10,000 years ago in Northern Europe, a family cracks through the ice as they head home for the night after a day of hunting. Freezing cold, they lift the animals skins off their dug out home and slip inside for the night. It's smokey but warm. Babies are born here and family members die here.
4,000 years ago the men of an Iroquois tribe in NY enter into a smokey and hot teepee. The fire goes out and red hot rocks continue to be brought it. Some pass out from the heat as the medicine man chants tones.
2,000 years ago Roman citizens spent a part of every day in the bath houses discussing politics and the news.
The Mystical Side of Sauna
While people of nearly all regions had a culture of sauna, it was the mystical side that gave the magical powers.
Sauna is a Finnish word meaning bathhouse.
Originally saunas were likely used for survival. All original saunas were smoke saunas. A fire was lit inside a log building or in a dugout part of the earth. The smoke sanitized the inside walls, floor and ceiling. As people entered, they vented the smoke and enjoyed a nice warm sleep against the frigid cold of the winter.
As time progressed, the sauna gained mystical significance and was associated with conferring magical benefits to those who entered. The spiritual practice of sauna was one of rebirth and renewal.
There were rules:
Enter the sauna naked -the same way you came into this world.
Sauna quietly, it is a time for reflection and detox.
Bring the 4 elements into the sauna - Earth (Birch wood to burn or rocks for heating). Fire - the smoke and fire of the sauna that provided the heat. Water - to pour on the rocks to create steam. Air - the breath as we meditate.
Sauna eventually was incorporated into the bathhouses of Europe that were a critical part of daily life. However, organized religion of the time was jealous of the spiritual significance given the sauna and did away with many of the bathhouses. Sauna largely went away except in special places like Finland, Korea, and Japan.
Finland has 5,000,000 people and 3,000,000 saunas.
Healing Benefits of Sauna
Sauna use in winter provides a spiritual renewal, rebirthing process. One can enter the sauna naked and sweat out toxins, both spiritual and physical.
Sauna is one of the best and sometimes the only way, to remove certain toxins from the body. Phthalates and Bisphenol-A (BPA) can be removed from the body via sweat more easily than any other detox method.
Make sure to bring a towel to wipe off all the toxin filled sweat. You do not want to reabsorb all that or leave it in the sauna for the next user.
Toxins Eliminated via sweat from Sauna:
In addition to removing toxins, sauna use has been shown to provide the following benefits:
Decrease risk of Dementia and Alzheimers
Improve mental health and depression
A famous Finnish study showing reduced death and disease from using sauna proved that using sauna
1 time per week is significantly better than none
2 times per week is better than 1
3 times per week is better than 2
4 times per week is better than 3
4-7 times per week was the sweet spot of showing a 50% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 66% lower risk of demential and Alzheimers.
How to Get Access to Sauna
If you can afford your own at home sauna, get one. Whether traditional wood fired sauna, electrical sauna heater, infrared, or incandescent, they all provide benefits.
If you aren't ready to buy your own, perhaps your gym already has one. In this case, it would be no cost to you to use the sauna after a workout. My personal preference is to use sauna immediately following a workout because I read that it can increase human growth hormone at this time if used for about 20 minutes. This is supposed to help eliminate fat in increase lean muscle.
You could also go to a place like Awaken for Wellness in St Paul, MN and sign up to use their infrared saunas. 4 times a week might be spendy, but you aren't paying for the electricity or the cost of purchasing a new sauna. Plus they're already hot when you get in. Find a bathhouse or sauna place in your own city. Usually there are many. If it's going to cost you $100 a month to use a sauna, why not just join a gym for $60 a month that already has a sauna and now you get two for the price of one - a sauna and the gym!
With all these sauna benefits, it makes sense to get access all winter. Those mystical benefits given to those who enter are being proven in science every day!