A Sauna Ritual Makes You Mentally and Physically Strong
Whenever I move to a new city I usually search for two things a church I can visit often and an affordable spa where I can use the sauna at will. I discovered the sauna as a teenager and fell in love. When I realize the many benefits of a sauna ritual, I made it not only part of my self-care routine but also my healthcare ritual. Using a sauna often and making the practice a habit is a ritual that can make you mentally and physically strong.
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This post is part of a series of 21 rituals that you can make a part of your self-care routine and can make you mentally, physically, and spiritually strong. Although this is more about developing healthy rituals, read on to discover the many benefits of incorporating a sauna ritual into your self-care routine.
What is a sauna?
A sauna is an enclosed space usually made to help people relax and feel better about their health by using heat. The word “sauna” comes from Finnish. People in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe have used them for hundreds of years.
In a traditional sauna, a wood-burning stove heats rocks, which warms the room’s air. The temperature in a sauna can get very high, often between 80 and 100°C (176-212°F). Most people use the sauna either naked or wearing a towel or swimsuit. They then sit on benches and let the heat wrap around them.
The high temperature of a sauna is beneficial to your health in several ways. It can help relax muscles, lower stress, improve blood flow, and even help treat some health challenges. But it’s important to remember that a sauna can be dangerous if not used properly, especially if the temperature is too high or if you spend too much time in one.
Modern saunas might use electric heaters or infrared technology to make heat. They may also have music or light therapy to make the experience more enjoyable and beneficial to your health.
A sauna is heat stress. Heat stress has been shown to activate autophagy. To learn more about autophagy and how it affects longevity start with this article. Also, watch the video below.
This series of posts will give you an idea of what healthy practices can be included in your ritual. These posts will also include a healthy dose (pun intended) of curated sources where you can learn more about a particular habit. I hope they help you to create or deepen healthy rituals into your lifestyle.
Types of saunas
If using a sauna sounds foreign to you know that many options exist that you may be able to use on a regular basis. Saunas are not very expensive to use and they are usually included in apartment buildings with a gym.
You don’t have to purchase a membership or an expensive unit if you don’t have one in your apartment. You can purchase a portable unit on platforms like Amazon.
The key is to get the benefit of using a sauna regularly without stressing over the cost of owning one or paying for monthly memberships. These three types of saunas should give you a solid understanding of how saunas work.
Traditional Finnish saunas
A Finnish sauna is a traditional sauna that uses dry heat by heating rocks in a wood-burning stove. This produces dry heat of around 176-212 Fahrenheit or 80-100 Celcius.
The Finnish sauna tradition emphasizes the health benefits of saunas, such as relaxation, stress release, improved circulation, and physical therapy.
In Finland, a sauna ritual is a way for friends and family to spend time together and get to know each other. It is common for almost every home in Finland to have a sauna. Also, public saunas are plentiful and easy to find.
Infrared saunas use infrared heaters to generate heat, instead of more traditional methods like wood burning or electricity. Unlike traditional saunas that heat the air in the room, infrared saunas heat the body directly.
Infrared saunas are often much cooler than ordinary saunas, with temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius (120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit).
Many studies have shown that infrared sauna use, with its lower temperature and direct heat, may have therapeutic effects like relaxation, stress reduction, and increased circulation. If you find the intense heat of traditional saunas too much to handle, try an infrared sauna. You may find using one more comfortable.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick writes about sauna use quite a bit. In the video below, she discusses with Jari Laukkanen how using a sauna benefits heart health. He specifically talks about how long-term use of a sauna benefits blood pressure.
This was my first introduction to the sauna at our local YMCA while attending high school. I remember how unbearable it sometimes felt when I put fresh water on the stones so they would give off more steam. Of course, more steam meant more humidity which can be uncomfortable.
Steam rooms generate a large amount of steam, which is said to have many health benefits. Unlike regular saunas, steam rooms provide moist, intense heat.
Nowadays, steam is pumped into steam rooms via vents by generators. Steam rooms are typically cooler than saunas, with temperatures ranging from 104-122°F (40-50°C), but high humidity can make them feel even hotter.
Steam rooms have benches where you can sit, usually naked or wearing towels. The moist heat can open your pores, relax muscles, increase circulation, and your improve well-being.
When used incorrectly, steam rooms can be dangerous, especially if the humidity is too high or you stay longer than is comfortable. You should only use a steam room for about 10-15 minutes. Be sure to drink plenty of water so you stay hydrated.
Steam rooms are typically in gyms, spas, and other wellness centers. Like infrared saunas, they can be installed in your home.
How a sauna ritual makes you mentally and physically strong
I use the sauna for 60 minutes at a time because I’ve used it consistently for over 10 years. It feels really good to me and I don’t want to leave when I feel all the sweat pouring out of me.
When I took blood pressure medications regularly, I felt it necessary to use a sauna regularly to flush out my system. I believe my sauna ritual helps to detoxify these chemicals from my systems before they lodge themselves into my kidneys. So that is my main reason for developing a regular sauna ritual.
I can’t recommend using a sauna as part of your self-care ritual enough. That is, incorporate it along with other healthy habits such as clean eating and regular exercise. However, be sure to talk to your healthcare professional before you start so you can know whether or not the sauna is right for you.
Health Benefits of sauna rituals
You can increase the benefits of your sauna ritual by adding meditation. You can be confident that meditation in sauna benefits your mental health. So if you can, go ahead and double down on the benefits by incorporating meditation into your sauna ritual.
Precautions when starting a sauna ritual
Studies show that regular use of a sauna can have positive benefits on blood pressure. However, there are some care and safeguards related to the use of saunas. Harvard Health suggests the following precautions when using a sauna:
- check with your health care professional, especially if you have a lifestyle disease such as high blood pressure
- keep the time you spend to 15 – 20 minutes
- cool down gradually
- drink lots of water before and during your sessions
- leave the sauna if you do not feel well
- If possible, tell someone where you are or bring your phone with you.
Healthy habits such as sauna use when done regularly become rituals. Rituals that enhance your well-being can make you mentally and physically strong. Using a sauna regularly will help you build a healthy lifestyle.
Many sauna options are available so you won’t have difficulty incorporating them into your lifestyle. One of the many benefits of using a sauna is stress relief. We can all use a little bit of that sometimes, right?
If the thought of using a sauna is foreign to you, talk to a healthcare professional. Do your research. Then give it a try. It may feel uncomfortable at first. But with proper care and wisdom, you will reap the benefit when you incorporate a sauna ritual into your life.
I promise you will wonder how you did without it!