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Saunas and Stuff

  • US Sauna Culture

    us sauna culture photo by Bleiglass via Wikipedia

    Countries all over the world use saunas as a way to de-stress, cleanse, and improve their health, and every country that does approaches the sauna process a little differently. In the US, we have a relatively young sauna culture, but there are some vestiges of a sauna culture, with some regions having rather pronounced traditions.

    Overall Sauna Practices in the US

    Saunas in the US tend, overall, to be less communal than their European cousins, with people having private saunas in their homes or using gym or spa saunas that require memberships. These saunas may allow or require nudity (and certainly, do as you will in your home sauna), but many will require users to wear towels, swim suits, or robes. In many gyms, people will even wear their workout clothes.

    While this type of sauna use can be considered "typical", there are areas of the US with markedly different sauna cultures.

    Sweat Lodges

    While Finnish-style saunas are fairly new to the US, sweat lodges have been in use for centuries.  Unlike a sauna, a sweat lodge (or sweat house) is often dome-shaped. Like a sauna, sweat lodges are used as a way of purifying the body.

    Use of sweat lodges is often highly ceremonial in nature. As part of that ceremonial culture, intensive training lasting many years is often required before someone is permitted to lead a lodge. This training includes learning prayers in the indigenous language of that culture, as well as safe practices for conducting the lodge.

    While using a sweat lodge, people will usually wear a simple garment. Women often wear skirts and t-shirts or short-sleeved dresses. In some cases, the genders are separated.

    In some traditions, sweat lodges must be used in complete darkness.

    The Saunas of the Lake Superior Region

    When immigrants from Finland arrived in America, local natives called this "sweat lodge men" or "white-men-like-us" because of their use of saunas. These Finnish immigrants settled large communities in Northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and established a sauna culture that resembles the one they left behind in Finland. Many of these traditions are preserved today, while some new cultural practices have been added.

    Throughout the Lake Superior Region, saunas are regular fixtures as out buildings. Often situated near lake houses or cottages, there are also saunas in use by entire neighborhoods. While private saunas are very popular in the US, the Lake Superior Region retains a sense of community around many of their saunas, and sauna use is a part of their everyday life, not just an occasional luxury.

    Saunas in Los Angeles and the Larger California Area

    The large coastal cities of California are home to large populations of people from across Asia, and one group in particular brought with them their own unique sauna culture. Korean saunas date back to a time when most Koreans didn't have their own bathrooms, and so members of a community would gather at bathhouses to cleanse and socialize. These jimjilbang have now crossed the ocean and are popular among Americans who have access to them.

    These new-world Korean saunas often resemble Western spas in many aspects, but all have a uniquely Korean feature: a very large room where everyone can gather to eat, watch tv, sleep, or read. This communal area is the heart of the sauna, and people will often spend most of a day simply lounging about there. In some cases, people will stay days. Don't expect to just pop in for a quick sweat.

    The saunas themselves, however, are separated by gender and staffed by women known as ahjummahs, which roughly translates as "aunties". These aunties are usually mature, no-nonsense women, and before you use the sauna these women will vigorously scrub you head to toe until you are completely exfoliated.

    While the aunties are frequently dressed uniformly dressed in black undergarments, sauna users are expected to be completely nude in the gender-specific areas of the sauna. In the large common space, all guests are given baggy t-shirts and shorts to wear.

     

    What's the sauna culture like in your area of the US? Share it with us in the comments below!

     

  • Win a 1 Person Carbon Fiber Sauna

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    How to Enter

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  • Win an Elegance Hot Tub!

    Our sister site Spasandstuff.com is giving away an Elegance Inflatable Portable Hot Tub to one lucky winner!

    There are 4 ways to enter, 4 ways to win:

    1. Click on the Contest button on the top of the Facebook page
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    Contest runs through May 20! Some restrictions apply. Please read Contest page for Official Rules.

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  • 10 Reasons to Own a Home Sauna

    Saunas are everywhere, easily accessible to most people. You can find them in gyms, spas, community centers, and in private homes. There's no denying the amazing benefits of using a sauna, but are there reasons to prefer a private home sauna over a public sauna? Of course!

    1. You Can Wear Whatever You Want

    10 Reasons to Own a Home Sauna photo by Hurmine Kurz via Flickr

    A gym, spa, or even a sauna business that rents private time in a sauna will have rules about acceptable levels of clothing. Some will require you to wear swimsuits, or will require only a towel. Some may insist on nudity. In your own home sauna, you can wear whatever you like--within reason, of course. Wearing too much could lead to overheating and is not advised.

    2. You Know How Clean the Sauna Is

    10 Reasons to Own Your Own Sauna photo by Todtanis via Wikipedia

    A gym sauna could see hundreds of people move through it in a day. Even upscale spas could have dozens of people moving through the sauna. You have no idea when it was last cleaned, or whether the previous users cleaned themselves properly before using it. You don't know what they might have done while in the sauna. And regardless of the sauna's cleanliness and the cleanliness of its patrons, you're still going to be exposed to bacteria, hair and skin cells left behind. In your home sauna, you know exactly how clean the sauna is, and you know exactly who has been in it and what they've been doing. Any stray hairs are yours, and you aren't exposed to random germs.

    3. Home Saunas are so Darn Convenient

    You don't need to get dressed and leave the house to use your home sauna. You don't need to brave weather, crowds, or traffic. You can use it any time of day for any length of time. Saunas are a great way to relieve cold symptoms, but who wants to leave the house when they're sick? Added bonus: you don't expose anyone else to your cold germs, your morning breath, your bed head, or your make-up free face.

    4. You Don't Have to Pay Any Fees

    Yes, there is an initial cost for the purchase of the sauna, and there are ongoing maintenance and operation costs. However, you don't have to worry about maintaining your gym or spa membership in order to access the sauna. You don't have to pay a high fee to use the spa for just a few minutes. You don't have to pay additional robe or towel fees. If you figure the cost of a home spa over a ten-year period versus the cost of maintaining a gym or spa membership over that time, plus gas or public transit costs, you may find that a home sauna saves you money.

    5. You are in Control of the Heat and the Loyly

    Gym and spa saunas, and sauna businesses that rent time in private saunas, set the heat and humidity of the sauna to suit the largest number of people. These levels may be too low or too high for your comfort or preference. In a home sauna, you can set the temperature however you like, make adjustments to suit your mood or comfort. Most importantly, you can be the master of your own loyly!

    6. You Can Customize Your Sauna Experience

    10 Reasons to Own a Home Sauna photo by Clarkston SCAMP via Flickr

    Public-use saunas have to strive to please the largest number of people possible and maintain a consistent experience, so they typically standardize the sauna environment they offer. In a home sauna, you are free to add chromatherapy gels to the sauna lights, to add fragrances to the air or water, pipe in your favorite music, or add headrests and massage benches.

    7. You are Guaranteed the Privacy You Desire

    10 Reasons to Own a Home Sauna photo by Jorge Royan via Wikipedia

    Maybe you're a little shy, or you are uncomfortable around half-naked strangers. Perhaps you don't enjoy co-ed saunas. In your own home sauna, you are assured of absolute privacy or, if you'd rather, you can pick and choose your company by inviting over exactly the friends you'd like to hang out with.

    8. You Control the Silence, or Lack of Silence

    Whether you prefer to sweat in silence or enjoy listening to music--or even audiobooks--using a home silence means you control the noise level. No more chatty strangers ruining your zen!

    9. You Get a Good Return on Your Investment

    A sauna in your home can add value to the property and make it more intriguing if you decide to sell. Many sauna models are designed to be easily assembled and disassembled, so you could also opt to take it with you when you move, thereby ensuring continued and uninterrupted access. However you look at it, a home sauna is a good investment.

    10. You Will Be a Healthier Person

    The energy and time required to get out of the house and to the gym or spa can deter even the best of us from accessing all the health benefits a sauna offers. If you have one in your home, however, that obstacle is minimized--maybe even obliterated!--and you are more likely to use the sauna regularly. This leads to better health.

    With all of the above to consider, are there any reasons why a public sauna might be better than a private sauna? There are! Check back for our next article discussing just that.

  • Detoxification Basics

    When the benefits of sauna use are discussed, one word that comes up often is detoxification, but what exactly does that mean? Why should we detoxify? What happens if we don't? What are the different ways to do it? We've done the research for you, and if you continue reading, we'll explain it all to you.

    What is Detoxification?

    Detoxification refers specifically to the cleaning of the blood by removing impurities in the liver. The liver is the organ that processes toxins for elimination from the body. This processing also occurs to some degree in the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymph nodes, and skin, but the liver is the real star. When the processing is compromised in some way--such as through illness or poor diet--the toxins aren't properly filtered and the entire body is affected.

    Why Should People Detoxify?

    Toxins in the body are associated with a variety of maladies such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivity. In fact, the medical category Clinical Ecology exclusively deals with the ways environmental toxins affect health.

    The body can handle only so many toxins, and it was designed for naturally occurring toxins, not man-made ones that bombard our world today. Therefore, our body is often faced with toxins it doesn't know how to process. These toxins can build up to harmful levels or be converted into substances that interfere with metabolism. This can result in cancers or birth defects.

    It is recommended that you detoxify if you are experiencing any of the following:

    • low-grade infections
    • irritated skin
    • unexplained fatigue
    • chronic bad breath
    • body odor
    • depression
    • poor memory
    • mental confusion
    • bloating
    • allergies
    • poor skin
    • headaches
    • poor concentration
    • excessive mucus
    • weight gain
    • gas
    • menstrual problems
    • puffy eyes or bags under the eyes
    • poor digestion
    • constipation

    What Will Detoxifying Do For Me?

    Detoxifying can assist the body's natural cleansing process by:

    • Giving the organs a rest
    • Enhancing blood sugar control
    • Refueling the body with nutrients
    • Assisting in weight loss
    • Improving blood circulation
    • Promoting toxin elimination through the intestines, kidneys and skin
    detoxification basics photo by thedabblist via Flickr

    How Do I Detoxify?

    There are many ways to detoxify the body. Some methods are common across many cultures and are very old. Native Americans used sweat lodges, Christians would fast, and people in Russia and Finland would spend time in saunas.

    Some common contemporary detoxification methods are:

    • Fasting, calorie-restriction, or cleanses
    • Medical detoxification--especially beneficial for highly toxic individuals. This is a supervised cleansing process involving calorie restriction, consuming specific nutrients, and taking supplements.
    • Mental, spiritual, and emotional cleanses. Mental and emotional toxicity and stress are very often major contributors to overall body toxicity, especially as they contribute to poor decision making and poor lifestyle choices that often lead to exposure to environmental toxins such as drugs and alcohol. Quiet contemplation, meditation, relaxing, reading, listening to music, and doing yoga or qigong are all great ways to cleanse yourself of mental and emotional toxins.
    • Eliminate stress. As mentioned above, stress is terrible for your body. It can severely interrupt the body's natural cleansing processes. Try eliminating as much stress from your life as you can.
    • Exercise. Regular physical activity lowers stress, encourages healthy mood and energy levels, and assists with the excretion of toxins through sweat.
    • Drink plenty of water. The average person needs about 2 liters of water a day. Drink more if exercising regularly or using the sauna. Unsweetened tea is also a good option.
    • Eat fruits and vegetables that assist the body with detoxification. Good choices include dandelion greens, burdock root, artichokes, garlic, onions, and scallions. Less good but still beneficial choices include spinach, kale, rapini, broccoli, chard, avocado, cabbage, arugula, tomato, eggplant, and zucchini.
    • Eat lean protein. Protein is a necessary component in detoxification, as blood proteins are built from amino acids. Choose proteins such as free-range grass-fed beef, organic chicken, or wild-caught fish. These will help you maintain amino acid balance. Other sources of lean protein include whey and nuts.
    • Use herbs generously. Herbs such as turmeric, milk thistle, burdock, celandine, spirulina, barley grass, wheat grass, and dandelion are all good for your body.
    • Salt scrubs, salt or mineral baths, or massages. These treatments can work toxins out of muscles and skin, and help promote relaxation.
    • Saunas or sweat lodges. Perspiration is a natural detoxification method, and it's extremely effective. Sweating to detoxify is most effective when done regularly. Twice a week is good, but for best results you should sweat mildly every day.
    • Eat plenty of fiber, such as brown rice and fibrous fruits and vegetables.
    • Take vitamin C, which helps the liver drive out toxins.
    • Breathe deeply. This allows oxygen to circulate more completely throughout your system.
    • Hydrotherapy--Take a very hot shower for 5 minutes, letting the water run on your back. Follow with cold water for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times, then climb into bed for half an hour.
    • Dry brush your skin to remove toxins from your pores. You can buy special brushes to do this at natural products stores.
    • Go to bed around 10pm. Between 10pm and 2am is when your body does most of its cell repair and cell rejuvenation, eliminating toxins from inside the cells.
    • Breathe through your nose, not your mouth. Your nose warms, filters, and moistens air to prepare it for your lungs. If you breathe through your mouth, the air doesn't get filtered and more pollutants enter your body through your lungs.

    However you detoxify, it's advisable to avoid extremes, fad diets, so-called miracle products and unproven technology. Good results occur when the detoxification is safe and relatively comfortable. This allows the process to be extended for a long enough period of time to be effective and repeatedly at least annually. Consider detoxifying every 6 months or even quarterly.

    Detoxification is not advised for nursing mothers, children, or patients with chronic degenerative diseases, cancer, or tuberculosis. As always, talk to your doctor.

    The best way to detoxify is to avoid toxins altogether. Watch out for the following toxins readily available in your everyday environment:

    • health and beauty products such as cosmetics, cleaning products, detergents, gasoline, glue, and paint
    • coffee, which is a heavily fumigated crop
    • alcohol
    • artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and nutrasweet
    • dairy should be avoided while detoxing and minimized in general
    • cigarettes
    • non-organic produce, as they have been exposed to pesticides
    detoxification basics photo by Gila Brand

    What Can I Expect When Detoxifying?

    While detoxifying through methods such as fasting, people often experience fatigue, joint aches, flu-like symptoms such as congestion and nasal drip, moodiness, rashes, fever, headaches, gas, and diarrhea. People with greater toxicity levels will experience more severe symptoms, and it will take longer for them to detoxify. In some people, the symptoms will mimic bacterial diseases experience before, because their bodies are excreting bacterial byproducts that initially caused the disease symptoms.

    However, if you stick with the detoxification plan and detoxify regularly, the symptoms will become less severe with each session. Once the symptoms pass, you will find that you feel better overall.

     

  • The Sauna Skin Care Regimen

    Sauna Skin Care Regimen Photo by dilip36 via Flickr

    Anyone who has been in a sauna can tell you how great your skin feels after all that sweating. The skin becomes flushed, the sweat gives it a glowing sheen, and it feels soft and supple to the touch. Why not follow a sauna skin care regimen? It's a great way to keep the skin clean and clear.

    What Does the Sauna Do For My Skin?

    At the most basic level, sweating cleans the skin, opens pores, and makes the skin pliant (which can help reduce/prevent wrinkles!). A 2008 study in Dermatology suggested that regular sauna use can actually help protect the skin and relieve dry skin conditions.

    The skin has two major types of glands that secrete substances: sweat glands and sebaceous glands. Sweat glands produce sweat, obviously, and sweat's great, but sebaceous glands are actually the part we're interested in. Sebaceous glands surround hair follicles and secrete a waxy substance called sebum onto the skin. Sebum is great stuff. It protects the skin by moisturizing it and delivering nutrients directly to the surface skin cells. It is even thought to have antibacterial properties.

    When the sebaceous glands get blocked by dead skin, cosmetics, or bacteria, you get a blackhead, whitehead, pimple, or boil. It's important to keep the sebaceous glands clean and clear to avoid these blemishes, but also to keep your skin functioning properly. This is where the sauna is a great tool in your skin care regimen.

    When your skin warms in the sauna, your sebum becomes more fluid and it flows more easily over your skin, distributing it more evenly. The sweat that is also released softens the skin and makes it more receptive to the sebum's moisturizing properties. At the same time, your blood circulation increases and moves to the skin, drawing more oxygen and nutrients to the skin's surface. All of this leaves the skin cleaner, healthier, and more moisturized.

    How Do I Begin a Sauna Skin Care Regimen?

    It's easy to make a sauna part of your regular skin care regimen. First, you'll obviously need a sauna. If you don't have access to a private home sauna, most gyms offer saunas as part of their amenities. If you don't want to pay for a monthly membership, many day spas have sauna sessions available for hourly or flat fees. There are also sauna businesses in many communities that offer communal or gender-specific saunas for hourly or flat fees.

    You will also need a swimsuit (if using certain public saunas), a towel for drying yourself, a towel to sit on, an exfoliating tool such as a loofah or rough cloth, and your preferred soap or cleanser. Now you're ready to begin:

    1.  Take a hot shower and use your preferred cleanser to focus on areas with acne. Rinse your skin thoroughly and dry off completely.
    2. Enter the sauna, taking your exfoliating tool. When your skin begins to sweat, gently rub your skin, focusing on problem areas. When you are finished, sit for a few more minutes, then head back to the showers.
    3. Stand under a warm shower and rinse your skin, then turn the water as cold as is comfortable and stand under it until you are no longer sweating. Do not use any soap.
    4. Dry yourself and take a break. Drink some water, sit or walk a little. When you feel back to normal, return to the sauna.
    5. Again, once you begin sweating exfoliate, focusing on problem areas. When finished, rinse off under a cool shower without using any soap. Avoid using any lotions or cosmetics, as well--let your skin breathe! You'll also find that the sauna has given you a rosy glow, and you'll likely not need any additional moisturizer.

    Do you use a sauna as part of your regular skin care regimen? Comment below and tell us about it!

  • The Art of Making Good Löyly

    the art of making good loyly photo by Tulikivi2012

    If you are a sauna aficionado, the one word you really need to know is löyly. It is an old, magical word associated strictly with sauna use in modern times, and it's a really beautiful thing.

    What is Löyly? And How the Heck Do I Say It?

    Löyly derives from the Proto-Finno-Urgic word lewl meaning "spirit" or "soul". Click here to here it pronounced. In modern usage it means the steam that radiates from sauna rocks when water is poured or sprinkled over them. The water evaporates on contact with the hot rocks, and the humidity of the air increases. This contributes to a perception of increased temperature and causes the body to sweat more. On a more spiritual level, it means the entire feeling of the heat as it envelopes you, as well as the steam that fills the room. It is considered a tangible thing, with qualities that can vary due to many factors (keep reading to get an idea of the different factors involved).

    Löyly's restorative and healing powers are so revered that it was once thought that it could drive out diseases and even resolve unhappiness in romantic relationships. While scientifically unfounded, there's no doubt that sharing a sauna with your sweetie is conducive to good relations.

    To drive home the importance of löyly in Finnish culture and sauna culture, it's considered an honor to have the responsibility of adding the löyly to the room when with a group of people. At that point, it's not simply pouring water on hot rocks: it's an art that strives to create the right amount of steam, and a pleasurable experience, for all the present people by working with heat and water. Getting the balance right take experience and skill.

    How Do I Make Good Löyly?

    Just as it can be hard to describe what makes good art, it's hard to define what makes good löyly. Partly, it will be subjective to a bather's preferences and comfort levels. Overall, good löyly is determined by the purity, temperature, and humidity of the air inside the sauna, as well as its thermal radiation. The sauna air must not contain any gaseous impurities, particles, or micro-organisms. This is ensured through effective ventilation and the condition of the sauna: is it clean? Is it constructed from quality materials that were properly treated? A clean, nicely built sauna will also contribute to a more pleasurable overall experience.

    The Basics of Good Löyly:

    Before using any water, the temperature of the sauna air should be 150°F (65.5ºC) or greater.

    As the room heats, fill a bucket intended for sauna use with water. It is important that you do not use just any bucket--plastic buckets can melt or release impurities into the air, and metal buckets can get very warm and become a burn hazard. A good option would be this bucket and ladle set available through us here at Saunasandstuff.com. Never take anything into a sauna that was not intended for use in the sauna.

    Decide whether to go with clean, natural water, or whether to add an essential oil. Purists may insist on fresh, clean water, but adding an essential oil can significantly change and possibly improve the sauna experience. Different oils have different effects by releasing their fragrance into the air: Eucalyptus is good for congestion or allergy sufferers, lavender can aid relaxation, citrus can invigorate.

    Once the sauna is heated and the water is ready, fill the ladle. Again, always use a ladle designed for sauna use. The evaporation is almost instant when the water hits the rocks, and there is a chance of scalding if you do not use the ladle. Start with just a few drops of water and add just a little more at a time. The change in perceived temperature can be dramatic, so start with small amounts, wait, and then add more as needed.

    For Advanced Löyly Artists:

    There is something of a löyly tenet called the Rule of 200, in which the combination of temperature (in Fahrenheit) and the humidity percentage added together should equal 200. It's thought that anything that adds up to more will be uncomfortable for bathers.

    So, if the sauna is set to 150°F, the ideal humidity (according to the Rule) would be at 50%. If the sauna were hotter, say 180°F, the humidity would be best at 20%. The hotter the ambient air, the lower the humidity should be.

    Go Make Good Löyly

    Now armed with the basics, the trick is to find what combination of heat and humidity best suits you. When with a group, it will be a challenge to find a löyly that is comfortable for everyone. With time and practice, you'll be making good löyly in no time.

  • January Sauna News Roundup

    Jade Sauna fire

    With the immense popularity of saunas worldwide, it's no surprise that newsworthy stories pop up around them. We've collected a few recent sauna news bits that you might find interesting.

    Christmas Sauna Deaths

    Three German men were found dead of heart failure in a sauna after drinking heavily at a Christmas party. Conditions in the sauna were normal, but the men's blood alcohol levels were four times the legal driving limit. Just another reminder that alcohol and sauna use do not go together.

    Sauna Fire at Bismarck, North Dakota, Hotel

    A fire was started at the Ramkota Hotel in Bismarck on December 20, 2013,when an intoxicated man set clothing, including a pair of shoes, on a sauna heater. The pool area was evacuated, but the fire was extinguished without further incident. There was damage to the sauna bench, floor, and heater. Again: alcohol and sauna use is a really bad idea!

    Sauna Fire in Beaverton, Oregon

    Jade Sauna in Beaverton, Oregon, experienced a fire on January 3 when a heat lamp installed in the ceiling overheated. The fire was contained in the attic and fire crews were able to extinguish it without further incident. The damage to the building is estimated at $25,000.

  • The Science Behind the Sauna

    4-pp-cedar-09-w_1 copy

    You've undoubtedly heard many times that using a sauna is good for your health, but why? What is it about sitting in a sauna that's so good for you? We break down some of the science behind the sauna experience so you have a better understanding of what your body is doing.

    Sweating Out Toxins

    We spend a lot of time and energy trying not to sweat--we use anti-perspirants, we wear layers to regulate our temperature. However, sweating is really good for our bodies and we probably aren't doing enough of it. Sweating is our bodies way of cooling itself, but during the process it also excretes molecules that are otherwise cluttering our bloodstream. Perspiration originates directly from the bloodstream. Fluid is delivered from the capillary bed to the sweat gland, carrying organophosphates, heavy metals, pesticides, some preservatives. Flushing these toxins out of your bloodstream prevents them from being stored elsewhere in your body.

    Eccrine glands are the major sweat glands, and we about two million of them all over our bodies. They produce an average of a quart of sweat a day, but when you use a sauna they pump out that much in about 15 minutes. This means that using a sauna will purge at least twice as many toxins out of your body in one day than you do on average.
    Some experts recommend using far-infrared saunas, as they trigger sweating at a lower temperature than a traditional sauna and it's easier to spend longer periods of time in it. Be sure to hydrate before and after using a sauna to replace lost fluids.

    Hot & Cold Intervals

    It's traditional in many countries to heat up in the sauna, then plunge into a cold bath, or snow, or stand under an icy shower, then return to the sauna and repeat. It's thought that this process helps tone the skin and improves circulation. If you read Jitterbug Perfume, it's posited that the hot/cold process can be a factor in longevity. What does it really do?

    We know that shocking the body with a rapid temperature change releases norepinephrine, which is a stress hormone and neurotransmitter. It also releases epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline. When these chemicals are released, the effect is a feeling of invigoration. While that may or may not be the key to good health and long life, it certainly feels good and doesn't do any harm.

    Mild Workout

    Steaming in a sauna also dilates the capillaries and thereby improves blood flow, simulating a mild workout. For individuals with limitations that make more traditional forms of exercise difficult, it can stand in as a gentle alternative. Or add it to the end of a workout to extend the effects of the exercise in a gentle way.

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