Chances are, you’ve spent time in a sauna at some point in your life. They’re great for muscle relaxation and stress relief but I’ve never been a fan because they’re just too dang hot for me! Scorching air plus dizziness does not equal relaxation or fun in my mind.
Five years ago, however, I discovered (and subsequently became obsessed with) a game changer: the infrared sauna. Unlike conventional saunas, which only heat the air, infrared saunas produce the same spectrum of rays that come from the sun (and penetrate more than 1.5 inches into the body), but with the UV radiation filtered out, so they’re completely safe.
My mom bought one when I was living at home during the summer, and I started using it two or three times a week. Initially, I was totally drawn to the fact that you can burn up to 600 calories in a sitting—the key word here being ‘sit’. No exercise required. Yes, I’m lazy.
Then I started noticing that my shoulders (which is where my tension accumulates) weren’t aching and my skin was a lot clearer and more radiant (and remember, at this point I hadn’t yet discovered the wonders of coconut oil). Now I’m a total believer—and when you hear about the many benefits, maybe you’ll be too.
WHERE YOU CAN USE AN INFRARED SAUNA
They used to be tough to find, but now lots of spas, wellness centres, yoga studios and naturopathic clinics offer sessions (usually about 30 minutes). They generally run about $1/minute (or a little less) but some spots offer special packages at reduced prices.
HOW INFRARED SAUNAS HELP YOUR BODY ELIMINATE TOXINS
Typically hitting temps between 43 and 54 degrees Celsius, the heat infrared saunas generate makes you sweat like nothing else—about two to three times more than in a regular sauna, even though the latter is between 70 and 100 degrees. And despite the infrared sauna being cooler, you sweat more because the heat it emits is absorbed directly into your body.
Now I know sweating isn’t particularly attractive or appealing, but you wanna know what is? Detoxification! Radiant heat stimulates your deeper tissues and organs, allowing them to release stored toxins. In a regular sauna, your sweat consists of 95 to 97 percent water, while in an infrared sauna, only 80 to 85 percent of it is water—with the remaining 15 to 20 percent being your toxic load. That’s right: lovely things like heavy metals, chemicals and other toxins are leaving your body.
Make sure to shower after you sauna to get rid of all the yucky stuff on your skin. And I said it before but I’ll say it again: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate—before and after a session to replenish fluids and lost minerals. Experts suggest one session per week for the first month, and increasing to two per week after that.
AND NOW FOR THE REALLY GOOD PART: HOW INFRARED SAUNAS MAY HELP YOU BANISH CELLULITE, BURN CALORIES AND BOOST METABOLISM
If burning calories sitting down doesn’t sound like a dream come true to you, I don’t know what does. Like I said, just 30 minutes in an infrared sauna can burn up to 600 of them! The sauna’s heat makes your heart beat faster, which causes you to sweat, which in turn burns calories. One study showed reduced waist circumference and weight loss in those who weren’t exercising but used infrared saunas regularly instead.
Sauna time may also help reduce the appearance of that nasty c-word—cellulite—under the skin by promoting blood circulation and sweating. Combining sessions with dry brushing can also help. Use a natural fiber brush to remove dead skin cells and stimulate the lymphatic and circulation system before you sauna.
HOW AN INFRARED SAUNA SESH CAN MAKE YOUR SKIN ALL GLOWY AND SMOOTH
Ever notice how great your skin looks after a workout? Exercise increases blood flow and circulation, which draws oxygen to the skin—and that’s exactly what an infrared sauna does too. Plus, when you sweat, your pores open up, and all those impurities that cause breakouts can be eliminated.
I notice that when I sauna consistently, my skin is much clearer and I can go without foundation. Yeah, it’s pretty fantastic. (Now if only I could steal my mom’s sauna and stick it in my apartment instead of having to trek to the salon or yoga studio). Ultimately, sauna sessions help with skin regeneration and keep you glowing and moisturized. People have also seen mayjah improvements in skin issues like eczema, psoriasis and acne.
AND OF COURSE, INFRARED SAUNAS ALSO SOOTHE MUSCLES AND HELP YOU RELAX
For me, infrared sauna sessions are kind of like hot baths: comforting, warm, enveloping and super-soothing. Aside from providing you with a rare half-hour block of quiet time, the sauna’s natural radiation gently penetrates tissues and allows muscles, tendons and ligaments to totally relax. It also helps to strengthen the immune system—which can make you more resistant to stress.
And who doesn’t need a little stress relief these days? I’m currently writing this post instead of paying bills, and just the thought of looking at my Visa statement is enough to make me anxious. I might have to book a sauna appointment for this afternoon.
Elizabeth Oborne is a Vancouver-based writer and holistic nutritionist. Follow her on twitter: @elizabethedits.
Over to you:
Do you sauna?
Ever used an infrared one?
Which benefit had you at hello: Detoxification? Less cellulite? Glowy skin?