Have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you step into the heat of a sauna? We linked up with Alexandra Huber, the owner of My Arbor in Italy. She helped us to understand all about the Sauna Ritual Experience including the health benefits from using a sauna.
Sauna as a Healthy Lifestyle Choice
“Sauna bathing” is characterised by short-term passive exposure to high temperatures, usually between 45° and 100°C. This exposure leads to mild hyperthermia, which triggers a thermoregulatory response involving neuroendocrine and cardiovascular mechanisms that work in synergy to maintain homeostasis. Repeated sauna visits acclimatise the body and optimise its response to future exposures due to the biological phenomenon known as hormesis. In recent decades, sauna bathing has been shown to be a likely means of prolonging life expectancy.
What Happens To My Body When I Use The Sauna?
High temperatures put a strain on the body and trigger a rapid and strong reaction that mainly affects the skin and the cardiovascular system. First the skin heats up, rising to 40°C, followed by changes in body temperature, which slowly rise from 37°C to 38°C and then increases to about 39°C. Cardiac output can increase by up to 60-70%, while heart rate also increases.
At the same time, about 50-70% of the body’s circulation is redistributed to the skin to facilitate sweating. This results in fluid loss of about 0.6-1 kg per hour, which averages about 0.5 kg in moderate temperatures (80° to 90° C). Acute heat exposure also leads to a temporary increase in total plasma volume. This provides a fluid reserve for sweating, cools the body to prevent a rapid rise in core body temperature, and promotes heat tolerance. Sweating also facilitates the excretion of heavy metals, including aluminium (3.75-fold), cadmium (25-fold), cobalt (7-fold) and lead (17-fold), compared to urinary excretion.
Considerations When Using The Sauna
It is advisable not to go to the sauna on a full stomach and to drink regularly. (Remember that the thirsty feeling occurs when you are already dehydrated). Proper hydration and electrolyte balance are essential for maintaining the body’s fluid balance and promoting normal muscle contractility and nerve function. With each sauna session, 0.5 kg of body fluid is lost in the form of sweat, although this amount varies depending on body composition. Water loss is also accompanied by a loss of electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which need to be replenished by hydration before and after the sauna and by eating food such as spinach, avocado, nuts, dried fruit, and fish.
The Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing
Sauna use mimics the physiological responses elicited during exercise. It is also believed that regular sauna bathing may improve cardiovascular function through improved endothelium-dependent dilation, decreased arterial stiffness, modulation of the autonomic nervous system, beneficial changes in lipid profile, increased nitric oxide production and consequent reduction in systemic blood pressure.
Sauna use appears to reduce morbidity and mortality in a dose-dependent manner. Its regular use may protect against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. It is also a means of preserving muscle mass and counteracting sarcopenia.
Sauna Infusions at My Arbor Hotel
At My Arbor, the sauna offering goes beyond your standard experience. At My Arbor, you can try the “sauna infusion sessions” combining heat of various intensity, essential oils and other wellbeing elements.
Each session starts with the mountain spring water evaporating on the stones, and a dedicated sauna master starts his show. He distributes the steam with sweeping movements throughout the sauna using a special fan, resulting in an even higher heat intensity experience.
What comes next is almost magic. To control the heat, the sauna master uses snowballs enriched with essential oils; between 8 and 12 minutes guests enjoy the aromatherapy, and the heat invigorates every cell in the body.
The essential oils used in the infusion are divided into three categories; top notes are very volatile and fresh oils to stimulate the mind, such as orange, lemon, peppermint and eucalyptus. These fresh scents only stay in the room for a short time. Middle notes help balance out the emotions and include floral scents, herbs and conifers; these are great for any respiratory conditions. These oils stay in the room for a long time. Finally, the base notes include wood, roots, resins or seeds; they have a very grounding effect and convey a sense of security.
There are at least 4 sauna infusions on offer daily at My Arbor, matching the daily theme, to choose from. Here you find some examples:
- Singing bowl infusion. This gentle infusion with low heat features a ceremony with singing bowls. The sound vibrations stimulate the relaxation nerve and promote deep rejuvenation.
- Vitality infusion. This energetic, uplifting experience offers medium degree of heat accompanied by energising music and invigorating fragrances.
- Fire&Ice infusion. This is one of the hottest sessions of all, an intense themed infusion with invigorating music and energising essential oils.
- Forest infusion. A classic infusion ceremony with medium heat and various essential oils as a tribute to the healing effects of the forest.
For beginners it’s advisable to start with the lowest heat intensity, sitting on the bottom bench, and gradually work their way up.