The frosty and cold weather that I and my fellow New Yorkers are experiencing this week, brought me to a place that offered Hot Sauna (banya) and other healthy services to rejuvenate the immune system, restore your skin, energy and vitality. Going to banya was a tradition in my family, and I simply wanted to feel the experience again.
The journey was fantastic, and I will share a few important tips for those who wanted to try hot saunas but never had an opportunity in the past. The Hot Sauna experience is great if it is done right. So before you go to any Hot Sauna make sure that your are ready to take a full advantage of your trip.
Plan to spend at least 3-4 hours there, bring some necessary accessories with you and invite your friends, family, yoga teammates, or your children. Regardless of the age of your "sauna team" all of the members will greatly benefit from the trip.
Make sure that the hot sauna you choose has a cold pool in it as well, because for most effective experience you will need to switch between the hot and cold temperature on many occasions by immersing your body in the hot 'spot' and after that by jumping into the cold pool for more relaxation. (Make sure you consult your doctor before your go to the hot sauna as the heart rate in hot saunas increases up to 55-65% so you want to make sure your doctor is fine with that.)
Why birch? It is common to bring a birch or oak whisk with you for massaging and therapeutic 'spanking ' with the whisk. Sometimes people call birch whisking - a "jewish acupuncture" because the tradition originated in Russia a long ago and it was also very popular in some jewish shuls and temples in Europe. Birch whisks are beneficial for your skin and using birch or oak whisks brings about the same effect as some acupuncture session does.
For more relaxation and pleasure you can use some essential oils, including rosemary oil, pine tree oils, eucalyptus, lavender, ect.
Hot sauna is a great place to practice Hatha yoga that requires a variety of stretching exercises and is not very difficult for majority of people. The benches in the sauna rooms are extremely hot, so make sure you have a blanket or a towel with you so that you can perform a variety of yoga poses without any discomfort.
Wearing a Hat
Make sure you have a special sauna hat so that your hair won't get damaged by high temperature generated in the sauna. Don't bring any over the counter cosmetics, shampoo, lotions, creams and other artificial "beauty" products that are loaded with chemicals and harmful oils. Try to limit your supplies to an organic shampoo, organic soap and some body scrubs.
There are plenty of websites & podcasts on benefits of Hot Sauna. Here is one I can recommend: https://www.saunatimes.com/health-benefit/
If you are tired of reading articles about sauna, you can listen to a podcast too:
And yes, it is so cold outside, so go to banya, now!
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