A hot topic: a sauna in the house turns winter into a comfortable time of the year
Now that it is getting cold, having a good sweat is becoming popular again. Sauna visits are relaxing, give the immune system a boost and soften the skin. But is this really true? We asked an expert…
When the weather outside gets stormy, rainy or snowy, all we long for is to be somewhere warm and comfortable. We cuddle up under cosy blankets with wooly socks and a nice hot cup of tea. But what is even nicer, is getting warmed up in a sauna. In Finland, ’sweating‘ is an ancient custom. In a similar tradition, the Indians built special sweat lodges for this purpose. The word sauna actually means earth or snow ditch. In Finland, these uncomfortable holes that were heated with hot stones were replaced by more comfortable log cabin saunas years ago.
The variations that are now available prove how popular sweating rituals have become in our region too. The classic is still the Finnish sauna that can be heated up to 100 degrees. Infusions with pine needles, birch or mint provide the necessary moisture and help us take a deep breath.
The taste of comfort with all senses
For those who do not like it hot, there are wonderful alternatives: The bio sauna is heated up to a maximum heat of 60 degrees and the humidity is slightly higher than in the Finnish version, which is why you can stay in there longer. Many bio saunas have relaxing music playing in the background and colour-changing light – we don’t just sweat, but are able to relax deeply with the help of colour therapy. For those who prefer it a bit more humid, the steam sauna is the right choice. The temperature is between 40 and 60 degrees and the humidity is so high that you are surrounded by steam – and every breath you take fills you with warm, soothing air.
For all those who do not have much time and cannot stand hight temperatures, an infrared sauna or cabin might be an option, as infrared rays have a deep relaxing effect. In the infrared sauna, pre-heating is not necessary. A sauna visit of around 15 minutes should be enough to activate the body’s defences.
The salt sauna, which has salt plates fitted into the walls, has an invigorating effect and feels like a refreshing ocean breeze. It usually has a temperature of up to 60 degrees. The salt sauna is especially suitable for people with asthma or chest colds. Sensual and fragrant: in the herbal sauna, soothing herbal essences in the steam strengthen the nerves and relax muscle tension. It is an old saying that those who regularly visit the sauna stay healthy in winter. Going to the sauna protects against colds, boosts our immune system and keeps us fit. Is this really true? We asked an alternative practitioner. (see interview)
Of course, it is a luxury to have a sauna in your own home. This is why more and more people who build houses have started creating an individual spa area in their home. While it used to be a luxury to have the typical wooden box for the Finnish sauna in the cellar or a quaint sauna barrel in the garden, sweating has become a natural part of a healthy lifestyle. There is no reason to hide the new designer saunas – they are an inherent part of our living ambience. Stylish saunas, steam baths and sweat cabins are no longer just a part of a personal spa, but are also also perfect for the bedroom or winter garden. Wood as the typical building material is also outdated. More and more glass saunas can be found that let in the daylight and offer a view of the clouds and the sky, the garden, pond or the surrounding landscape.
Even the smallest cabin has space for a sauna. Klafs, a company renowned as an expert for saunas, now even offers a foldout sauna that fits into every apartment. With its size of around 60 cm it is hardly wider than a normal kitchen cabinet. When opened, it unfolds to three-times the size.
Interview with the alternative practicioner Sylvia Frömming, www.elementeimeinklang.de
What happens in our body when we are in the sauna?
Cleansing, relaxation and well-being. Sweating stimulates circulation, metabolism, blood flow and the detoxification process. It also helps relax muscle tension.
It is said that saunas strenghten the body’s defences. Is it true?
Yes, the cells of our immune system that are responsible for defending against infections are stimulated, which strengthens our body’s immune system and increases our resistance to illness.
It is also said that going to the sauna gives you nice skin – is that true?
The sweating cleanses and smoothens the skin by softening the upper layer. Additionally, it is good ‚training‘ for the blood vessels.
What would be the ideal sauna visit? What should be kept in mind?
You should shower before you enter the sauna, of course. Have a cold shower afterwards and then go out into the fresh air, the snow or a cold-water pool. In between the sauna visits it is important to relax, lie down, have a nice read and maybe take a nap. It is also important to drink a lot after the sauna in order to balance the loss of fluid, and the loss of electrolytes through sweating.
How often can you go to the sauna? Can it be recommended for children?
It is sauna season all year round. As long as you have no illnesses, you can go to the sauna as often as you like. Children should only go to the sauna accompanied by adults. They should only stay in for a few minutes and as long as they feel well. This way, they will benefit just as much from going to the sauna as grown-ups.