Can you sweat out toxins?

March 15, 2017News, Resources

It’s Spring and time to get rid of the Winter sludge. Let’s detox!

What does this mean, exactly? One of our most frequently asked questions year-round is: Will sauna cleanse me of my toxins? Can I go hard and party all weekend / season and be absolved by a visit to the sauna?

The benefits of sweating in the sauna go into many levels, physical to spiritual. It has undeniable cardiovascular benefits. It may help prevent alzheimer’s and dementia. There is even some promising research related to depression.

As far as the ever-elusive “cleanse of toxins”, it’s a hard question to answer. It seems like Toxins is a broad term used to describe drugs, alcohol or anything that gets in the way of our health, a kind of amorphous poison that drifts around our bodies, causing everything from hangovers and rashes to mental health issues.

By definition, a toxin is an antigenic poison or venom of plant or animal origin, especially one produced by or derived from microorganisms and causing disease when present at low concentration in the body.

It can be very scary, the idea of these toxins roaming around our bodies, invisible poisons that we are drinking, eating and breathing. The last year brought us some sobering news about heavy metals in the air in Portland. It’s hard for us environment-loving Oregonians to reconcile the idea that our very air can be dangerous. Toxins and pollutants have very real effects, but it’s hard to know where they are coming from or how to get rid of them.

In truth, we are exposed to complex exogenous and endogenous (outside and inside the body) toxins that are all eliminated in different ways. The liver and kidneys are known as the body’s main detoxifiers, filtering toxins out of the blood and the body and releasing them through urine and feces. The liver does what it does, and nothing else in the body can do it. Same with the kidneys. So what does sweating do for toxins? At this point, the most promising data for saunas directly related to de-toxing is for elimination of certain heavy metals excreted through sweat. According to a Journal of Environmental and Public Health article, “an often overlooked route of excretion of toxicants is via the process of sweating.” This is a meta-analysis, a compilation of many studies on sweating and heavy metals.

Luckily, we don’t have to read the whole thing. Dr. Emily Morgan from Oregon Health and Science University read through this study for us and says,

“This is a well-done study, a meta-analysis of all known studies of toxic metals and sweat. The data is strongest for cadmium elimination in sweat with sauna as a therapeutic option for increased excretion. The data is less robust for arsenic, lead, and mercury, but tends towards favoring excretion via sweat, with sauna as a possible therapeutic option. Go sauna!”

The conclusion states: “Sweating offers potential and deserves consideration, to assist with removal of toxic elements from the body.”

So, as well as the benefits above, sauna-bathe to feel joy and relaxation, to get your heart rate going and to sleep well. It might also make food taste better and make you love your neighbor more. You may potentially unburden yourself of some heavy metals while you are at it. Try not to party too hard, your liver can’t be bought off with a quick sauna. Regardless of why you are sauna-ing, always drink plenty of water. If you are a regular sweat-er for any reason, make sure to replenish your electrolytes.

Happy Sweating,

Jess Kelso


New Year and Deep Winter

January 12, 2017Resources

It’s been a long, cold New Year so far here in Oregon and it’s only January 12th. Not only have we had more snow and ice than we’re used to, but for many of us the political climate is upsetting, leaving us feeling chilled and uncertain about the future. It’s difficult to know where to begin when so many issues seem insurmountable, when the governments that are supposed to take care of society’s most pressing problems seem to be making things worse.

It’s hard to follow the adage that we can’t take care of the world until we take care of ourselves. For me, sauna, exercise and other restorative activities tend to feel selfish, but I’m trying to view them as essential. We will be stronger, more present and able to deal with whatever comes our way when we do the things needed to keep our own heads above water.

While stuck indoors this week I’ve been reading about a new International Journal of Sauna Studies that’s being created in 2017, complied by Dr. Jack Tsonis, President of the Australian Sweat Bathing Association. He says, “The greater purpose of Sauna Studies is to promote physical and mental health around the world in a time of increasing stress and social fracture.”

“Sauna is one of the most joyful activities humanity has ever created. Thousands of years old, the invention sometimes known as the ‘Finnish bath’ has counterparts across the world – the neighboring Russian banya to the Japanese sento and mushi-buro, to the Islamic hammam and its Westernization as the Turkish bath, to the Mesoamerican temescal and the North American sweat lodges – all of which deliver the unique and blissful experience that Sigfried Giedion called total regeneration.

On a personal level, the inner peace that sauna engenders brings about a softer, kinder interaction with the world. Maybe you are able to sweat out some of your anxiety or anger and stay more true to your values this way, act like the person you want to be. This is no small thing.

On a social level, the sauna is a place where we are equal, we leave our differences at the door and enjoy the ancient and uniquely human experience of communal sweating. We must share an intimate space with strangers that is both public and sacred. Right now, more than ever, we need the warmth of community that sauna brings. We’re all in this together.

Jess Kelso




Spa Culture vs. Sauna Culture or How Sauna Changed My Life

October 13, 2016Resources

The first time I went to a spa I was a 25-year-old waitress, trying to turn my lifestyle into a healthier one. Restaurant life for me consisted of a predictable pattern of late nights at work, followed by a few drinks to relieve the stress of service, sleeping till noon and then waking up to do it all over again. Part of me I knew I wanted to drink less, quit smoking cigarettes, and maybe start running. The other part of me laughed at that idea. I tried to envision this different life, one that included taking care of my body, I just didn’t really know what this looked like. 25-year-old bodies are forgiving, and after all, the lifestyle is pretty fun.

But I tried. I set a goal and threw away my pack of yellow American Spirits. I limited myself to 1 drink after work. If I made it to 6 months, I would treat myself to something really special, like a Seaweed Detox Wrap at a Day Spa. I saw it as a gateway to a new life, one where I glowed with good health and happiness as seaweed minerals absorbed into my skin. As I met my goal and set up the appointment, I was proud. I chose a nearby spa with appropriately detoxifying-sounding treatments and booked the Sea Glow, which said it would eliminate impurities, hydrate skin, and leave me as smooth as the day I was born. Perfect.

When I got to the spa I was excited and nervous. It was feminine, perfumed and inaccessible in a way that I felt deep in my Tomboy bones. I just didn’t belong there. I also felt the clock ticking. I knew I had 90 minutes to enjoy this entry into my new purified lifestyle, and I had better enjoy it. I was assigned to my treatment provider, and she was with me the whole time. She took me to a dark room and pasted a warm, herbal-smelling concoction on my skin and massaged my scalp. I’ve never been comfortable with strangers physically close to me, and this was no exception. About 60 minutes into the treatment, I finally relaxed. At the end, I felt and smelled good. My skin was pretty smooth and probably less toxic. I thought ahead, maybe I could save up and come back in a year? It seemed so far away. As I left, my wallet $200 lighter, a couple of nights of tips, I felt a little bit let down. I knew this was not affordable as a lifestyle, and that my impurities would come trickling back, my skin would roughen up.

Later that year I went to Holland for the first time. On a cold, wet day, locked out of our hostel until they reopened at 6 PM, my husband and I were looking for a way to pass the time. We had spent several fun but tiring days walking around the city, admiring the canals, and stopping for beers at the many bars. A friend had told me about a sauna on the other side of the city, a public place, where a couple of hours in the sauna only cost about 20 euros. A women-only day, my husband brought his book to a bar and I ventured alone to the sauna.

By this time I had started smoking again and was still struggling to find my way towards health. Things had begun to catch up to me, and the relief that I found in after-work drinks was short-lived and left me feeling depressed and anxious. But I still somehow identified with these pastimes. I just wasn’t sure I would feel like myself if I were a clean and healthy person, like my working class card would be taken away from me if I traded dive bars for yoga and wheatgrass. How would I know who I was?

I checked in at the front counter of the sauna and a couple of friendly women showed me my locker, gave me a towel, and left me by myself. I had 2 hours to be alone and relax. I sat in the hot sauna, drifting in contemplation, listening to the women speaking Dutch around me. Then I sat outside in the rain and watched the steam drift up from my skin towards the gray sky. I felt really good, euphoric almost. I felt at peace. I drank some tea and talked with the women around me. They told me they came to the sauna regularly, weekly at least. It was a way of life, not something that was saved up only for a special occasion. When I left, I floated down the street, a rosy glow in my cheeks. Now, this was something I could get used to. It was also something I could afford.

When I got back to the States, I searched for saunas in Oregon. I wanted this Scandinavian sauna culture as a part of my life, but it was hard to find. There weren’t many, and the ones I found were often dank or not very relaxing. There were saunas at gyms, or sometimes in hotels. My friends that lived in the country fired up their sauna whenever I visited. I took a sauna whenever I had the chance, and it was a great revelation to me that feeling good could actually be good for you too. I started to feel like maybe there was a future for me as a healthy person, with my identity intact, where I could treat my body well and not be missing out on anything.  Still a waitress, I battled the lifestyle, but now I had this new way to relax that could also be fun and not compromise my health. Sauna was a new way for me to socialize, to spend time with my friends in all the ways I needed to: it was intimate yet low key, we could be quiet and contemplative, or discuss the things that were important to us.

Over the years, my obsession turned into a resolution: I would find a way to bring Scandinavian sauna culture to Oregon. I thought that this was one small way to make the world a better, healthier, and more relaxed place. At the time I had no credit, an old Subaru, and lived in a small apartment above a bar. There was no way I would be able to get a bank loan. After I had been pitching the idea for a couple of years to anyone who would listen, my Sister and her husband called me on it and took a loan out on their house, lending me the money for our first location. The rest is history.

While we have created a sauna / spa hybrid, the heart of our facilities is always the sauna. Our goal has always been to create a space that feels accessible yet special, a way to escape the world with regularity.

As I gear up for a quick trip to Helsinki to visit our accidental sister sauna, Loyly, I feel so grateful that I blindly groped my way to a healthy, happier life with the help of sauna. Sauna is how I socialize with friends and also take time for personal contemplation. It’s my weekly date-night with my husband. It’s one way that I find balance in a world that can feel so imbalanced. I don’t smoke or drink anymore, and the Doctor just told me the best news: I have a very strong 40-year-old runner’s heart. It feels good to be here.

That’s how sauna has changed my life. How has sauna changed your life? I’ll take sauna stories and inspiration at

Jess Kelso

Photo Courtesy of Visit Finland

Seasonal Transitions

September 8, 2016Resources

Why do seasonal transitions feel so difficult sometimes? As we head from the glory of Summer to the more subdued season of Autumn, it all feels a little abrupt. Just yesterday I was plunging into cold rivers and now I don’t want to leave the warmth of the bathtub. While this change in season and temperature may be shocking on our emotional senses, our physical selves have to adjust as well. According to scientists, the change of seasons appear to actually have a profound effect on how human genes work and affect our immune systems.

A large 2015 study of 22,000 genes showed a widespread seasonal gene expression revealed in changes to human immunity and physiology. This was mostly seen as an increase in inflammation.  While humans may have benefited in the past from an increase in cold-season inflammatory response to help us fight off virus and disease, “That increase in inflammation could now be a risk factor for diseases of modern life.”

During cold, winter months – December to February for people living north of the equator and June to August for those in the southern hemisphere – these genes were more active. When they studied people living close to the equator, where the temperatures are fairly high all year round, they noticed a different pattern. Immunity and inflammation was linked to the rainy season. Inflammatory diseases like arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes show an uptick in these cooler months.

You knew I was going to bring this around to sauna, right? While we may not be able to change our genetic response to seasons, sauna helps soften abrupt transitions in space and time (aka jet lag) and also helps us ease transitions by lowering stress hormones and increasing our natural immunity. In a 2013 Study in the Journal of Human Kinetics,  a single Finnish Sauna session caused a statistically significant increase white blood cells, those hard-working immune system soldiers. At the same time, sauna creates an “artificial fever” that urges any lurking viruses to set up shop elsewhere.

We asked our favorite local naturopathic doctor, Dr. Joanna May from Woodstock Natural Health, for suggestions on how to better support our system during seasonal changes.

“Make sure that you’re getting enough vitamin D. As we move away from the summer months and transition towards the indoors people forget to recognize how quickly vitamin d can become depleted. Vitamin D supports our entire immune system, through white blood cell production, to appropriate calcium absorption. And don’t forget that it can also help with the winter time blues (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Keep moving! Just like with sauna use – keeping your blood and lymph moving helps us adapt more readily to the changing of the seasons. So don’t quit your running or yoga routine just because the season changes – you’ll be better off!

And lastly – enrich your diet! Feeding your body nutrient-dense foods through every season is ideal, but taking into account this is the time we enter into more of a carb and sugar favored season; avoiding these things will keep you primed and ready to fight any of those bugs that come around! Focus on warm foods that have been cooked as this helps to prime the digestive process when the stomach is on its Winter vacation.”

Take some extra time to support your body and ease into the season.

-Jess K


High Summer: Skin Care Part II, SPF

August 4, 2016Resources

As we enjoy High Summer in Portland, our in-house Skin Care expert, Heather Wade-Mills, gives us the latest research on SPF and your skin.

As a teenager, I had a boyfriend who insisted that sunscreen was just a marketing gimmick to sell a product nobody really needed. For some reason, his denial of the valid use of sunscreen made me irrationally irate. So one day at the beach I decided to put SPF on one-half of my upper chest to prove a point. In my defense, my brain was not fully formed and my decision and impulse centers still had some wiring to organize. Of course, I ended up with a lopsided burn that will probably come back to haunt me years from now. Stupid boyfriend. Don’t worry, I dumped him and started making smarter choices.

So, as I proved at my own embarrassing expense, sunscreen can be effective and valuable for preventing painful burns when we are exposed to long periods of intense sun. Especially for fair-skinned people such as myself. A bad burn, or even a regular dose of excessive exposure can can cause the DNA of our cells to mutate into skin cancers, damage the cells that produce our pigmentation leading to “age spots” or “sun spots” and will break down the collagen and elastin of our skin, prematurely weakening the integrity of the skin, causing sagging and wrinkles. Skin damage is going to happen to some degree anyway, if you are fortunate enough to live a nice long life. It is something to accept and not obsess over. However, if you have some interest in preventing skin cancers and minimizing visible accumulative damage, a little effort can go a very long way.

Here is what you need to know about sunscreen:

  • Most of them have nasty ingredients that have high absorption rates through the skin and are toxic when combined with sun exposure. They act as carcinogens, irritants, allergens, or hormone disruptors.
  • Many sunscreens have been blocking the good vitamin D3 making rays (UVB) and letting in the bad skin cancer causing rays (UVA). It now makes sense why skin cancer rates have risen to over one million cases a year. Sunscreens weren’t protecting from the rays that cause cancer.
  • UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin’s dermis and are more harmful than the UVB rays, which tend to stay on the skin’s surface and help our body make vitamin D3. Because UVB rays will stay on the surface of the skin, they are responsible for burning the skin. As a result, it was the UVB rays that were incorrectly blamed for causing skin cancers. Unless a sunscreen is classified as “Broad Spectrum” it will only block UVB and not the UVA rays.
  • SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number of an SPF refers to the amount of time skin can go before burning, or it’s ability to deflect UVB rays. Theoretically, applying sunscreen with an SPF of 50 would allow beach-goers to bare their skin 50 times longer before suffering a sunburn. Someone who would normally redden after 10 minutes in the midday sun could stay out for 8.5 hours before reapplying. Clearly, this is misleading. High-SPF products may give people a false sense of security, tempt them to stay in the sun too long, and suppress sunburns but increase the risk of other kinds of skin damage. The FDA is considering limiting SPF claims to 50+, as is done in other countries. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends that consumers avoid products labeled with anything higher than SPF 50 and reapply sunscreen often, regardless of SPF.
  • Two European studies have detected the commonly used ingredient, oxybenzone, and other sunscreen filters in mothers’ milk, indicating that the developing fetus and newborns may be exposed to these substances (Schlumpf 2008, Schlumpf 2010). A 2010 of the University of Zurich study of Swiss mothers by Margaret Schlumpf found at least one sunscreen chemical in 85 percent of milk samples. Many commonly used chemical ingredients have been shown to cause hormone disruption or skin allergies.

Great…. now what?

  • Avoid spray-on sunscreen. Even though the Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern about the safety and efficacy of spray sunscreens, companies continue to turn them out. Given the ease of applying them on squirming kids and hard-to-reach areas, these super-popular aerosolized sunscreens may seem like a dream come true. But they may pose serious inhalation risks. They certainly make it too easy to apply too little or miss a spot.
  • Mineral-only sunscreens using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to rate well in toxicity studies. They are stable in sunlight, offer a good balance between protection from the two types of ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB) and don’t often contain potentially harmful additives.
  •  The EWG reports there are currently no sunscreens on the market that meet all the requirements of being: safe, long lasting, effective and somewhat pleasant to wear. Because of this, EWG does not recommend sunscreens as the first defense against the sun. They suggest that the best sunscreen is shade or to be covered with sun protective clothes and use sunscreens only when needed.  Here is the Environmental Working Group database for finding the least toxic sunscreen options. They rate products from 1 to 10. 1 for least toxic ingredients and 10 for the most toxic.

I hope this helps to condense the overwhelming amount of information about sunscreen and SPF. I am protecting my face most of the year to stay ahead of those UVA rays but letting my arms and legs absorb the sun as long as it isn’t too intense for too long. I have already had some nasty burns as a kid and hopefully will be prepared enough to avoid any more in the future. Check out the info I shared in Summer Skin Part I about how to healthfully enjoy the sun.

Below are links to the resources I borrowed this information from if you want to learn more.


-Heather Wade-Mills

Summer Skin Care Part I

June 1, 2016Resources

Our in-house skin care expert and educator, Heather Wade Mills, helps us to find the middle path, balancing the healing qualities of sunshine with protective efforts to minimize skin damage.

Summer in Portland is a glorious time! It can also be an intense time for our skin. The lack of sun we experience for the majority of the year leaves us vulnerable when it finally arrives in full force. I see a lot of sunburns in Portland when the sun suddenly appears in all of its blazing glory and our skin hasn’t had any time to prepare for it.
How do we enjoy the healing benefits of sunshine while minimizing its accumulative damage? The benefits and downsides of sun exposure are equally compelling. I think understanding some basic facts about the sun and your skin can go a long way towards finding a healthy balance.

Here are some of the awesome benefits of sunshine:

– Moderate sun exposure increases levels of the natural antidepressants serotonin and endorphins in the brain that can help relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder and other forms of mild depression and lethargy.
– Occupational exposure, such as farmers, fishermen, and people who receive regular weekend sun exposure are associated with decreased risk of melanoma.
– A group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that a compound called nitric oxide that helps lower blood pressure is released into the blood vessels as soon as sunlight touches the skin.
– Sun exposure improves sleep quality. Melatonin is synthesized by your pineal gland and is profoundly affected by light and dark, and proper exposure to the bright sun during the day is important for maintaining your internal circadian rhythm.
– And of course sunlight helps us manufacture an extremely important nutrient- Vitamin D – which is essential for many body functions such as:
– Healthy immunity
– Healthy mood
– Targeted support for over 2000 genes
– Healthy bone formation
– Healthy glucose metabolism
– Musculoskeletal comfort
– Heart health
– Healthy skin
Learn more in this article from Harvard Health Publications.

Now for the not-so-awesome facts:

– Sun damage is the most obvious factor in the visible signs of aging and unfortunately, we don’t get a fresh set of skin cells with each skin cycle. Your cells are copies of copies of copies. So how your skin ages depends on the quantity of cellular damage you accumulate throughout your entire lifetime. The cells that produce pigment age faster depending on how hard they have to work to provide you that bronzed glow. They can break down and start dumping enough pigment for 40 skin cells all in one spot or not deliver any at all resulting in “age” or “sun spots” and those random white spots. In addition, UV radiation activates enzymes that break down your collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that make your skin firm and tight.

– Both UVB and UVA rays damage the cells’ DNA, potentially causing mutations that may lead to the non-lethal squamous cell cancers. With conflicting research, the Jury is still out on how much influence UV radiation has on basal cell or the potentially lethal melanoma.

–We are not getting any sunlight-induced Vitamin D most of the year! Except during the summer months, the skin makes little if any vitamin D from the sun at latitudes above 37 degrees north (that means all of the US except the most Southern states).

So how much sun is safe?

This depends on how sensitive your skin is. I have a friend who is allergic to even small amounts of sun. I am very fair and can stand direct summer sun for about 10 minutes before I can hear my skin sizzling. Yet there are many whose heritage allows their skin to tolerate a lot of sun. During the summer months, the UVB rays are the strongest between 10am – 2pm (a good time of day for a refreshing indoor sauna visit).

As a general rule for most people, 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight on unprotected skin during these hours will be enough to manufacture about 10,000 – 20,000 IU of vitamin D3. Get just enough sun to turn your skin slightly pink. Darker-skinned people will have to get more sun to optimize their vitamin D levels.
It takes about an hour for the cholesterol on your skin to convert to D3 and then to be absorbed. So if you work out in the sun and then take a shower, you might be washing off all that precious vitamin D you just manufactured on your skin. If you can, wait at least an hour before rinsing off.

Here are my suggestions for giving your skin some extra love in the summertime:

– Get some moderate exposure, but protect your face. Let’s absorb our Vitamin D and boost our endorphins through our arms, torso and legs and minimize the accumulative damage on our face. Why not? It seems like a reasonable compromise to me.

– Cleansing- Even if we are using the least toxic options for sunscreen, you don’t want to go to sleep without flushing your skin out so it has an optimal opportunity to breathe freely and prevent potential congestion on the skin. Use a cleanser that doesn’t make you feel tight and squeaky clean.

– Water and oil- Your skin naturally protects itself by secreting water (perspiration) and oil (sebum) onto the surface of your skin, which combines to form your skin’s protective acid mantle. Few people realize that this protective layer helps protect the moisture balance of the skin while creating a defensive barrier from pathogenic elements. So don’t scrub and strip your skin with harsh cleansers, instead reinforce it with pure plant waters and oils that are naturally infused with phytonutrients. These combat the oxidative damage of UV and pollution while supporting the acid mantle. We are particularly obsessed with the plant hydrosols and serums of the organic skin care line evanhealy.

– Diet and hydration- Cellular health is greatly supported by a diet rich in plant foods and hydration. Take advantage of the seasonal fresh fruits and veggies over the summer months to feed and nourish your cells. Minimizing the amount of inflammatory foods in your system also allows the body to focus on regular maintenance, versus always fighting a fire. If you are curious about this I recommend a book by local Naturopath Jessica Black, ND “The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book”.

As for SPF- this is a hotly-contested topic and there are a lot of different opinions out there. It is a subject unto itself. Please check out Summer Skin Part II where I break down how to find the healthiest option for preventing burns and protecting your skin.

Enjoy the season!

Heather Wade Mills

Sauna and the Art of Contemplation

May 19, 2016Resources

Is contemplation a lost art? While it seems to be the territory of Philosophers and spiritual Seekers, I think we all need more of this humble pastime.

To me, contemplation is a deeply necessary, and often missing, part of our daily lives. With the ever-present emphasis on productivity and action, we may not value this simple non-action as much as we should. We all need time to ponder, to allow our minds to drift, and to do nothing. While there are more stringent and ascetic definitions of contemplation, I prefer the casual contemplative walk or sauna session.

I see this state as different from rumination, but not quite meditation. We are not actively problem-solving, we are simply allowing the inevitable ripples of life’s events and tasks to slow and steady while thoughts drift to and away from us. While we may find a solution while we are there, we are not seeking or grasping. We are slowing the constant shower of worldly information, and letting stillness be enough.

While sleep is a great cleanser of the mind, sweeping out great chunks of useless information and even toxins while we are unconscious, I believe that contemplation in a wakeful state is just as important.

“Contemplation is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is a spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being.” -Thomas Merton

I’ve found that this state is best achieved with a secondary physical activity: a run in the woods, a sauna session, or sitting near a body of water. Ask something simple of the body and allow the mind an unstructured ramble around its own hills and valleys, with no particular goal.

Sauna is a unique place where we are both active and resting. The heart is working harder, the muscles start to relax, and the sweat glands are activated. As the body busies itself with these tasks, the mind is allowed to drift and wander. The sounds and activity around you can be observed without analysis. If the mind goes to undesirable places, it’s easy to bring it back again to the body and its sensations.

When we are overly-busy and under stress, this simple act of reflection, of doing nothing, is often the first to go, but this is when it is the most necessary. Take some time to contemplate.

Jess Kelso

Photo courtesy Visit Finland

Saunanjälkeinen (post-sauna)

May 6, 2016Resources

In Finnish, the expression “saunanjälkeinen” means “post-sauna”. This is the dreamy, other-worldly time after your sauna session when the world feels a little softer and easier. This can be used as a reasonable excuse for avoiding doing most anything.

How does sauna create this blissful effect? I believe it is part magic and part science, the unknown elements combining with fire, water, and air to physically and spiritually cleanse us.

In science, we know that sauna improves hemodynamic function, meaning how blood moves through the body, nourishing our tissues and organs. The heat and sweating in the sauna imitates what exercise does for the body: increasing circulation and heart rate and increasing our eliminatory functions. Also similar to exercise, regular sauna use decreases the risk of heart disease and science strongly links it to fewer fatal heart events and total longer life. Sauna use also reduces stress hormones like cortisol, while increasing beta-endorphins and other feel-good hormones.

On an immunology level, a single sauna session increases white blood cells and improves overall immune system function. Year-round sauna use reduces the occurrence of the common cold by up to 50%.

Scientists can’t pinpoint exactly why sauna enhances health and makes us feel so blissed-out. Rita Redberg (University of California, San Francisco, editor-in-chief of JAMA Internal Medicine) stated, “Although we do not know why those who took saunas more frequently had greater longevity—whether it is the time spent in the hot room, the relaxation time, or the camaraderie of the sauna—clearly time spent in the sauna is time well spent.”

Is it magic too? In Finland, the sauna is the most necessary and spiritual room in the house. For centuries, life often started and ended there, with childbirth in the naturally anti-bacterial sauna room while on the other end of life, bodies were prepared for burial on the benches. It is a place as sacred as church, yet as common as a kitchen. A place for reflection of spiritual matters, while being completely in your body.

For me, it’s the elemental combination of the fire, water on the rocks, and the cool air on my skin as I step out of the sauna that feels like magic. It reminds me that we humans are part of nature, just a combination of elements ourselves. I am physically and emotionally cleansed and recreated as a fresher, cleaner self.

At its simplest, sauna allows you to take a break from daily life and “leave your worries with your shoes at the door.”

Jess Kelso

Photo courtesy of Visit Finland

Why use the cold shower after a sauna session?

April 15, 2016Resources

A little bit of cold water does wonders for your body. Cold water therapy is shown to increase metabolism, enhance immunity, reduce pain, balance sleep cycles and boost mood-improving endorphins. It’s like a wonder drug, without the drug.

“The calming effect can be attributed to the switching off of the vegetative nervous system as well as the stimulation of the so-called sensitivity centers in the basal areas of the central nervous system. After the warm-cold contrast, the vegetativum switches to the “trophotrope” phase, which is characterized by regeneration and relaxation processes and is accompanied by balancing mood,” explains Prof. Eberhard Conradi.

Cold water specifically on your face is particularly calming. Splashing cool water on the whole face causes the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, in a process known as the Mammalian Diving Reflex. This has an immediate calming effect on the heart rate and nervous system.

This easy hydrotherapy of a cold shower after a round in the sauna is one the best wellness programs that exists. In particular during the hot summer months, you should not leave out this specific enjoyment. If you visit the sauna all year round at least once a week, it regenerates the body systems perfectly, it has a lasting effect on the immune system and the body can adapt more efficiently to the summer heat. You have to try it to believe it.