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Health Benefits and How to Use Saunas

_MG_0079It is a very recent development that we bathe alone, or within the confines of our own house. Bathing and purification rituals are as old as human culture, and as widespread. From the Japanese to the Romans to the Native Americans, inducing perspiration for the purpose of cleansing has been an accepted part of daily life, and the Sauna is the native Finnish version of this tradition.

The skin is sometimes called the “third kidney” for its ability to eliminate toxins from the blood by sweating, and there is now a wealth of scientific evidence to support some of the traditional beliefs about what the Sauna can do for you. The Sauna is not unique, but particular, in that it creates a dry environment with a very high temperature (80-100C) which allows the skin to take up the work of the liver and kidneys. All forms of sweating do this to some extent, but in the sauna the body is motionless and relaxed by the intense heat, and thus the body can focus entirely on relaxation and detoxification. The sauna is impossible to enjoy in a hurry, and as such is an invitation to experience the timeless joys of making bathing a prolonged and social ritual.

Potential Health Benefits of taking a Sauna:

The benefits of the sauna are many, and despite certain apparent contradiction in what you might read on the internet, we take our lead from the Finns who are the best authority on all things sauna.

  • Provides deep, total body cleansing
  • Gives younger-looking skin through better nourishment from within
  • Speeds healing of acne and similar skin problems
  • Increases and strengthens the immune system
  • Reduces colds and flu
  • Relieves chronic ailments of the respiratory system such as hay fever, asthma and bronchitis
  • Helps regulate high blood pressure
  • Increases total circulation
  • Improves heart circulation/oxygenation
  • Has a protective effect on the arteries, especially important for diabetics
  • Reduces muscle tension and pain
  • Relieves “bad backs”
  • Has a beneficial effect on rheumatism, arthiritis and fibromyalgia
  • Provides detoxification through better water management within the body
  • Releases heavy metals from the body
  • Eases pregnancy and childbirth
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves sleep
  • Lifts depression
  • Has a balancing effect on the psyche and emotions

How to use the sauna:

  1. Don’t be hungry or full! Excessive hunger might make you lightheaded, and an overloaded stomach will inhibit the ability of the body to detoxify. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’ve been to the loo beforehand.
  2. Drink water before or after the sauna. Interestingly, it is also recommended that you don’t drink excessive fluids during your sauna session. Best to be hydrated before, and to re-hydrate after your sauna session. The detoxification process triggered by sweating is actually impaired by introducing excess water into the blood during a sauna. Sweating causes the blood to release the liquids from the cells. This liquid contains the heavy metals you want to eliminate. If you drink too much, you’ll be causing the liquids to pass through your body via the excretion organs which should be taking a break at this point. Of course, sense must prevail, and if you feel you must have a glass of water, then do so.
  3. Remove your jewellery. Metal gets very hot, very quickly in there and will burn you!
  4. Be rested. One should not go to the Sauna immediately after hard physical work or exercise. If you’re out of breath, it is best to wait and to rest for a while.
  5. Be clean. You wouldn’t want anyone else to be dirty in there, so why would you be? Have a shower, and then make your way to the Sauna.
  6. Be Dry. It is also best to be dry when you get in there.
  7. Bring a towel. It is really important that you lie down on a towel in the Sauna. This is for two practical reasons: first, that the benches can be hot and your skin will find it uncomfortable to sit/lie on them at the start. Secondly, it is much more hygienic to sweat onto your towel than directly onto the bench.
  8. Step into the sauna. Relax and make yourself comfortable. If you are not used to the sauna, the initial experience can be one of discomfort – don’t worry, this is a normal reaction of the body to extreme heat. Take some nice, gentle deep breaths through the mouth to acclimatise yourself to the sauna, and remember what benefits there are for your health from taking a sauna. We recommend between 8-12 minutes for your first sauna of the day. There aren’t any prizes for endurance, but the idea of the sauna is to raise the body temperature very slightly and to sweat. So kick back and enjoy!Do not stay in the sauna more than 15 mins at any one time.
  9. Leaving the sauna. Get up slowly after your 8-12 mins, or at the slightest feeling of unease or dizziness. It is best not to move too fast here. If you have been lying down then allow yourself some time in a seated position before leaving the room.
  10. Breathe, breathe in the air… Once you have left the sauna it is a good idea to walk around a little before you get into the cold shower or water. This allows your respiratory system to cool down and your circulatory system to normalise again. The heat will have opened the veins in your legs and raised the blood pressure, so again, we recommend calmness and mindfulness in all things that relate to the Sauna.
  11. Cool down. When you feel ready, get under the shower or jump in the water, depending on where you find yourself, and feel the incredible enlivening effect of the cold on your warm body. It may make you gasp, but this should be a really lovely experience after the extreme heat! The cooling down phase should take at least as long as the time you spent in the sauna. A good way to judge this, is that when you feel a slight chill, then get back in the sauna.
  12. Rounds two and three. The Finns are advocates of at least 3 sessions as described above to make the Sauna have the ultimate health benefits. You need to be the judge of that, and as in all things, you need to be the judge of your own limits. We are all different!

Now you’ve read about the health benefits and how to sauna, check out out hire prices for our mobile Sauna Safari.