Is winter making you feel tired and sluggish? Is your skin looking dry and sallow, is air conditioning clogging your sinuses? Or perhaps you have enjoyed one too many warming red wines and filled up on one too many helpings of Osso Bucco. Or perhaps like me, your joints are simply stiff, and every muscle in your body is screaming. Then why not take a sauna!
THE HISTORY AND HEALING BENEFITS OF SAUNAS
Saunas in all their forms are renowned and well-documented as having healing properties. For that tired sluggish feeling, a sauna will help with blood flow. For that dry and sallow skin, the sweat session from a sauna will keep your skin glowing and youthful. For that body in need of a detox, a sauna will help rid your body of toxins and for those with aches and pains, nothing can beat the soothing and relaxing benefits a good sauna session can have.
Saunas have a long history and can be traced back to Roman times. Some believe that the concept stemmed from harnessing the benefits of geothermal hot springs, however it was really the forward thinking and stylish Finn’s that really started to construct saunas. In fact sauna is the Finnish word for bath! These were communal places for cleansing, bathing and steaming and these acts were often conduced as a form of ceremony. This tradition continues through to today, though the ceremony element has long been removed, and replaced with ritual.
THE DRY SAUNA
There are several types of saunas, with the most common being the dry sauna, the steam sauna/room and of course the infrared sauna. A dry sauna doesn’t use water and some believe that this form of sauna is more tolerable and achieves results more quickly. A wet sauna uses steam to make you sweat, and more humidity is present, which sauna purists believe can actually extend the time you need to stay in a sauna in order to achieve the same benefits achieved in half the time in a dry sauna.
THE INFRARED SAUNA
An infrared sauna is the most recent type of sauna, and is by all accounts, fast becoming the most popular. An infrared sauna uses light to create heat, by using infrared waves to heat the body directly, rather than the air around you. This in turn creates a more passive and pleasant sauna experience with lower temperatures, a lower heart rate and less excessive sweating. For people with high blood pressure and a history of heart disease, this therefore is a much safer alternative than a traditional sauna.
THE STEAM ROOM
If you enjoy high temperature, high humidity environments, then why not consider a steam room in your home. Similarly to a sauna, this is an enclosed space to sit in, and unwind and relax, all the while knowing you are benefiting your body. The moist environment created in a steam room is preferable for people who have difficulty breathing in the dryness of a traditional sauna. Increasingly we are seeing stunning designs emerging for steam rooms in residential applications. Decorative ceramic tiles used in a steam room can really create a wow factor. Steam rooms are no longer the domain of exclusive health retreats and can provide incredible health benefits within your home, such as increased circulation, better skin, and weight loss.
LOCATION, SIZE & MATERIALS
Sauna design is more or less based around the number of people that will be required at any one time to use it. The maximum number of occupants will dictate the size of your sauna. It’s always advisable to look at this first. The location of your sauna within your home is also important. Steam saunas or steam rooms are popular in Master Ensuites, creating a luxurious hotel-like bathing experience. It’s always a lovely idea to further enhance this experience with the use of special lighting, including LED colour therapy lights. aromatherapy and also a sound system. Sauna location will definitely benefit from an immediate proximity to a shower.
Traditional saunas are best constructed of timber as timber is a low heat conductor and also a good heat insulator. Traditional saunas are made from Nordic white Spruce or Aspen, which give a sauna that beautiful blonde appearance. However it is said that Cedar and Redwood is a popular choice due to not only its thermal and non-warping properties, but also the beautiful smell it releases when warm.
Infrared saunas will vary in design and materials, with most being pre-made. Therefore these are best selected and discussed with an infrared sauna specialist.
A steam based sauna or steam room in your home will need to ideally have a steam tight door and a slightly sloping ceiling for condensation run-off. Many home steam rooms are designed using beautiful tiles, with my favourite using small glass mosaics. A word of warning though, tiles can become slippery when wet!
Maximizing bench space and reducing floor space maximizes the efficiency of your sauna, and also allows you to maximize the number of people who can use the sauna. A glass front and entry door would be de rigueur I would think, to create a more contemporary and streamlined appearance to your sauna. It will also reduce a feeling of claustrophobia and allow an opportunity for a vista. Where possible, having a beautiful view from your sauna will only further enhance the relaxation properties of your experience.