After a prolonged tour of Finland in the late 1930s, author Constance Malleson wrote:
“The sauna…is an apotheosis of all experience; purgatory and paradise; earth and fire; fire and water; sin and forgiveness. It is lyrical ecstasy. It is resurrection from the dead. It is eternal new birth. You are healed, you are made new.”
“Sauna” is a Finnish word that means “bath house.” The sauna is a 2000-year-old practice that rapidly began warming its way into American lives in the 1950s.
In Finland, with just 5 million people, there are an estimated 700,000 saunas – a sauna for every seven people, making a nationwide sauna-in a very realistic possibility.
Aside from the Finns, a number of sweat-bath variants have been used by the Greeks, Romans, Russians, Slavs, Turks, Africans, Germans, Eskimos, Irish, Mexicans, Mayans and Native Americans.
Years ago, we purchased an infrared sauna and set it up on the deck at our Hawaii retreat. Ever since, we can hardly hide our anticipatory smiles as the sun goes down and the evening brings cooler air.
In fact, we loved our sauna so much that we bought a second unit for our small apartment in the Bay Area. We then got in touch with a leading global maker of portable infrared saunas so we could offer them to our patients.
We always looked forward to the sauna as a physically refreshing, mentally healing and relaxing experience. But what I didn’t enjoy was the suffocating feeling of the hot, moist air in the sauna room.
The technology of the infrared sauna completely eliminates that concern – more on this later.
For the past 50 years, the only place most of us could find a sauna was at a health club or a commercial spa. And while I had experienced steam rooms, the first time I got a chance to enjoy a sauna was in the early 1980s, at Hawaii’s Volcano rain forest.
It was very primitive – the butt-end of a small woodstove stuck through a wall into the sauna room. We would stoke the fire from outside, and the temperature in the sauna room was completely uncontrollable and nearly always uncomfortably hot.
The modern infrared sauna provides thermostatically controlled dry heat between 160 and 200 degrees, in an insulated environment with less than 30 percent humidity.
Taking a sauna begins with sitting in the sauna until the sweat starts to flow in steady drops. The next step is a cold shower, followed by a plunge in a cold water tub – or, more authentically, a chilly Finnish stream or a roll in the snow.
The stark contrast in temperature seals the pores and prevents excreted toxins from being reabsorbed – of course, it also enhances circulation.
The hot-cold sequence may be repeated two or three times, or until you are so relaxed and “ʺwet-noodlyʺ that you can barely move.
While most sauna newcomers are reluctant to take a cold plunge after getting so nice and toasty, once you’ve experienced the hot/cold routine a few times it becomes so exhilarating that it really is addictive.
Many health benefits have been attributed to regular sauna bathing. Perhaps the most prominent benefit is the removal through skin and liver of toxic wastes by heat-induced perspiration. A daily sweat can also help reduce levels of toxic metals absorbed from the environment, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, sodium, and sulfuric acid. One study noted that regular saunas may also help lower cholesterol.
For more information about our far-infrared saunas, follow the link to this page.
Find out more about Dr. Connie’s work HERE.