When to have a sauna and how to prepare for it
There is no particular moment when you should have a sauna however it is a good
idea to ensure that you have enough time to do it properly and calmly so that
you can enjoy all the benefits. As far as eating is concerned, all you need to
eat is a small snack before, like a yoghurt or some fruit. A hot tea, drunk before
entering the sauna, will also help with perspiration. At the end of the treatment,
it is a good idea to quench your thirst with a fruit juice, tea or water, but
not alcoholic drinks.
Before entering the sauna, it is a good idea to have a shower and wash yourself well with soap to promote relaxation of the whole body, prepare the skin and open the pores.
The sauna cabin and equipment
A sauna can be located anywhere, even outdoors by a lake or a river. Masters
of this treatment come from Finland and they have the perfect equipment which
can satisfy even the most demanding people. Saunas are not just found in hotels
in Finland though – almost every house has one!
The inside of a sauna cabin and the benches which people lie and sit down on must be made out of rough pine or poplar wood. The burner is another very important component and it can be heated with coal, wood, charcoal or electricity. The oven should have volcanic stones on it to create and distribute heat in the cabin. When you place water on these stones, it evaporates immediately and this makes the temperature in the cabin increase.
Other important parts are a bucket and a wooden ladle for the water, a wall thermometer and a clock, or, better still, a hourglass because you should relax in the sauna and not worry about how many minutes or seconds you have been in it for and a hourglass allows you to do exactly that and still tell you when the time is up.
In order to allow for better vasodilatation of the superficial blood vessels, you can lightly hit your skin with birch branches. This technique is often carried out when steam comes off of the stones. Finnish people collect birch branches during the months of June and July, when they are rich with leaves, then the branches are dried and, just before they are used, they are immersed in water to bring them back to their original state. Alternatively, you can wring out a wet towel and use that.
Timings of a sauna
In order for a sauna to be completely effective, you need to have a couple of
sessions. A sufficient temperature for good transpiration is 80°C. It is best
if the first session does not last longer than 10 minutes and, in fact, it is
best not to take a sauna with steam for the first few times because the extreme
change of humidity and heat can cause problems for some people, therefore you
should not pour water on the stones for the first few sessions. You can also avoid
getting dizzy when you leave the sauna by getting up very slowly.
Once you have left the cabin, you should have a cold shower (with fresh water), which will bring your body temperature back to normal, and then, finally, you can relax: wrap yourself up in a dressing gown or blanket and lie down on a bed. You should relax for about 15 minutes, and you could even take a quick nap in this time.
After this, you should return to the sauna for a second time for another 10 minutes, making sure that you follow the same guidelines as before. The skin will be soft and elastic at this point and a good quality plant based moisturising cream could be used to finish the treatment.
Drinking is important
When you sweat in a sauna, bodily fluids and minerals disperse into the air, therefore it is fundamental to rehydrate after a sauna. Sugary, stimulating and alcoholic drinks should not be drunk before, during or after a sauna though, instead you should consume still water drinks, fruit or vegetable juices or raspberry, mallow, nettle and linden teas. The best moment to drink is after a sauna.
People who suffer from hypertension, lung, heart or circulation problems should avoid saunas. However, all beginners should seek medical advice before starting steam and heat bath treatments.
There is no data about the physical benefits a sauna can bring about, however it is indisputable that a sauna makes you feel physically and mentally relaxed, reduces anxiety and gives you a feeling of renewed energy.
Saunas and weight loss
The profuse sweating caused by a sauna causes you to lose approximately 1 litre of water and deeply cleans the skin, removing impurities and toxic substances. However, this loss must be made up for at the end of the sauna by drinking fruit juices and teas. We can see that it is not actually the sauna itself that causes weight loss, rather it contributes to improving the metabolism.
Saunas and beauty
Saunas deeply detoxify the skin, make it bright and clear and make skin tissues more elastic. Heat baths also help you to relax and sleep better at night. Lastly, it improves blood and lymphatic circulation and increases skin, tissue and gland activity.
In practice, a sauna is equivalent to a deep cleansing of the whole body and it makes the body more resistant to atmospheric agents, heat, cold, wind and smog.
Saunas and sports
The beneficial effects of a sauna also act on the heart, circulation, skin and respiration and they improve resistance to infections such as sinusitis, colds and flu. Therefore the whole body is positively affected by a sauna, making it more active and energetic. In Germany, for example, saunas were first considered during the Berlin Olympics in 1936 when the results that the saunas had had on the Finnish athletes, who had requested saunas be available, were noticed.