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Sauna as a means of maintaining health is a several thousand year old practice.
Although most tend to associate the Sauna with Scandinavia in general and Finnish culture in particular, the sauna concept itself can be found among many cultures around the world. It is very likely that the sauna itself stemmed from spiritual origins that were part of all human cultures at one time. The mystical aspects of spiritual cleanliness or spiritual cleansing center with the whole concept of bathing and with the addition of a higher than normal heat, the sauna, unlike a normal water bath does more than merely clean the skin surface.
North American Indians, Asian people also use the sauna concept as part of their culture.The American Indian from of sauna takes the form of the Sweat Lodge as a ceremonial spiritual cleansing. To the American Indians the process is symbolic and taken seriously as a spiritual cleansing ceremony that like the European sauna uses hot rocks that are periodically sprinkled with water to produce steam.
Some in the West may still regard sauna as something of spiritual benefit but, for the most part, it is practiced for the experience itself and for health benefits.
The basic concept behind the European sauna is the alternate use use of heat and cold as a means of opening and closing the skin's pours to effect a detoxification through the skin. As you would expect, steam baths and saunas induce sweating that cleanse the skin and sweat glands.The skin, being the body's largest eliminatory organ takes full advantage of the fact that 30% of body wastes are passed through the skin. Profuse sweating enhances the detoxifying capacity of the skin by opening pores and flushing impurities from the body.
Spas and other such therapeutic facilities utilize saunas and steam baths in conjunction with massage to loosen fatty tissue to assist in reducing cellulite. In some cultures women give birth in a sauna and use it therapeutically for about a month after having given birth.
Sometimes herbs are used to further enhance the processes of elimination. It is a centuries old known fact that Birch leaves assist Kidney functions and that the skin, in addition to being a sort of external lung, also assists the Kidneys in their functions. That and the fact that the skin is capable of absorbing the properties of herb treated waters makes the common Scandinavian use of Birch leaves in sauna a smart practice. It is typical in Scandinavia, where Birch trees abound, to dunk the leaves of the branches of Birch trees into cold water to then tap them onto their bare skin in between the heat sessions of the sauna bath to refresh and enhance the overall detoxifying process. The cycling between heat and cold simply provokes more blood circulation.
The heat in a sauna can be either dry or moist depending on whether water is used. Dry saunas are common and so are infrared saunas. The typical European sauna usually consists of steam from water being splashed onto the heated rocks on the sauna stove (helo stove).
Typically, after being 10 or 15 minutes in a hot sauna one will jump into a pool of cool water and then continue back into the sauna and repeat this cycle several times.
In general, sauna is considered to be quite safe, pleasant and invigorating. Saunas insignificantly raises the body's core temperature compared to hot tubs and can be enjoyed by a wider variety of people in different states of health because of it. Even in a very hot sauna, it is mainly the temperature of the surface of your body that rises and with it the blood vessels dilate, and as resistance to blood flow through your veins and capillaries drops, circulation in the skin increases as blood pressure goes down. This drop in blood pressure is nominal and the heart beat increases to naturally normalize blood pressure.
Needless to say heart problems and heat do not get along very well. Therefore, people with heart problems or who have been using drugs or alcohol should not use a sauna as it may put undue stress on the heart. The main concern of a sauna is staying in too long. It can make a person feel light headed or faint from overheating or dehydration. Hydrating by drinking water while in a sauna is not uncommon.
When taking a sauna, skin temperature rises to 40°C (104°F) while internal body temperature rises to about 38°C (100.4°F). Exposure to the high heat creates an artificial fever state that prompts the body to respond for it's own benefit. The artificial fever state prompted by the heat of the sauna will among other things stimulate the immune system, increasing the production white blood cells, antibodies and interferon . . . all beneficial effects. These reactions are not in response to a toxin, it's a reaction to the heat that in itself would act to naturally displace and remove toxins before they would prompt the body to act against them in the form of a fever or ailment.
During a 10-20 minute sauna session, your heart rate will typically increases by 50-75% as does the blood flow to the skin. The heart and skin both benefit greatly. The heart experiences about the same metabolic result as having had a brisk walk.
In spite of the heat, a sauna will not dry out the skin and in fact because of what the sauna does to the body it will probably benefit skin conditions and the body in general. Many regular steam and sauna users claim that a “good sweat” at the onset helps relieve and ward off the most severe symptoms of cold. It is also likely that if a person keeps the body clean that they are less susceptible to colds.
People who have taken saunas and steam baths have found:
A Simple, Portable Infrared Sauna
Not owning a home or not wanting to build a sauna is no reason not to enjoy the benefits of the sauna experience. People living in an apartment, condo or small house can easily set up an area where they can enjoy a sauna. A FAR infrared sauna produces a penetrating heat and reflexology foot pad that can help:
A portable sauna like this one is certainly more attractive, sturdier and more permanent. It fits one to two people and uses FAR infrared heating technology.
This is basically a much more luxurious version of the smaller sauna shown above having greater comfort and a more rewarding overall experience.