What is a Sauna? History
The traditional sauna especially in the Finnish culture, was just a distinguished form of bathing. The saunas have you sweating profusely; the sweating session, would then be followed by a shower or a dip in the lake.
This is just how our great ancestors would bath in the ancient times. The hot room is heated with a stone-filled stove, temperatures are risen to 80°C to 100°C, whilst there is a need to maintain decent levels of humidity. The humidity needed is maintained and increased upon need, by pouring water on these heated stones. Usually after one has been in the hot room, for about 10 to 20 minutes, their pulse rates tend to rise, reaching up to 150 beats per minute. As they begin to sweat profusely in time, the body not only relaxes but also helps individuals in maintaining a better health, and desired weights, s the technique is also proven to be beneficial in burning excessive fat. In the sauna, with all the sweating, our bodies are also releasing the toxins and impurities, which may cause a poor health or other health complications.
The sauna has come to witness a great deal of changes and has revolutionized over time. After having undressed and having taken a shower, one must go inside the sauna room where temperatures are specially maintained in between 60°C and 100°C. Historically any feast day meant that one must visit the sauna on the evening before, but overtime the uses have changed, as many societies and cultures adopted the technique there were many reasons to go to the sauna and there is no singular proper and agreed upon sauna routine. However, saunas once gained great popularity in all of Europe.
Sauna comes with a long history… traditionally Saunas were nothing like they are today:
Historically saunas, were used by women to give birth, the ways in which saunas had been used and are used today, have changed remarkably over the centuries… even in the Finnish daily life the role of a sauna has completely transformed. The most important and constant use and benefit however of a sauna, is the complete relaxation of the body and mind, the sheer feeling of well being and the body’s harmful toxins being removed. Even though Saunas, have been an essential part of the Finnish daily life historically as well, to date they are essential. They served a different purpose back then, but now work as an effective antidote against the pressures that today’s hectic lifestyles come with, this is the common most application that Saunas across the globe, have widely come to have. You have the freedom to select your sauna bath’s temperatures as you may please and will most enjoy, the temperatures being in between 60- 100 Celsius, you have a great deal of choice available to you.
Saunas have long been associated with the Olympics, the Finnish, and the Germans but to date nobody has been able to tell the origins of the invention. Without a doubt we all know it is an ancient technique, reaching far into the sands of time, but what, who, where, and when invented it is greatly debated and there are no definite answers to it.
The health benefits of a sauna bathing are not unknown, there is good reason to why some healthy sweating is all that your body needs to function more effectively and properly. Our busy schedules deprive us of work outs, Saunas are a fast and effective way to sweat and achieve the positive and healthy outcomes. With sauna bathing, come such gratifying benefits and it is for a fact that physically there can be nothing more reinvigorating as muscles unwind and one’s tensions and stresses fade away, not only do we emerge more relaxed physically, but also mentally. They make us look and feel much better, we respond to persistent and gentle heat as humans in very positive ways, reaping purifying benefits out of the ancient technique.
Top 5 Sauna Benefits
There are many benefits of a sauna bath but here are the top five benefits that you can hope to achieve out of an authentic sauna, but mind you steam baths and Sauna are two different things, do not confuse them with each other:
- Saunas tend to act as great stress relievers:
It will not come as a surprise that most sauna bathers have frequently cited stress reductions to be the chief benefit that can be driven out of sauna. Medical studies have also often determined that higher levels of stress, in our daily lives can lead to our health being negatively affected, and a significant of diseases specifically heart diseases are partially if not fully related to stress. Heat bathing, which is a primary component in a sauna, plays a great role in the provision of stress relief and does so effectively in a number of ways. Saunas tend to be quiet and warm spaces; you can shut the world out, kick back and sweat your way to a better health. The moderate and well distributed heat in the sauna room is that is needed for your body to relax its stiffened and sore muscles, improving circulation miraculously all the while stimulating not only the release of harmful toxins but also releasing endorphins. Endorphins being the body’s all-natural chemicals, which trigger the feel good mechanisms. Source: health.harvard.edu
- Saunas help in relaxing muscles, it soothes aches or pains effectively in both joints and muscles alike:
It is under the heat generated by a Sauna, that our body releases feel good chemicals, these endorphins tend to have some enjoyable and mild effects on our bodies, all the while minimizing the pain of muscle soreness and arthritis. An intensive work out session results in similar healthy sweating, but saunas are different. These health benefits that would have been driven, otherwise out of an intense physical workout are still driven out of this ancient technique, together with an increased blood circulation and improved blood flow, the healing process and soothing of muscles, speeds up. Even after having participated in an intensive physical sport, you can use a sauna and help your muscles in relaxing as the heat from the sauna helps in reducing muscle tension, and tends to eliminate any other harmful toxins, which may be present. Source: finnleo.com
- Saunas have been known to flush toxins.
Only a few of us actively sweat on daily basis, which is a very bad sign, for it is an absolute necessity for almost every one of us to actively sweat. Deep sweating comes with a great deal of benefits which can be driven through regular sauna bathing, it is due to the heat produced in a Sauna that our body’s core temperature begins to rise and our blood vessels then dilate and our blood flow increases.
As heat from our blood, starts to move to the skin’s surface, our body’s nervous systems then sends out signals to sweat glands and stimulate them producing sweat. Our sweat is composed of high contents of water and healthy sweating can help in reducing levels of zinc, nickel, mercury, lead, copper and various other harmful chemicals which are released with sweating. One of the most popular reasons of visiting a Sauna is to detoxify our bodies. Source: health.harvard.edu
- Saunas also help in cleansing the skin.
Heat bathing is not only beneficial for health but also an effective health strategy and helps in cleansing and beautifying one’s skin. As the body produces sweat through deep sweating, the dead skin cells are replaced and the skin itself is cleansed. Sweating also rinses bacteria out of our epidermal layer and helps in clearing out sweat ducts. All the while, cleansing of the pores and enhancing the capillary circulation. Healthy sweating such as that in Sauna tends to bathe skin cells and fill it up, with a liquid which is rich in nutrients, and which fills not only the spaces present around the cells but also plumps up the tiny wrinkles. Source: Dr. Ben H Douglas, a professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and author of “Ageless: Living Younger Longer.”
- Saunas have also been known to help with deeper, more peaceful sleep.
Research has indicated that a deeper, and much more relaxed sleep is an outcome of regular sauna use. Together with an increased release of the endorphins, our body temperatures, become elevated and tend to fall at around our bedtime. This gradual and relaxing decline in the endorphins levels is the key to facilitating better and sound sleep. This is why there are numerous sauna bathers across the globe who recall and connect their sauna experiences with deep sleep, once they have basked in the soothing heat of a sauna.
Saunas have more additional benefits; they bring about recreation and social whilst they are also known to improve cardiovascular performance. They also help in burning extra calories, and they help in fighting a series of ailments and illnesses, increasing heart’s activity and forcing our bodies to utilize more calories by converting them into usable energy.
Sauna Side Effects and Risks
Sauna therapy has for long been used in the Scandinavian countries and is popularly known as a health promoting activity. Many of researches have proven various health benefits that can be driven out of the practice, but there have been a few cases with disadvantages and some unfortunate people who fell a victim to the risks involved with the therapy. Various skin conditions and cardiovascular ailments have had the researchers consider the risks involved in the use of Sauna, nothing comes without risks and benefits we have looked at a lot of benefits of this miraculous therapy. Detoxification and cleansing are the top most benefits, which can be driven out of a sauna bath but there are risks involved, let’s now review the problems that can arise…
In Finland at least one out of 4 patients admitted to a hospital for a burn, has been burnt from a Sauna therapy. However, most burns are merely a result of an accidental contact burn, but they can occasionally be grave and in cases even fatal. Some of these burns are also a result of exposure to hot air as temperatures sometimes even reach 190 Fahrenheit and exceed that. If there is an uncomfortable sensation of burning most people will get up and leave, but some people will stay and end up burning themselves. This is so because the heat from the sauna can penetrate through all the layers of skin and can cause unfortunate and aggressive amputations. Passing out in the sauna is an easy way to get yourself burned, avoid drinking while you are enjoying your therapy and be careful, and keep a safe distance from the heaters. Source: globalhealingcenter.com
- May Not Kill All Harmful Organisms
Sometimes you will be surprised to know that the moist and warm environment such as a sauna can be an ideal condition for organisms to thrive in and fungal infections such as the toe nail fungus or the athlete’s foot can be very easily caught here. There have been reported cases of such tragedies with regular Sauna users. You must take great care therefore of your hygiene and wash off properly after every session.
- Do not USE a Sauna to Lose Weight
Hundreds of people out there are convinced that sauna can help them lose weight, which is completely ridiculous. Any ideas of how your fat will melt away almost like heated butter does, is based far away from reality. A sauna therapy can for sure help in increasing your metabolism and burn calories, but will not melt fat in the blink of an eye and is not the most effective or reliable strategy to be fighting off obesity. Excessive use of sauna treatments can also lead to dehydration, and it has been reported that a few people struggling with obesity and anorexia nervosa also started sauna abuse together with laxative abuse, which led to grave consequences. Sauna is good when practiced in well-kept limits.
Our bodies are meant to operate at an average temperature of 98.7F and as the core temperature increases to a 105F, it can lead one into a medical emergency, and having said that the temperatures that a sauna tends to reach such as 190F cannot be endured. Sauna baths have been engineered to help you with relaxing, and are not torture devices, do not over do your limits and stay in there for only as long as it is pleasurable the moment it gets uncomfortable, its best you leave. Prolonged spells of heat can carry with it consequences such as death.
You must use a SAUNA safely, and avoid risks:
Using a sauna regularly cannot only rejuvenate both your mind and body but do is in ways that you never could have imagined. Saunas are generally very good for people with a good tolerance, but it is never advisable to stay in for too long and hydration is a constant need when in the Sauna room, do not avoid or over look your thirst and carry hygienic water fir for consumption. As your body loses water with the excessive sweating at a very high pace, you must maintain the water levels with a greater consumption of fluids, if you are a regular sauna go-er you must alter your diet and eating habits in ways that they best benefit your sauna therapies.
Tips for a better sauna experience and contraindications
- Avoid consuming hearty meals right before going for a sauna, but do not go for enjoying your sauna on an empty stomach.
- If you are suffering from chronic illnesses, you must first get the consent of your doctor. In case of serious heart and lung diseases, infections, high blood pressure conditions, kidney diseases and thyroid hyper function Sauna bathing should be avoided, completely.
- It is a bad idea to take a sauna at the start of an existing cold or influenza infection, though regular sauna bathing is an effective remedy to avoid cold.
- You must always take great care to go in to the sauna dry.
- Your first time staying in the sauna should be in the range of five to ten minutes. Then gradually you can increase your safe presence there up to 30 minutes. Stay in there only as long as it feels good; do not ignore your inner feelings just because you think it will do you good, excess of anything is bad.
- Avoid a plunge-bath if you have a weak heart or a high blood pressure.
- In the middle of your sauna session, avoid nicotine and alcohol. There is no scientific study or proven side effects but the consumption is considered to be a taboo.
Source: Hannuyksela ML, Ellahham S. Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. Am J Med. 2001;110(2):118–26.
Types of Saunas
There are many types of saunas about in the world that one can enjoy, various cultures have come about making significant changes to the initial structure also adding to the excitement and variety of going to a sauna. With the great deal of variations making the experience much more interesting and the cultural differences giving it a variety of flavors and distinction, Saunas have changed miraculously. Here are a few distinctive types of Saunas that one can enjoy:
This sauna is not one of your traditional Finnish saunas; and maybe a heat therapy room is what it can be best called. These Infrared heat therapy rooms compromise of radiant heat, and the heating elements in the room are powered with infrared hence the name. These emitters directly reflect the heat on to a person’s body, instead of heating the stones or the air hence there is no steam or concept of humidity in these rooms. The best application of the infrared rooms is prior to some intensive sports or after it in an attempt to relax the tension in muscles. Numerous sauna manufacturers have been known to run separate infrared together with the traditional Finnish Saunas and the conventional steam rooms.
A Turkish bath or locally known as hammam is the Muslim variant of the ancient Roman bath. It can be distinguished with its prime focus on water, and is distinct from ambient steam. However, in Western Europe, when you mention a Turkish bath most would perceive it to be a method of relaxation, purification or cleansing and it is so. Turkish baths became increasingly popular during the Victorian era, and the process involved is very closely similar to the ancient roman practices of bathing.
Russian baths have been for centuries an essential part of everyday living in Russia. Everyone, from the Tsars to the peasants not only made use of the baths for washing, but also used it for various purposes such as religious ceremonies, and healing when they fell sick, it was a customary for women to give birth here and many young couples found seclusion that they seeked here.
With every culture from Russian, Turkish to Finnish saunas, every one of them comes with a distinctive feature to its name which makes these saunas all the more interesting and laden with beauty and health benefits and with all the variety, there is sure to be that one sauna which will best suit your preferences and tastes. There are benefits and risks involved with the therapies, that tend to vary from region to region, but nevertheless its great popularity has made saunas one of the most sought after health and wellness treatments.
Hannuyksela ML, Ellahham S. Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. Am J Med. 2001;110(2):118–26.