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Sauna Plus

This section will cover a range of quick-hit topics on common questions and misnomers, as well as non-conventional and underappreciated sauna uses. Note that any of the topics discussed herein do not constitute medical advice nor are they recommendations. For all the biohackers out there this is your "sauna stacking" section. Check back here often as this section will continue to grow.

Sauna +

Sauna + Bathing

Let’s start with an easy one. Although not a common practice in North American sauna culture, bathing (ie. washing) in the sauna is one of its purest and oldest expressions. While it may not be an option in public saunas, in a private sauna washing oneself at the end of your session is the cherry on the sundae. Your skin is glowing and its pores wide open. A good scrub after your last round adds a level of fulfillment and cleanliness that is hard to match. In fact there are a wide range of sauna scrubbing brushes available for just this purpose. I prefer as stiff a bristled brush as I can find to provide for a rigorous exfoliation. Talk about being squeaky clean. 

Sauna + Young Children

Your search engines might suggest to you that exposing children to sauna before the age of 6 is not advisable. This is poppycock. My first exposure to sauna was at the ripe old age of 4 months and it has remained an integral component of my life ever since. I introduced my two daughters (now 5 and 7) to sauna at the same age and they have slowly built their tolerance since culminating in them now eagerly waiting for their daily sauna sessions whenever we are at the cottage. 

 

What I will say however is to take it slow. Too fast or too hot and they might develop a reticence to sauna on their own accord.  My personal protocol with children involved starting them off sitting in basins of cool water on the middle bench (approx. 70C). 

Sauna + Alcohol

For many sauna enthusiasts, a cold beer after a sauna session is akin to dessert after dinner; not necessary but ultimately quite delicious. There is something both ceremonial and satisfying about enjoying a beer in the changeroom or in fresh air as you rest and wait for your body to transition back to its normal temperature. Of course, any refreshing beverage will do but those of the carbonated variety seem to hit the spot that much better. Whether you enjoy a post-sauna beer or not, do make sure to drink water or an electrolyte laden beverage after your sauna as well. 

 

Drinking beer, or any other alcohol, in the sauna or in between rounds is not advisable. Firstly, alcohol is a diuretic and will contribute to the dehydration already occurring as a result of water loss generated by sweating. Furthermore, drinking in hot conditions can accelerate intoxication as the natural fluid loss from sweating results in increased blood alcohol levels. Finally, given the hot conditions, one is less likely to notice these changes occurring in real time, something that can contribute to coordination loss and/or loss of sense of time, especially as the quantity of alcohol consumed during sauna rounds increases. One final note, given the natural thirst that builds up over a sauna session, it is easy to drink more faster further exacerbating the aforementioned points. 

 

In short, fight the urge to drink during sauna. Yes, the cravings might be strong but have the discipline to ward them off and your post-sauna beer will taste that much better. 

Sauna + Talking

There is a misnomer that Finns don’t speak period, let alone in the sauna. While the former may be true, the latter certainly isn’t. Sauna use in Finland is a central component of family life. It is also a place of community and as such chatting with your bench-mates is not only tolerated but encouraged. 

 

However, loud and boisterous talking is generally discouraged, a lesson that is not often adhered to in the North American sauna milieu, especially in the realm of gym saunas where Sauna Bros can easily disrupt the enjoyment of the moment. 

 

In other parts of the world, Germany specifically where there is also a rich sauna culture, talking is verboten. A couple of years ago my brother and I were in a public sauna in Berlin and although we were speaking in hushed tones we were promptly and unceremoniously admonished by an elderly gentleman next to us. 

 

In short, respect the local rules and culture, and carry yourself accordingly. Sauna is a place of serenity but also community so harmony with your neighbors is advised.

Tip: politics are usually off the table as sauna discourse material. 

Sauna + Nudity

Historically, sauna bathing has been exclusively the domain of the nude. Given its origins as a place for families to commune and wash themselves and notwithstanding the fact that sauna bathing far predates the advent of bathing suits, to this day it is usually done in the nude. 

 

In modern Finland, families will still commonly bathe in the nude as will patrons of public saunas that are gender specific, however mixed gender public saunas require bathing suits. 

 

In Germany, sauna bathing is done in the nude almost without exception. Even mixed gender public saunas forbid the use of bathing suits. This was a revelation to me, quite literally, when I first experienced German sauna culture in 2019 and certainly takes some getting used to. 

 

Here in North America, given our relative prudishness (compared to our European neighbors) and Victorian orthodoxy origin story, public nudity is generally frowned upon. As such, almost all public saunas require bathing suits with the exception of Russian banyas where nudity is the norm unless they cater to mixed-gender bathing. Also, sauna bathing amongst friends in private saunas is also almost universally done with suits on. 

 

In short, keep your trunks on unless you’re the only one wearing them. In that case take them off. 

Sauna + Sex

Having sex in a sauna is hot, sweaty, and gross. If you are fantasizing about it it means you have been watching too much porn.

Sauna + Meditation

Meditation can take different forms but for many, the simple act of sitting silently in a sauna is meditation in its own right. For me, the top bench of the sauna is where all my thoughts and ideas coalesce into a deeper understanding of the world as I silently sit and suffer (with pleasure). It is often only after transcending beyond my threshold that I am able to tap into the deeper reaches of my id. 

Sauna + Exercise

Technically speaking, sauna is exercise offering many of the same benefits as a moderately intense workout. However, in its modern day incarnation - perhaps driven by the preponderance of biohackers advocating stacking - there is a sauna subculture developing of actually exercising in the heat. Legendary big wave surfer Laird Hamilton is notorious in part for increasing the difficulty of his workouts by using his stationary bike in the sauna. 

There is no right or wrong answer here as sauna practices are personal. Certainly one can potentially see the benefits of working out at temperature, similar perhaps to training at altitude but we believe this will remain the bastion of bio-optimizers who seek maximum outcomes from everything they do.

 

For the rest of you, enjoy the sauna for all the pleasure it can bring (passive health benefits notwithstanding) as a pillar of relaxation and rejuvenation. If you want to up your game just a little bit, I find that stretching in the sauna is way more effective than doing it in on a yoga mat. 

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