BY PEGGY SIJSWERDA
FOR CENTURIES, humans around the
globe have been gathering in enclosed
spaces to sweat, a practice that continues today. Indigenous peoples conduct
sweat lodge ceremonies. Koreans and
Mexicans sweat in dome-shaped structures. In Finland, where the word “sauna”
originated, small wood-panelled rooms or
buildings provide the setting.
All of these practices share the goal of
bringing people together in a hot space to
sweat. Sauna bathers believe the experience o;ers physical, spiritual and mental
bene;ts. Many say it promotes relationship building and togetherness.
Hot can be healthy
Experts say sauna bathing is a healthy
activity for most people. Recent studies in
the U.S. and Finland found sauna bathing
is associated with a reduced risk of sudden
cardiac death and is linked to better cardiovascular health. Regular sauna bathing
may also lower the risk of dementia and
Alzheimer’s disease, reduce the possibility of developing hypertension and provide relief for those with acute and chronic
Most sauna fans claim that, in addi-
tion to the physical benefits, they expe-
rience mental and spiritual cleansing.
Retired NHL hockey player Aaron Downey
says a sauna is “your own little sanctuary”
and “puts you in a state of harmony.”
Downey, who has a strength coach-
ing business in Orangeville, Ontario, and
teaches yoga, agrees that the health bene-
;ts of sauna bathing are many. “The heat
increases your circulation,” he explains.
“It opens up your skin and dumps out
waste.” He regularly uses a customized
sauna he designed for hot yoga and spin-
ning workouts. “It really gets your heart
rate up,” he says.
Downey began sauna bathing at the
family cottage when he was ;. Today his
;-year-old daughter carries on the tradition. “She loves it,” he says. “It helps her
runny noses.” (Consult with your doctor
before jumping into the heat, and make
sure children are supervised.)
Sweating the details
Mark Boulding, director of marketing
for Dundalk LeisureCraft, a Costco supplier based in Ontario, is also a fan and
takes a sauna two to three times a week.
He says Dundalk saunas are constructed
with durable, long-lasting Canadian red
cedar. “We have the best wood right here
in Canada,” he notes.
Dundalk manufactures traditional
saunas, as opposed to infrared saunas, and
Boulding says it’s important to understand
the differences between the two when
shopping for a sauna.
A traditional dry sauna uses rocks
heated in specially designed heaters to
increase the temperature of the air up to
;; C (;;; F) while reducing humidity to
a bare minimum. To change it to a wet
(or steam) sauna, water is poured on the
rocks; the resulting steam makes the air
feel even hotter.
Infrared saunas use heating panels
FOR YOUR HEALTH
Costco.ca offers infrared and traditional
home saunas. Both are available in sizes
that accommodate one to six people;
Enjoying the “ah” of sauna
SAUNA FUN FACTS
Meet the sauna elf. Legend says
saunas are protected by elves that
ensure that bathers follow proper
sauna etiquette. They can be grumpy,
so make sure you keep the sauna elves
happy by following sauna rules.
Take it all off. Clothing may release
dirt or chemicals into the sauna as well
as trap sweat and block pores, so going
nude is the best way to take a sauna.
But wrapping up in a towel is a perfect
option for those uncomfortable in their
OK, you can wear a hat. Many say
wearing a hat in a sauna allows you
to tolerate high heat better and also
protects your hair from heat damage.
Scents make sense. You can use
essential oils like eucalyptus and
lavender in the sauna. Add a few drops
to the water ladled on the hot rocks—
and breathe deeply.
Branch out. Add an element of
massage and aromatherapy to your
sauna by tapping a “whisk,” a bundle of
leafy birch branches, against your skin.
How sweet it is. Some people apply
honey while in a sauna, which is said to
help cleanse and moisturize the skin.
Cool down. In Finland, taking a sauna
can be a two-hour experience. Sauna
bathers break periodically for hydration,
snacks and a breathtaking dive into a
cold pool or nearby snowdrift.—PS
that produce infrared light, as opposed
to radiant heat. The infrared light rays
increase body temperature by penetrating
the skin and can do so at a lower temperature than traditional saunas. Infrared saunas warm up faster than traditional saunas
but are not designed to use water or generate steam.
Whichever method you prefer,
Boulding says, sauna bathing is a great
stress reliever: “When you get out, you feel
cleansed and [that much] better.” C
Peggy Sijswerda writes about wellness and
travel. She enjoys a sauna post-workout.
Dundalk 6-Person Western
Red Cedar Barrel Sauna with
Porch. Item #358492