While most of us know what a sauna is, few of us truly know how to use one properly.
A sauna has the potential to provide you with tons of health benefits. The exposure to heat, bursts of humidity, and slow, measured breathing is an experience that relaxes and rejuvenates both your body and your mind. But if you don’t know how to sauna like a pro, you may be walking away from the deeper benefits saunas can offer.
If you’re interested to start using your home sauna like a pro, we have you covered. In this article, we will break down how to use the Finnish-style dry heat saunas for both electric and wood-burning variants. Follow these tips and you’ll be using your sauna like a pro in no time.
STEP 1: PREPARE YOUR BODY + MIND
The ideal sauna experience is not rushed. If you only have time to squeeze in a 10-minute sauna session, then by all means do so! That is better than nothing. But if you really want to sauna like a pro, then you should set aside at least 1 ½ - 2 hours from start to finish.
Prepare your mind and body before you start. That means drink plenty of water in the hours leading up to your sauna session. This is a good life tip, anyway, but even more important when you’re planning a sweat session.
And when it comes to food, the best is a light snack. You don’t want to go in with an empty stomach — you might get lightheaded and nauseous. Likewise, you don’t want to go in right after eating, either. That’s because after a full meal, all your blood flows towards your stomach to help digest your food. This affects your body's overall circulation, and if you try to sauna at the same time, you won’t be feeling great. Our advice is that if you’ve eaten a large meal wait at least 2 hours before you step into your sauna.
Some experts recommend taking a shower first to do a “pre-wash,” cleanse your body of any heavy grime, and prepare your skin and pores.
STEP 2: PREPARE YOUR SAUNA
Whether you have an electric stove or a wood-burning stove, you should start heating your sauna at least 45 minutes before you start your session so that the rocks and sauna walls have time to heat up. Ideally, the thermostat should read 180 - 200 degree Fahrenheit. Do you have a sauna with a wood-burning stove? Make sure you have plenty of wood chopped before you begin. Likewise, make sure you fill any water buckets beforehand, so you don’t have to leave the heat of the sauna if you want to make a little bit of steam.
STEP 3: ENJOY THE SAUNA: ROUND 1 DRY HEAT
For the first sauna round, you’ll want to sit in dry heat for 10 - 15 minutes. The goal is to heat your body evenly and thoroughly. Sudden exposure to extreme temperatures for a long duration can shock your body, and this gradual introduction is a gentle way to get used to the dry sauna environment. The North American Sauna Society recommends not creating steam during this “introductory” Round 1. You want to fully relax into the hot environment, while also listening to what your body is saying.
STEP 4: ENJOY THE SAUNA: COLD
After 10 or 15 minutes, take a break for at least 15 minutes to cool down. Traditionally, you would cool down with a “plunge pool,” or another Finnish tradition, a roll in the snow! A simple cold shower will do the trick.
It may sound uncomfortable, but after sitting in a hot sauna, the cold will be refreshing and rejuvenating. In addition, returning to the hot sauna environment after a 15-minute cool down will feel cozy and comforting.
STEP 5: ENJOY THE SAUNA: ROUND 2, HEAT + STEAM
Now, this round, you’ll want to make steam by pouring water over the heated rocks. This process is known as löyly — and while it may be uncomfortable at first, the steam will allow the hot air to heat your core more efficiently. You can also scent the steam by mixing essential oils with your bucket of water for an extra relaxing or stimulating experience.
If you plan to wash or exfoliate your body (only at home, please!), towards the end of this round (or the next if you go 3 rounds) is the perfect time to do so. In this second round, you’ll want to stay in the sauna longer if you can, at least 20 minutes. But, remember to always listen to your body.
STEP 6: ENJOY THE SAUNA: COOL-DOWN
Leave the sauna and take a cool shower once again or plunge in the pool.
Take it slow.
Afterward, sit or lie down to finish cooling down.
You should feel great, abuzz with inner energy.
If you like, you can repeat the process several times. Two to three rounds is most common, but experienced sauna users will do this process anywhere from four to six times each session.
STEP 7: POST-SAUNA CARE
If you’re done, then be sure to let yourself cool down completely before getting dressed. This may take some time and you’re not only bringing your skin temperature down, but also your core. If you get dressed too soon, you’ll find you've been trapped in heat and may begin to sweat.
Did you know that you can shed a pint of water in sweat during a 20-minute dry sauna session? Be sure to rehydrate with plenty of water following your sauna session. Similarly, you’ll want to feed your body as well.
MAKING THE MOST OF HOME SAUNA EXPERIENCE
Keep in mind, this is just the framework. You can always incorporate various rituals into your home sauna sessions, such as meditation, breathing exercises, hot yoga and stretching, and more. If you ever feel ill or unwell during the session, step out immediately. If you have an existing medical condition, speak to your doctor before using a sauna.
If you are looking to sauna like a pro with your own home sauna oasis, we have what you’re looking for. Browse our selection of traditional saunas, indoor saunas, infrared saunas, and more. Any questions, connect with us using the chat on this page. We pride ourselves on our sauna knowledge and love to share!