Gabriel Garcia Marquez navigated us through “Love in the Time of Cholera” and the feeling is similar in that we are currently navigating our way through Sauna in the Time of Corona.
Health clubs are shut down. So are restaurants and coffee shops and gathering spots of any kind. Those of us who have our own saunas are finding exceptional respite on the bench. Some of us are cautiously inviting a friend or two over for sauna, but most are resonating with the family sauna, or the solo sauna that is meant to be.
It’s way too early to tell how this pandemic will unfold. And this article will be timestamped and dated, and hopefully read by folks in the future who may think to themselves: “man, that was fucked up, but good thing we’re back to normal.”
However this rolls, one thing for sure is that we are all getting a better understanding of this challenge:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”– Serenity Prayer (first part), Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971
And the second cousin:
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”– Charles Swindoll, 1934 -, not possibly spoken in reference to water being tossed on the rocks from the lower bench in Frisco, Texas
One of the things we can change is our ability to exercise and eat well, so that if we get the flu, we will be that much stronger to beat back COVID-19. As Dr. Jari Laukennen says during his Sauna Talk episode, the key to living healthy is three things: good diet, exercise, and sauna. So we are able to focus on these three things which make us feel better, and help build strength and our immune systems.
Those of us who are still employed are working from home. Those furloughed are also at home. Many have more time on their hands than they have had in many years. Idle time can lead to worry and anxiety, but as we revisit the Serenity Prayer, we try to refocus on what is in our control. And many are using this time to do constructive things: read more books, clean the house, and tackle home improvement projects. And how about Greg from North Minneapolis, who just completed his own backyard sauna build (for $1,000!!)? (Is there a better time to build your own sauna than now?)
And we have the livelihoods of folks running sauna businesses in the public domain. Established brick and mortar locations like Chicago Sweatlodge, Kaurilan Sauna, Uusi Sauna, and Löyly Spa and budding new operations like Cedar & Stone, Stokeyard Outfitters, and Little Red Sauna in Maine. These enterprises are run by people who put it all on the line, share a common vision that sauna is a precious experience, often and best shared in the spirit of community gathering.
That’s all fucked up right now, but like a storm that passes, these enterprises will see light again, and grow, and hopefully stronger and higher than before. Time will tell.
But for those of us with our own backyard health and wellness retreats, we are finding intensely resonating relaxation and respite. 20 steps our out back door, we set out to visit our church, our sanctuary. We fire up our sauna stoves and begin our journey. We exercise or go for a walk and return to our friend, our sauna, idling away, awaiting our company. We settle onto the upper bench, close our eyes, and begin our familiar interaction with the deep, enveloping heat. We may have our favorite spot on the bench, and for others, we are known to switch our placement from round to round, just because we can.
The first toss of water on the rocks, and “aaahhhh” (no better word for it!).
Sauna is our time. and we can lose ourself in the time. Also, we are transported to another place. We may be tucked into a sauna in the corner in our own backyard, but it is as if we have been picked up by the back of our neck and deposited to some other magical place. Sauna does this to us. Sauna is transformative.
And we haven’t even gotten to the cool down yet.
As we finish our first hot round, we join Nature. A bucket rinse, outdoor shower, cold plunge and another “aaahhhh” (no better word for it). As steam billows off our cooling bodies, we notice that a bird chirping sounds more clear, fresh air fills our lungs more intensely, a sip from a cool beverage tastes that much better.
During this quarantine, we recognize even more how sauna does this to us. Sauna is transformative.