What if I told you that you could experience all the buzz of a vigorous workout without moving a single inch of that spare tire? And what if you could feel all the relaxation of a intense yoga session without even once assuming the “Downward Barfing Dog“ posture? And how about if I told you this miraculous stress-buster was at the center of a massive international conspiracy involving big evil corporations (complete with long mustaches to twirl), heads-of-state, and a secret grove somewhere in California? Would you get really excited, and willingly part with, I dunno, 15 bucks for the secret? How about $13.99? Or would you think I that there was an extra special leaf or two in that last cigar I puffed on? I don’t have actually have the time to write it all up and sell it or anything, but it’d be fun to know.
Well, if you favored the special substance in the cigar theory, you’d be at least partially right. (It’s safe to say you’re partially right to think that about anything you read on this blog.) To my knowledge, no secret societies, corrupt world leaders or evil mega corporations have anything to do with Brian’s new found stress cure. (Yeah, I know, I so wanted there to be a long mustache being twirled too.) But the other stuff about the work-out-buzz and the relaxation is absolutely true.
So OK, I’ve teased it long enough. Recently I re-discovered the 8th wonder of the world. What I like to call the human humidor. (Another term I’m totally trademarking. Totally.) But you probably know it by another name: the Sauna.
As luck would have it, the condo facilities I pay handsomely for includes a large and almost completely unused sauna. I’ve know it was down there for months, and I’ve planned on using it, but it wasn’t until this past weekend I tried it out. Oh my god. Let me tell you, it blew my mind. After about 45 minutes in the thing, I felt like a new man. The overall tenseness that accompanies my level of caffeine abuse of coffee was completely gone. The stress brought on by my generally irresponsible behavior had also vanished. My head was clear. The birds were chirping. The sun was grinning broadly and waving around his 2 scoops of raisins happily and the cows were giggling in the field. I had entered commercial-vana minus the rich baritone voice telling me I needed to buy a breakfast cereal or a minivan. (Now I know why cigars are so much better after time spent in a good humidor!)
So what’s with all the conspiracy theory crap then, you ask? Well later that day I was sitting at the local book shop, browsing the latest pages of the latest health-conspiracy book by my favorite Snake Oil Salesman. You know the one titled something like The such-and-such they don’t want to you to know about? Let me tell you, there’s hardly a nugget of information in the entire book, but it is fun to read. (Only if you didn’t pay for it! Anybody who actually buys his book has gotta be pissed by the end!) The guy somehow manages to be entertaining while writing what amounts to a thinly veiled sales pitch for a membership in his phenomenally expensive cure-everything website. (No, I am not linking to it. I don’t want to be responsible for him taking your money.)
So now your wondering what this flim-flam and products have to do with a blessed thing like Saunas. Well, I’ll tell ya. Nestled in the deep recesses of his spam tome, after numerous chapters expounding on his struggle with evil unnamed powers to bring you this information, was a list of “healthy” recommended practices. Between a weird regimen of the ol’ colon hose-down and highly suspect injections of something that kind of sounded like a growth hormone was the recommendation to hit the sauna daily for around 20 minutes. Well that kind of disturbed me. I start to get worried when this guy and I start agreeing on things.
So what is the deal with Saunas anyway? Are they actually good for you? I decided to do a bit of quick research. And here, in list form are the bite-size nuggets of information I tracked down online:
- Your skin is an organ. Which is kind of gross in a way I can’t put my finger on. Oh wait, I got it: So does that mean your naughty bits are just a part of the skin organ, or does that mean your skin is one giant naughty bit? Apparently, I’m the only one asking that, because it wasn’t addressed in any of the articles I read.
- Sweating is a great way to eliminate toxins. In addition to keeping us cool, our sweat glands are also responsible for dumping out the miscellaneous garbage that collects in our systems. I have it on good word that it is neither accurate, nor useful to think of sweating as “peeing on yourself”, but I can understand why you might think that. Because:
- Sweating keeps your skin clean and in good condition. Apparently, excreting waste on yourself is a good way to keep clean and flexible. (I’m not going any further with that line of thought. ) In truth, 90%+ of sweat is just water, a very small percentage of it is actually waste.
- Your heart rate increases by 50 to 75% in the sauna. The end result is a bit like going for a brisk walk, except you get to sit there like a roasting rack of ribs.
- A sauna session may prevent colds or the flu. I might, it might not. The evidence I saw was all anecdotal. (And on this blog, anecdotal = absolutely true.) I have noticed feeling a lot less congested after a session. Hey, do you really need an excuse?
- People with high blood pressure might be out of luck. Did I mention yet that I’m not a doctor? Don’t be lazy, talk to one before you jump into the human humidor. You’re already gonna get all these health benefits for doing nothing. The least you can do is make sure your heart won’t explode while you’re in there. Nobody appreciates an exploding organ in the sauna.
- You’re not going to lose any real weight by sitting in the sauna. Yeah, you may sweat out a gallon of water, but you know you’re just gonna go sit down in from of the boob tube and replace it with ice cold beer. The people who use the sauna to lose weight are just trying to shave a few pounds to make their wrestling/boxing weight. A few hours later, after the weigh in, they put it right back on.
There a lot more information on the subject out there. A surprising amount. If you’re interested in learning a bit more, here’s a couple of websites to get you started. Print ‘em out and take ‘em with you to the sauna.
- The Ask Yahoo! article.
- Saunas on wikipedia.
- Health benefits article from a sauna retailer.
- Dr. Weil on the health benefits of the sauna. (I don’t care how he pronounces the word, maybe you will.)
- The Finnish Sauna.
- A long article on sweating, socialization, spirituality and health.