.
Do not stay for too long as it is unhealthy, 20-30 minutes is maximum.
- Go out; take a (icy) cold bath, shower, tub or lake; cold for 1-3 minutes.
- Go back in the sauna and repeat the procedure*. Typically 3-5 times.
* Note: For wellness: You may prefer to cool down further and relax outside for another 10-15 minutes, before going back into the sauna. For recovery: Alternate between hot and cold baths without pauses. Finish off with a cold bath.
Drink plenty of water afterwards to rehydrate.
Enjoy your sauna experience.