Sauna bathing can be intimidating to the novice user. Upon entry, you can be overwhelmed by the temperature, the expectation to sit still for an unknown amount of time, or the social etiquette in an occupied sauna. Never fear. With a few tips and practice, the sauna may easily become the highlight to your health and wellness routine.
Know the Rules
Public saunas vary on rules and etiquette. Some may be gender specific or clothing optional. Ask an employee to brush you up to speed, chat with a regular, or do a little reading beforehand so you are prepared accordingly. If you are allowed to wear clothing, ensure it is breathable and comfortable or opt for swimwear.
If you are invited over to a private sauna, check with your host on the dress code. Traditional Finns opt for clothing-free saunas for optimal sweat benefits. This is not seen as uncomfortable or intended to make anyone feel awkward. Women and men will generally sauna separately if they are not close family. Just check with the host so you know what to expect.
Make sure you drink plenty of water before hand or even bring it alongside you during your session. If you bring water in, do not take a bottle that is metal. The metal will heat quickly and could become dangerously hot. Alcoholic drinks are not recommended as they can increase the likelihood of falling asleep in a hot sauna or can cause mishaps with the sauna heater.
Set your Expectations
During your first few trips to the sauna, you are unlikely to sit comfortably for twenty minutes. Start with a short goal in mind, say five minutes. After which, you may choose to cool of with a quick shower, dip in the pool, or relaxing at room temperature. You could conclude your sauna session there, or re-enter for another short session. Repeat as needed! Over time, your body will acclimate to the intense heat environment and you’ll be able to prolong your stay. An ideal sauna session would exceed ten minutes per day.
Read the Room
Even if you brushed up on the facility rules, there may be a few social cues to follow while sauna bathing. The sauna can be a very social place. Many people enjoy chatting in order to pass the time during their session. However, others enjoy the silence and isolation of the sauna. Match the mood of the space and embrace it.
If sitting without your phone for ten minutes intimidates you, try setting it down and opting for relaxing music or guided meditations. The unique environment of a sauna works wonders for your body mechanics, but can be equally beneficial for your mental well-being. Take this time to sit with your emotions, your thoughts, and fill your mind with gratitude.
Research shows that some sauna use is good, but more is better. Find a way to incorporate a regular heat therapy session four or more times a week. As a result you will partake from sauna bathing’s wide variety of benefits–cardiovascular health, muscle recovery, mental acuity, and mood boosting, just to name a few.