Mention ‘sauna’ and a few distinctive mental images spring to mind.
The first is wrinkly old curmudgeons sitting around, sans pants, grunting about their grandkids and possibly even letting out the odd fart.
The second is uber-fit gym junkies hitting the hot box post-shred, sitting in an unnaturally-upright position, glancing down at their abs every 30 or so seconds. Still got it.
The third stereotypical sauna user might be… you.
Ever been a deeply crusty, hungover human attempting to “sweat out” various toxins from the night before? I have (and just quietly, stepping into a sauna whilst hungover and severely dehydrated from a session is a real bad idea).
Saunas have been around for centuries, in many cultures, with storied health benefits.
They’re said to temporarily relieve the symptoms of the common cold, as well as ease the ailments associated with arthritis, asthma and chronic fatigue. There’s a fair bit of literature online to suggest sweating it out in the sauna can burn titanic amounts of calories, rid the body of ‘toxins’ (whatever they are, exactly) and assist in weight loss.
One type of sauna that’s been picking up steam as of late is the infrared sauna.
If you’ve tried a regular sauna before and couldn’t handle the heat, you might find an infrared sauna a little more tolerable. But does sitting in one for 45 minutes hold any tangible health benefits?
Unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas don’t rely on heat to warm the air. Instead, they heat your body directly through light without warming the air around you, meaning you won’t experience that gross it’s-so-hot-I-can’t-friggen-breathe feeling.
We headed down to Nimbus & Co in Bondi to try out the infrared sauna for ourselves.
Nimbus & Co is a quaint, tranquil little wellness studio nestled between shops on bustling Bondi Road. Step off the street and into the space and you’ll instantly feel a little calmer.
I took my shoes off at the door (as is customary) and was taken for a quick tour around the space by the friendly studio manager. She was lovely. I know I’m meant to be discussing the sauna but all of these little elements are what make good wellness studios great.
I was shown the room I’d be schvitzing in; a small, minimalist space with the infrared therapy booth and a shower to cool down in afterwards.
I was left to my own devices to strip down and jump inside the hot box to sweat it out for the next 45 minutes.
In all honestly, my main concern was how I’d deal with being alone, with only my thoughts to entertain me, for three quarters of an hour. Luckily, an entertainment fairy answered my prayers and I found a little iPad with Netflix built into the sauna. Cue The Hollywood Masters with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Delicious.
For the first ten or so minutes, I was preoccupied with adjusting to sitting down naked for ten minutes. Sitting in the nud for that long isn’t something I do often.
I got used to it, and about 20 minutes in, I started truly sweating. Like, proper sweat. Coming out of my flesh prison’s every pore. I was hot; not uncomfortably so, but getting there.
I really am thankful for the Netflix, because at the 25 minute mark it felt like I’d been in there for an eternity. It wasn’t necessarily a bad feeling, but I wouldn’t say I was relaxed.
30 minutes in and I was coping, barely. It was hot. Real hot. Not hot in a hell way, but hot in an I Want A Cold Shower Right Now way. Luckily the studio provided a carafe of water for me to take into the sauna. I was taking sips every few minutes as I felt more and more dehydrated.
At the 40 minute mark, things got a bit easier as it dawned on me that I only had 5 more minutes in my little heat prison. But similarly to the last five minutes of a Friday in the office, that went on forever.
Finally, soothing bells started chiming through the stereo, signifying it was time for me to get out. I did, and boy can I tell you; I’ve never appreciated an ice cold shower as much as the one I took immediately after the session.
How’d I feel afterwards?
Exhausted, truthfully. Really tired. Kapooped.
I slowly climbed back into my activewear and shuffled back to the front desk. I was in such a stupor I left all my jewellery (we’re talking family heirlooms, not Diva rings) in the room; thankfully that lovely studio manager grabbed ’em for me before I stumbled home to Surry Hills.
Oh yeah, I walked all the way home. A nice 6km walk. And in fairness, I did feel light and breezy – the walk went very quickly, with my body deeply appreciating the fresh, crisp air.
I arrived home and collapsed on the couch with not much going on by way of appetite. When I did get up to go to the loo, my skin did look nice and dewy in the mirror, and I had that healthy flush you usually get after exercise and a good night’s rest. I slept like a baby.
Did I feel any tangible benefits on the days afterwards? Honestly?
I went about my regular routine, I didn’t lose weight, I didn’t feel any less ‘toxic’.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t do it again, though. It was a nice experience. Being able to sit in the nude, in stillness, feeling your body sweating is weirdly cathartic. It was also nice to be alone; a welcome reprieve from the constant company I keep at work and at home in my share house.
It wasn’t exorbitantly expensive either, with an intro offer of 3 sessions setting you back $99. A nice lil’ gift if you need to get back to yourself, no matter how sweaty that self may become.
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