Whether you are in a steam sauna or an infrared one, knowing how to enhance your sauna experience will always make things more enjoyable and memorable. Whether we are talking about properly hydrating yourself before and after the sauna or just adding a slight touch of aromatherapy, there are numerous things you could do that will make your body feel better after spending some time in the dry heat.
There are things you might want to try doing before, during, or after the sauna, as well as things that you want to avoid. This is why I’ve decided to separate this article in the three stages of this spa procedure so that I can point out the do’s and don’ts of each period and show you how to turn things into your favor.
Things to do before going into the Sauna
Before getting into the sauna, there are a number of things you have to keep in mind. Whether you have been training or not, here are the few universal rules of thumb for sauna users:
Saunas are known for their extremely high temperatures and relatively low humidity. This creates the perfect environment for your body to start sweating profusely. That will lead to some water loss which you have to correct after the sauna but drinking a glass (or two) of extra water before heading in might protect your body from the heat better. Drinking no water increases your chances of overheating and drinking too much water might reduce the effectiveness of the sauna’s detoxification process.
- Preparing your sauna
If you’re using the sauna often then you know that it takes some time before it properly heats up to the desired temperature. This means that you will have to either schedule ahead and turn on the sauna an hour or so before you use it, or call in advance for the Spa center to pre-heat it. Some of the best infrared saunas can be controlled through an app and connect to your wi-fi allowing you to set their temperature when you are on your way back home from work, for instance.
Whether you exercise before or after the sauna is a topic for another discussion but what matters is that it is always at least a little beneficial to combine your physical efforts with relaxing and detoxification ones. Apart from the time-saving aspect of doing two things at once, using the sauna after your workout can help your muscles relax and decrease the post-workout fatigue on the next day. Still, it is nowhere close to an active recovery as your heart rate stays up and that essentially acts as a continuation of your training session. When using it before your workout, though, it will loosen up your joints and muscles and heat them up well enough so you can then stretch and be more relaxed during your workout. However, I don’t recommend using the sauna as a warm-up method for high-intensity workouts.
Remember to drink even more fluids if you’re combining workouts and sauna sessions!
One of the main reasons you should not be eating before a sauna (not even a little) is that you will strip your body from one of the main sauna benefits-improved blood circulation. Even if your circulation improves, most of it will still go through your stomach to help with food digestion, especially if you’ve had a larger meal. Give your body at least 2-4 hours of no eating before entering the sauna.
Apart from foods, it is important to not consume any alcohol in the day of the sauna as that can further dehydrate you or cause disorientation, dizziness, lack of proper balance, and can also mess with your heat sensations and judgement.
If you’re using the sauna primarily for weight loss, I suggest you read on my detailed article on that topic where I’ve discussed whether saunas are the most effective method of shedding those extra pounds.
Many experts think that having a warm shower and washing your body with a mild soap right before the sauna will substantially improve the way your skin interacts with the heat. Apart from you smelling really good and being all squeaky clean upon entry, you will also have a skin full of open pores and free of natural oils that the skin has produced until that point in the day. If you have been using creams or lotions, the soap will also clean them up and allow your skin pores to be completely opened up and ready to go!
Now, let’s take a look at what you can do during your sauna session that will make things better and more enjoyable…
Tips to enhance your Sauna session
During your sauna session, there are quite a few things you can make to better the experience. Those include:
- Sessions timing
Even though saunas are proven to be most beneficial after 20-30 minutes, you don’t have to start off by doing a full 30-minute session. Rather, take things slow and try a few smaller sessions of 5-10 minutes each. Notice how your body reacts and adjusts to the heat and go from there. The smaller sessions you do, the more your body will get used to the heat and the longer you will be able to stay inside.
Tip: The heat often makes you sleepy so if you had a tiring day or a heavy workout, set an alarm for 20 minutes just in case!
It is always a great idea to bring an extra towel to wipe your body with. Of course, never forget the towel you will sit on. Not only it will prevent your skin from directly touching the hot wood but will also keep the bench dry for the other visitors to enjoy.
- Adding music
Saunas are a very relaxing place to start with but with some music on they can allow you to further relax and drift into your thoughts. Choosing a few of your favorite songs to go with the sauna session can be an extremely good combination for stress-reduction, assuming there aren’t any other people in there with you.
- Enjoying various scents
Aromatherapy has been gaining popularity recently, especially in the sauna community, as more and more people begin having saunas in their homes. Adding scents to the overall sensory experience of the sauna can further improve your experience. Scents like eucalyptus, peppermint, birch stock, or citrus are very common and even come in special sauna oils. Apart from the scent side of those oils, they also have various different properties helping many of our bodies’ systems. the traditional scent for Finnish saunas is birch.
- Lying down
If there is enough space to do it, and you won’t get in other people’s way of enjoying the sauna, lying down is always a better alternative to sitting up straight. Not only will your body be able to relax easier but your circulatory system will also function better and more efficiently in that position.
Saunas and steam rooms promote a state o four minds that we rarely get in touch with. This all-out serenity often allows us to get in touch with our deeper self and meditate or practice mindfulness. Saunas have been used for meditative purposes as long as they’ve been around but there are more and more classes popping up each day for people to do this specific activity and there are trainers ready to guide you on how to properly meditate in the sauna without risking overheating or entirely losing touch with time and reality.
Click here if you want to learn more about how long you should stay in the sauna each time!
What to do when you go out of the Sauna
There are a few major tasks before you when you first go out of the sauna. Firstly and most importantly, you need to replenish the lost water. Even if you see your body has lost a pound or two on the scale, that is almost only water and you need that water back in your body so drunk at least a glass or two of room temperature water. Drinking juices or sports drinks is an even better alternative since they are also really rich on electrolytes!
After that, you might want to rinse off any sweat off your body with a brief shower. That will also rinse off the toxins you shed throughout the sauna session. The shower will also cool down your body, even though it is best to just sit through the first 5 minutes to let your body cool down naturally, as the slower process is better for your cardiovascular system.
Once you turn the sauna off, it might also be a good time to clean the wooden benches and windows if you haven’t done so recently!
Knowing how to enhance your sauna experience is going to prove vital to how good of a spa session you will have. From proper hydration to scenting the air inside the dry hot room, everything you do will only make you feel better, more relaxed, and healthier!