I’m one of those people who would try mostly anything in the name of Health and Wellness. Testing out chlorophyll water? Check. Epsom salt baths? With relish. You get the point. So when one of my friends suggested we visit an infrared sauna on one of the coldest (seriously mind-blowing-freeze-your-organs-and-take-cabs-5-blocks cold!) days of 2018 thus far, I was clearly in. Preaching to the organic cotton wearing choir.
So how is an infrared sauna different than a regular sauna? An infrared sauna heats the body directly, and causes a rise in your core temperature, instead of just the skin surface from the outside air. With an infrared sauna, you’re sweating out toxins that reside at the cellular level, with a plethora of health benefits.
You want to know more about those benefits, right? The list is long, but this is an abbreviated version that felt true to my experience: release of muscle tension, detoxification of skin, lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, increased calorie burn (up to 600 cals per 30 minutes), promotion of faster wound healing, and obviously, a big “om” zen feeling for the 24 hours afterwards.
The Session details. I visited NAO Wellness in Manhattan, which also rolls chromotherapy–color therapy–into their sauna offerings. This means you have a self-controlled lights menu with several color options tied to various health benefits: we went heavy with the blue light that helps melt away any seasonal affective disorder symptoms (and an iPhone hookup in the booth to play your music!). Some of the infrared saunas do not emphasis the addition of chromotherapy, but I thought it was a nice touch, and fun to change up the light treatment at different points in the session, plus you feel like you’re in the DJ booth :)
Obviously I can only write to my personal experience, as a lot of physical responses are individualized, but all in all it was enjoyable, relaxing but very productive, 60 minutes. A friend and I shared the booth, which was a tight squeeze for two–we both had to sit upright for the entire session–but not uncomfortable. About 10 minutes in, I really was sweating, you could feel the depth of the infrared rays, even though the sauna space was bone dry. NAO Wellness offers water with electrolytes, for mineral support, so I relied on a few water breaks to get me through the hour. I could feel myself relaxing, and some of the tension in my shoulders and back dissipating.
Immediately following the session, it was as if I had just left both a body scrub and back massage–my entire body felt really smooth and moisturized, and any tension or pain was lessened. The clarity of my skin was also noticeable–I did have a few things come to the surface later that day, as my skin continued to detox, but the healing process was also accelerated. Note to the wise, you will be ravenous afterwards as your body is really working to respond to the infrared treatment, so be prepared to think about a meal shortly after the treatment!
Will I incorporate infrared therapy into my wellness regimen? I personally enjoyed the experiential aspects of the therapy more than the lasting results–physically I felt changed for around 2 days, but I assume that a more frequent treatment routine would close up those gaps. It’s a lovely relaxing way to spend an afternoon–bring a friend, or significant other!–but feels more of a special occasion add than a necessity. I’ll stick to my occasional 15-minute nail salon massages, facials and acupuncture, to keep me afloat. The friend I went with has gone back for treatments at other facilities, and want to make it more of a regular practice in her routine.
Would you try an infrared sauna? Are you a regular? I’m all ears. At NAO, a single session will run you $45 for 30 minutes and $65 for an hour, but prices drop if you bring a buddy. I occasionally try out wellness therapies and will try to bring more of those experiences over here for those that are trying to live a more holistic life.