There is nothing like enjoying a “spa day.” Taking a little time for yourself is necessary, and many spas offer more than just treatments like a swimming pool, sauna and steam room. But how to use these amenities properly? First thing you want to remember when visiting a spa is the basic cycle: Heat, Cool, Rest, Repeat.
What to Wear
Before you get started on your heat regimen, you should to take a few steps to prepare. The sauna is a place of relaxation and introspection, so you want to change out of your clothes, even your underwear, into something that is a dedicated sauna “uniform.” Having your own uniform should put you into the right mindset and allow your body to sweat freely. You can wear only a towel or a swimsuit, depending on your personal preferences (and the policy of your spa). One thing to keep in mind is that high temperatures and body oils can combine to take the color and stretchiness out of elastic fibers. If you are going to wear a swimsuit, wear an older one.
According to the SaunaScape, “Before you enter a sauna or steam room, you need to take a shower to clean your skin of any chemicals, dirt, oils, antiperspirants, perfumes and makeup that are on your skin or trapped in your hair. In a pool, you’ll be leaving everything on your skin in the water. In the heat of the sauna, scents on your skin can negatively affect other people’s’ experiences and contaminants on your skin can travel into your bloodstream via your sweat.”
In Asia, the cleansing of your body before you sauna or soak in a jacuzzi is a ritual that cleanses your mind of stresses before you enter the hot sauna. Keep this in mind as you shower. Don’t forget if you are wearing a swimsuit to take it off while you shower.
This is most important if you are going to use the sauna or steam room. Water acts as a very good insulator. If you leave a film of water on your body, it is going to slow down how quickly you heat up and really start to sweat.
Now is the time to apply heat: this the purpose of the saunas and steam rooms. Which one you choose first is up to you. We like to start with the dry sauna on our first round, and move to the more humid steam baths, as we spend our time there. You may like it better the other way around.
In the sauna or steam room, the upper benches are hotter than the lower benches. Many people find that lying down on the bench heats their body more evenly than sitting on the bench. However, for yourself and others, sit or lie on a towel. If you wore slippers or sandals into the sauna, you should leave them on the floor. This will keep them cool, and prevent you from transferring anything that was on the floor to the benches.
As you sit in the heat, you will feel the heat of your body rising, then you should break out into a full body sweat. Try to stay in the room until this happens. Most people find it takes about 5-15 minutes before this happens. When you have had enough or if you aren’t comfortable, listen to your body and leave. If you laid down, allow a minute or so for your blood pressure to equalize before you stand up.
When you leave the heat, you should feel that warmth throughout your body, your heart pounding like you just sprinted a mile and have sweat pouring out of your skin. Now, you need to cool down to get that excess heat out of your body. You can cool down by taking a cool-to-warm shower, going for a dip in the pool or even wrapping yourself in a blanket, towel or robe and letting the heat slowly come out of you.
After you cool down, your body needs some time for its temperature to equalize and for your pulse rate and blood pressure to come back to normal. Use this time to drink some water, get a massage or body scrub, or just sit and think pray. Hopefully, your spa has a lounge area where you can sit.
One trip through the heat baths is never enough. Most people recommend two to three rounds. The cycling of your body through the heat and cold is an exercise for your skin and circulatory system. Just remember to cool down and rest and stay hydrated before you start your next round.
When you have had your fill, you should leave at the end of the rest phase. Let your body finish cooling down and let your sweating stop. Some people like to take a full shower with soap and shampoo to help them finish cooling down and get ready to return to society. Others believe in just a quick rinse as the oils your body releases into your skin and hair are better than any lotion or conditioner.
As you get dressed again, you’ll feel the pressures of everyday life returning to you. Hopefully, the time you spent will help you better face what remains of the day or help you get a good night’s sleep that night.