Discover the Health Benefits of Saunas and More
Saunas are an ancient wellness practice, dating back thousands of years and originating in Northern Europe. There are different types of saunas—for example, traditional Finnish saunas usually use dry heat, whereas Turkish-style saunas involve a greater level of moisture. Nowadays saunas are among the popular amenities at spas and gyms, offering numerous health benefits such as increased circulation, relaxation, and helping to flush toxins from the body.
We chatted with Pablo Molinari, General Manager at Hewing Hotel—a luxury hotel uniquely tied to the rich history of Minneapolis. The hotel recently launched its Meet the Heat sauna program, which is centered around the property’s 24-person rooftop sauna in partnership with Sauna Society Outfitters—an organization that that brings the wellness benefits of sweat bathing to life throughout North America with sauna experiences, trainings, and product development.
Here, Molinari discusses some of the health benefits of saunas, gives the scoop on the hotel’s new sauna program, and more:
What are some of the main health and beauty benefits of using a sauna?
Some of the main benefits getting attention in recent studies out of the Mayo Clinic link regular thermic bathing with improved cardiovascular health, as reported by Time Magazine in August. When you relax in a sauna’s intense heat, your body's thermoregulatory system kicks in to cool you off, which it does by circulating oxygen throughout the body through the bloodstream. Cooling off gradually and fully between rounds helps stimulate the system even more by giving the body a chance to warm itself before jumping back into the heat.
How often and for how long should one use a sauna?
It really depends on the individual and the quality of heat. Each person’s body is going to respond a little differently. Some people can control their temperature very effectively and it will take them longer to reach their edge before cooling down. If you're speaking specifically about the Finnish Sauna tradition, people typically stay in the sauna for 10 to 15 minutes.
Practitioners typically add steam to the rocks to temper the intensity of the experience to a comfortable edge before stepping outside to cool down. A typical session includes three to four of these hot/cold rounds. Other thermic bathing traditions, such as Hammam, Temezcal, Sweat Lodge and Banya, have their own unique customs for timing and tempering rounds.
What inspired the Meet the Heat sauna program?
The program at the hotel is inspired by the larger thermaculture revival. Urbanites around the world are rediscovering the restorative benefits of the world’s many thermic bathing traditions. The Meet the Heat program taps into this momentum by introducing some tips, techniques, and connections to help guests get the most mental, physical, and social benefits of their bench time.
How have guests responded to the new sauna program?
We make the sauna available in a variety of formats from hosted events and hosted sessions to open bench hours. One of the things we've learned is how much guests appreciate a little information and guidance that introduces some of the basic principles of hot/cold conditioning. Of course if you grew up doing regular sauna, as most Finnish people do, this may seem unnecessary (and it probably is). But for those of us who didn't grow up with sauna or a thermic bathing practice of any kind, a little information and direction can make a big difference and help ensure that you get the full rejuvenating potential of the experience.
Anything else our readers should know?
I think one of the best-kept secrets in the sauna world is using saunas outside of winter weather. Milder conditions allow the body to cool down more gradually. Allowing the body to actively adjust to temperature exercises the circulatory system without inducing the crash associated with adrenaline from less gradual exposure. Enjoying a sunny patio between sauna rounds also adds a fun social dimension to the experience that make spring, summer, and fall some of the best seasons for sauna use.
[Images courtesy of Hewing Hotel]
Kamala Kirk is a University of Southern California graduate and has been an editor/writer for more than a decade. She has written for E! Online, Total Beauty, TravelAge West, Malibu Times Magazine, and many more. She resides in Los Angeles and is a proud pug mom. Follow her on Instagram: @kamalakirk