Originating in Finland, sweat lodges or saunas are centuries old. Similar versions of sauna can be found in other countries too but the modern sauna, as we know it, definitely belongs to the Finns. People of the Scandinavian region can attest to the fact that sauna therapy is a wonderful way to de-stress and relax. After all, they know better as they have been indulging in this activity since ages. But a sauna is much more than a place of relaxation. It is a place where you get innumerable health benefits right from muscle relaxation to detoxification to improved cardiovascular functions. It’s a great place where you meet up with likeminded people, socialize and make small talk whilst at the same time healing your body and mind.
A sauna is basically a closed room where a bather undergoes dry /wet heat sessions or a combination of both. Before entering the sauna users generally take a hot shower as it is believed that it speeds up the perspiration process in the sauna. After a sauna, users generally cool off with a cool refreshing bath to complete the cycle. The temperature inside a sauna is maintained at very high temperatures, resulting in an increase in the body’s temperature within minutes. The excess heat inside the sauna produces an artificial fever kind of situation where your outer body becomes relaxed whilst your inner body goes into an overdrive, with your capillaries dilating, your heart beating faster, blood circulating freely – in short, a frenzy of activities is taking place inside you of which you are blissfully unaware of.
Saunas are basically of two types – the traditional sauna and the more recent ones, the infrared sauna. The conventional sauna consists of a closed room wherein stones are placed in a fireplace which is then heated to extremely high temperatures. Occasionally some water is poured over the rocks to create steam to add some element of moisture to the room. In a conventional sauna the air inside the room is heated while in the more modern version certain specific objects are heated. The benefits accrued from both the types of sauna are almost the same. It’s actually a matter of choice as to which sauna one prefers.
Benefits of dry sauna
Temperatures in a dry sauna are maintained around 85°C. In certain cases it may even touch 100°C.The scalding temperature activates our sweat glands and our body begins to sweat profusely to bring down the temperature. Along with profound sweating, the pulse rate soars and the heart begins to pump blood frantically. The blood circulation in the body increases resulting in lower blood pressure and increased cardiac output. A dry sauna has the ability to provide you relief from minor ailments such as cold, congestion, muscle pains etc. The wonder it works on the skin has only to be seen to be believed, with the skin taking on a soft, rosy hue as years of accumulated toxins get washed off within minutes, enabling the skin to breathe more freely.
Benefits of an infrared Sauna
The infrared sauna is increasing catching the attention of a sauna-loving public. Since infrared saunas operate at a much lower temperature ranges, they are ideal for those people who cannot tolerate the excess heat of a conventional sauna. Advocates of infrared saunas argue that it is infinitely better than the steam/dry ones as the infrared radiations penetrate far deeper into the human body than what can be achieved with a normal sauna. Even at lower temperatures, infrared saunas can equally deliver a punch as much as the traditional ones.
An infrared sauna can be easily installed in one’s house making it a sought after product for people wishing to experience the pleasures of a sauna within the confines of their homes. It is portable and can be easily installed anywhere. An infrared sauna doesn’t heat the surrounding air unlike the traditional sauna, thereby saving on a lot of time. People running short of time ideally prefer this. Health benefits of an infrared sauna can especially be felt by people suffering from back problems, arthritis and joint problems. Similar to the dry sauna, an infrared sauna too helps in lowering blood pressure, eliminating wastes, boosting circulation and overall relaxation.
Health benefits of using a sauna
The high heat of the sauna has immense healing and curative powers. A sauna provides a host of benefits some of which are listed below.
Sauna removes stress
Sauna users absolutely swear by this. This is the primary reason why people opt for a sauna bath. It’s a well-known fact that stress is the cause of many illnesses affecting modern man. The heat emanating from the sauna relaxes the tense body muscles, improves blood circulation and encourages the production of endorphins, which is the body’s natural feel-well chemical that results in an overall feeling of well-being. The time spent in a sauna truly acts as a great stress-buster. It’s an extremely reinvigorating and rejuvenating process which enables us to get rid of our tension and ensure that we emerge in a relaxed state to face the upcoming challenges of the day in a better manner.
Sauna helps relax the muscles
Our muscles undergo considerable wear and tear. Undue strain on the muscles produces lactic acid, which retards proper muscle functioning. A sauna treatment not only relaxes the muscles but also helps in eliminating the lactic acid which gets accumulated. Due to increased circulation, blood flow to the affected muscles increases resulting in quicker healing of worn out and tired muscles. Endorphins act as a tranquilizer of sorts easing out the pain caused by injuries, soreness, aches and arthritis.
Sauna flushes out the toxins and cleanses the body
Modern lifestyle ensures that we spend a good part of our day inside air-conditioned spaces. As a result, we hardly sweat which indirectly results in the build-up of toxins in our body. An enriching sauna helps the body get rid of all the unwanted toxins piled up inside it. The immense heat from the sauna stimulates the nerve endings of our body to release a chemical called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine immediately puts our 2.3 million sweat glands to work and they begin to work manically. In just about a matter of minutes, our body loses about a liter of sweat to bring back our temperature to normal. Our body sweats profusely and in the process some of the accumulated toxins too get removed.
Sauna deep cleanses the skin
Deep sweating is an age old remedy followed by practitioners of beauty to cleanse the skin and make it look younger and softer. Sweating is beneficial to the skin in ways than we can’t even imagine. Sweat contains certain nutrients and minerals which are essential for maintaining the collagen structure of our skin. When we sweat, these nutrients go into an overdrive and protect the collagen, thereby preventing the formation of wrinkles and preserving the youthful glow of our skin. Regular sweating is therefore essential to maintain the youthful nature of our skin.
It helps one sleep better
To wake up refreshed in the morning, one must have undisturbed sleep. For that, a relaxed body and mind is very essential. If you have trouble sleeping, you should visit a sauna for the becalming influence it has on the body. A visit to a sauna loosens up ones tense body muscles and accelerates blood circulation, factors essential for a good sleep. Endorphin production which increases in a sauna also has a tranquilizing effect on the body which leads to a good sleep.
Sauna improves cardiovascular performance and blood circulation
A sauna is a great option for those people who are unable to undergo vigorous physical exercise. Staying in a sauna even for about 20 minutes can increase the heart rate by about 50% which is equivalent to about a bout of moderate physical exercise. An improved heart rate means better circulation. Due to the extreme heat the blood vessels become dilated and more blood flows through ensuring a rich supply of oxygen to even the furthest of the extremities. Dilated blood vessels also lead to decrease in blood pressure, a boon for people suffering from high blood pressure problems. When blood circulates more freely through the system, toxins at the cellular level move to the skin area to be eliminated resulting in better cell health.
Sauna improves the immune system
A sauna creates an artificial fever kind of situation in the body where the internal and external temperature of the body rises considerably. When our temperature rises, our body immediately increases the production of white blood cells, our body’s natural fighters who fight against foreign microorganisms. Increased production of WBCs and antibodies eventually increase our immunity levels.
Sauna for its own sake
Last but not the least; indulge in a sauna just for itself. Step into a sauna and close the door on the rest of the world, leaving your worries and care behind you. Revel in the embracing warmth that a sauna provides and give your body that much needed break.