What’s the Right Way to use my Traditional Sauna?
I have been asked many times what is the right way to use a traditional sauna? There are many opinions but I thought I would share mine which is a combition of many concepts that I have heard over the years.
First of all, there is no right way or wrong way to use a traditional sauna however it is important to listen to your body. Don’t push yourself passed the point of feeling comfortable thinking that you will get more of a benefit by doing such. Your body will tell you when you have had enough. Also realize that each person is different and each time you use the sauna your body may act differently.
Let’s go over a full basics. Your sauna will take a certain period of time to preheat. If your sauna and heater are properly sized, your sauna should heat up about 80 F degrees per 30 minute period. If your sauna temperature is about 70 degrees F at start-up, it should reach 150 degrees F within approximately 30 minutes. Please remember that the starting humidity levels in your sauna will also effect the preheat time. The higher the starting humidity the longer the preheat time.
Once you have reached YOUR optimum temperature, it is time to start enjoying your sauna. But lets first discuss the concept of the “Rule of 200” in the sauna world. Many feel that the range for optimal benefit in a traditional sauna lies about the 200 sauna index range. That index is computed by simply adding the temperature and the humidity to arrive at the index. If your sauna temperature is 160 degrees F and your humidity is 50%, then your sauna index is 210 and you are in the optimal zone for sauna use. So when using your traditional sauna, strive for the 200 sauna index range for maximum benefit.
Another newer concept in the sauna world, is that of a “soft sauna.” That concept is derived from using your sauna at a lower temperature and higher humidty to arrive at the 200 index range. For example, using your sauna at 130 degrees F and 70% humidity would fall into the catagory of a “soft sauna” experience in as much as you are operating at a lower temperature but still benefiting from the rule of 200. This lower temperature is enjoyed by some who cannot tolerate the higher temperatures normally found in traditional saunas. The beauty of the traditional sauna is that you can choose your experience whether it is 185 degrees with 15% humidity or 135 degrees with 65% humidity – the choice is yours. I recommend for the new sauna user to start off at modest temperatures instead of starting off at the high end. Let your body “season” itself into the pleasures of sauna bathing. Over time increase the temperatures until you find your indeal temperature.
Now lets talk about the actual sauna experience. For centuries, it has been known that the proper way to use a sauna is in sessions or innings. What I mean by that is you do NOT simply preheat the sauna and then go into the sauna and sit. There are techniques to maximize your sauna experience. The concept of using your sauna in innings simply means that you go into your sauna multiple times per usage. I recommend at least two innings (three if you have the time). The first inning is your warm-up inning whereby your body is starting to warm from the sauna heat until you JUST start to perspire. The specific amount of time for this to occur will vary between individuals – just let your body tell you when this occurs. Optionally you can add some water to the sauna rocks to intensify the feeling of heat – this is accomplished by raising the humidity. If you have any scents such as eucyliptus, this is a great time to add to the water for a sensational feeling within your sinuses. Now it is time to exit the sauna and start a cool-down cycle. This process allows your system to cool down slightly and your pores to start to close. Some people actually rinse off in a cool shower, jump into a cold pool or lake or just lounge around in a cooler (or cold) environment. Once you have cooled off sufficiently, it is time for your second inning.
Once you re-enter the sauna you will find that your body responds more quickly to the heat then during the first inning. Your pores open more quickly and your persperation levels increase repidly. Again listen to your body and it will tell you when its time to exit. You may once again add some water to increase the effects of the sauna during this inning. I like to add the water just prior to exiting the sauna for that session. If this is going to be your last inning, you may want to also brush your skin with a sauna brush or (birch branches) to ride you skin of any dead skin that is on the surface. Once again it is time to exit the sauna for a cool down. If this was your final inning, your cool down should include rinsing off in a shower, pool, or lake. If using a shower, care should be taken in using soap with creams added as they tend to get into the pores that were just opened and cleansed. There are special sauna soaps to be used in those situation or using a brush or luffa can also be helpful. If this wasn’t the last inning, simply keep repeating the last step until you are done.
Once you have cooled down, replace the liquids you lost during your sauna (water or flavored water is great) and have some light snacks to replace the salts that you lost during perspiration. Relax and enjoy life.