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Sauna

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Whether you use facilities at a health club or at home, a sauna is an excellent treatment that will relax both body and mind. Sauna is a Finnish word meaning "steam bath." However, a sauna is actually a hot air bath, since the temperature remains at 175-195°F (80-90°C) and the relative humidity is only fifteen to twenty-five percent.

Whether you use facilities at a health club or at home, a sauna is an excellent treatment that will relax both body and mind. Sauna is a Finnish word meaning "steam bath." However, a sauna is actually a hot air bath, since the temperature remains at 175-195°F (80-90°C) and the relative humidity is only fifteen to twenty-five percent. In the cold Scandinavian climate, these superheated rooms or saunas are a part of a healthy cultural tradition and social activity. Steam baths were known in ancient times as a pleasurable and healthy activity. In North America, aboriginals traditionally used steam baths and sweat lodges to heal sickness and purify the body and soul.

Health Benefits

Saunas can increase resistance to cold temperatures and ward off infectious diseases. Dry indoor air often causes respiratory and skin problems due to fluid loss through the skin. These problems can be relieved with a sauna. When sweating, the skin also purges the body of water and waste. Sweating supports the kidneys, which usually have the job of eliminating waste products from the body. Saunas bring your blood to the skin's surface, improving overall circulation, regulating body temperature, and providing smooth, healthy skin.

In North America and some parts of Europe, a dry heat sauna is used for therapeutic purposes to detoxify the body from drug addiction, chemicals such as solvents, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides and to some degree, heavy metals. It can be quite effective and for this purpose should be taken under medical supervision as a specific protocol of added antioxidants and minerals, and monitoring of the patient during the specified series of saunas is required.

How a Sauna Works

Rocks are placed in a secure area of a room and are heated until they radiate heat throughout the room. Alternatively, a heating element can be used to produce heat and/or steam. Saunas can have dry heat or, by throwing water over the hot rocks, you can make a steam bath. In a properly designed and constructed sauna, the air temperature falls between 175-195°F (80-90°C). You can also add aromatherapy oils like eucalyptus. The warmth of the sauna enters the body through the skin and the lungs. This heat pervades the body and gives a feeling of well-being. Increased blood flow to the skin's surface activates the sweat glands to release toxins and regulate temperature

Using a Sauna

Your total time at the sauna could take two to three hours if you choose to go for several sittings in the sauna room. Each sitting should last approximately five to ten minutes, though the actual length of your sitting may be shorter or longer, depending on how comfortable you feel. If you get uncomfortably hot, it is time to leave the sauna room, regardless of how long you have been there. Three or four sittings seem to provide the most benefit, with each sitting followed by an exit from the sauna and a period of cooling off and relaxation.

When exiting the sauna after your sitting, move slowly. Take deep breaths of (preferably fresh) air as you are cooling off. You can cool off with a cool or cold shower, or you can start by bathing your feet in cool or cold water and then moving upwards. Use lukewarm water if desired. Cool off your head by splashing water on your face and hair. Hardy Scandinavians often use snow or icy lake water to cool off. Cold shifts the blood flow back into the internal organs and sweating stops. Before returning to the sauna for your next sitting, it is important to rest for thirty minutes.

After cooling off and relaxing, return to the sauna for another sitting. Each successive sauna sitting increases the feeling of inner warmth. After exiting from the third sitting, you may feel quite resistant to cold temperatures. Your inner body is warm, and your muscles are loose and flexible. Whatever discomforts existed before are now gone, and you feel younger and more optimistic.

When to Use a Sauna

When enjoyed with moderate frequency, once or twice weekly, a sauna provides the wonderful relaxation and cleansing of a bath. A thorough shower before the first sitting helps clear your pores and allows healthy, detoxifying sweating. Avoid excessive bathing with soap, which can remove the skin's protective coating of oil, or sebum, leaving the skin dry and susceptible to infection. To promote sweating, dry yourself after the shower and ensure that your feet are warm.

The sauna experience is best after exercise. Wait at least fifteen minutes to half an hour after exercising before entering the sauna. Even for an athlete in good condition, the heat of a sauna combined with the heat from exercising can be a major stress for the body. Visit the sauna on an empty stomach. Drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids before, during and after the sauna. Water is quickly lost through perspiration when using a sauna and it needs to be replaced.

For a deeply relaxing experience, follow your sauna with a massage as your muscles are very warm. A massage after a complete sauna treatment is an excellent way to further enhance circulation.

Almost everyone who is in reasonably good health can enjoy the benefits of a sauna. As well as cleansing the body through sweating, saunas have a calming influence, improve your appetite and help you sleep better as well as helping the skin to stay soft, supple and healthy. A sauna visit is a leisurely activity. Take your time to fully enjoy its benefits.

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