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Raising the bar (and sauna bench height) at The Perfect Sweat Summit

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Many Perfect Sweat Summit attendees preferred a cold beer between rounds. The wine here remained unopened.

This week, experts and aficionados of sweat gathered from around the world at Archimedes Banya in San Francisco to take part in the first Perfect Sweat Summit.   The event was filmed by Emmy Award winning director Doug Pray as part of a reality-based, travel and health-oriented TV series, conceptually based on Mikkel Aaland’s book “Sweat”, the 1978 cult classic for lovers of the sweat experience.

Positive energy swelled early into the meetings.

Presenters kept it short, packed with information and personal sentiments.  It became clear early on that the kinship of the group is making for strong, long lasting relationships that are going to be building blocks for advancing sweat practices today.  “The burgeoning wellness movement is returning to its roots, as the millennia-old sweat trend reheats up.”

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Jarmo illustrating optimal sauna bench height: two fists distance from head to ceiling.

Connections were made.

For example, while having lunch with Jarmo Lehtola, CEO, Finnish Sauna Society.  He casually illustrated to me that optimal upper sauna bench height is such that when sitting, one’s head is two fists distance from the ceiling.  The first thing I did when I returned back home was go out to my backyard sauna, sit on the upper bench and recreate Jarmo’s test.  Thanks to the Perfect Sweat Summit, I am on my way out back to raise my bench two inches higher.

Matt Wiggins, shared with us the realities of our current health care system and how there’s hope on the horizon for a holistic approach to health and wellness, to get us off our current downward spiral.  Matt has extensive experience navigating through the American health care cesspool.  He walks the walk, and I am dying to connect with him about his plans for a rooftop sauna build.

A fast paced whirlwind cab ride conversation with Larry Holman, former manager of Banya 5, where we sketched out the concept of Sauna Extension – a practical way to “build out” incremental space at an existing health club or spa to include an authentic sauna complete with a Sweat Therapy regimen.   This project has every chance to be a game changer.  We all know what a fast paced disconnected world it is.  Implementing sweat therapy into people’s lives is going to be an exciting opportunity, and Sauna Extension is going to be able to bring authenticity to people, in a cost effective public realm.

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Mika checking in, wearing a banyaphile in tribute to Mikhail,the Russian owner/operator of Archimedes Banya

And then there is Mika Hotakainen, co Director of Steam of Life, the Finnish documentary that depicts the breaking down of Men’s stoicism: real life actors sharing their stories and vulnerabilities while taking part in sauna.  Mika and I connected immediately.  We hung out and laughed like former college roommates.   Though I declined his repeated offers to take pulls from his bottle of Finnish liquor on morning of my flight home, I appreciated his smile and willingness to share.  His artistic approach and joy of living filled me with optimism and Mika has reenergized me to continue with my creative pursuits.

Minnesota was well represented.

John Pederson, Molly ReichertMichael Nordskog, myself, and Clint Carlson could have fielded a kick ass hockey team, yet instead we each shared our individual sauna efforts to the Summit.  I am confident this crew is going to collaborate and engage others towards advancing a Twin Cities sauna movement that is gaining Loyly (steam created from tossing water on sauna rocks).

Finally, there’s Mikkal AAland.  This event was able to happen thanks to his seminal book Sweat, his exhaustive efforts, and the incredibly generous support of Producer Greg Moga.  Mikkal moderated the event like a pro.  Subjects of conversation built and could have gone on for hours, yet Mikkal moved things along and encouraged further discussions “on the bench.”  Beyond the great conversation, Mikkal put together a group that felt like being with family and it was hard to say goodbye.

It was a Perfect Sweat Summit.


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2 thoughts on “Raising the bar (and sauna bench height) at The Perfect Sweat Summit”

  1. Yes. I ripped a couple 2x4s and sistered them on top of my bench headers and then reset my upper benches. I liked the 2″ height change. Then I reset my lower benches up 1″.

    The overall result is a more generous feeling in the hot room.

    Crazy how tweaking an inch here and two inches there is noticeable, but i’m glad I did it.

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