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Sauna in the time of corona

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.

Jesse, Narvi Sauna Stoves, between sauna rounds

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11 thoughts on “Sauna in the time of corona”

  1. I like your posts. I would like to tramslate a summary of them in Spanish and post in my web or fb account caprichosderey.com, obviously with credits to you. Let me know if this is possible

  2. I just returned from my Northwoods camp where I have a wood burning sauna. It is the shoulder season where the snow is turning to ice, then to mud. Right now, we have a lot of all three, There is still sufficient ice on the lake for us to walk out 100 feet, cut a hole and do a plunge.

    During our family time, the long sauna sessions were a great comfort. Three or four rounds of 15 – 20 minutes, followed by a similar period of cooling down and, after the last round, a dip in the 38 degree water in the lake. I use a few drops of essential oil in the water that I put on the rocks at the beginning of each hot round. As I write this from my sixth floor home, I am aware of the subtle smell of fir needles, a hint of smoke and cedar.

    This does so much for my spirit.

    We make a bit of a game of the plunge, counting as we stand in the cold cold water. After about 30 seconds, I begin to feel a layer of energy just under my skin. It is exhilarating. After, we dry off and relax in front of a fire in our boathouse on the lakeshore.

    I do not know the science but I do know that I feel more present, more aware of so many sensations – smell, sound, touch – so alive. I always sleep very well on the nights after sauna. This has to be good for us!

  3. HI, GOOD AFTERNOON. WELL IT SOUNDS LIKE YOUVE REALLY HAD MORE THAN YOUR FAIR SHARE OF FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCES WITH THE “DO’s AND DONT’s” OF SAUNA BUILDING. IM SURE YOUR 25 YEARS + EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH SAUNAS HAS TAUGHT YOU A THING OR TWO…LOL! MORE LIKE…..A TRAZILLIION THINGS!…..RIGHT?

    OKAY SO I COULD DEFINETLY USE YOUR ADVICE OR BETTER PUT “YOUR WORDS OF WIZDOM”….
    THERE IS A ROOM IN MY PARENTS HOME THAT WAS INCLUDED IN THE BLUEPRINTS WHEN THE HOME WAS BUILT 15 YEARS AGO WHICH WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A SAUNA……HOWEVER, IT BECAME MORE OF A “HOARDING SPACE” FOR MY MOTHER.

    THE HOUSE WAS BUILT WITH BLOCKS INSTEAD OF WOOD, AS IT IS ACCUSTOMED HERE IN MEXICO. SO IM WORKING WITH A 79 INCH SQUARED ROOM 98INCHES TALL. ALL IS MADE OUT OF BLOCK INCLUDING THE CEILING.

    I HAVE SOMEWHAT RESEARCHED “HOW TO BUILD A SAUNA” KEEPING IN MIND THAT I HAVE A VERY LOW BUDGET. BUT I DO HOWEVER, HAVE LEFT OVER MATERIAL FROM REMODELING GIGS I DID IN THE PAST AND WOULD STILL BE DOING ,HAD I NOT BEEN INJURED ON THE JOB….

    SO MY PLAN IS TO USE MEDAL STUDS INSTEAD OF WOOD AND FOAM INSTEAD OF FIBERGLASS INSULATION. IS THIS RECOMMENDABLE?? ALSO THE RECOMMENDED WOOD TO BE USED IN A SAUNA IS PRETTY PRICEY AND I JUST DONT HAVE THE MEANS FOR IT. I HAVE PLENTY OF PLYWOOD I CAN USE FOR THE WALLS AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT YOU RECOMMEND I COVER THOSE WITH? LINOLEUM, TILE, ETC,ETC…..?? THE ROOM HAS A DRAIN IN THE CENTER OF IT, AND HOT/ COLD WATER LINES COMING IN FROM THE BACK WALL. THE OPERATING SYSTEM IS A SMALL ELECTRIC POWERED BOX WITH THE WORDS “ULTRA SAUNA” ON IT AND HAS A GROOVE ON THE TOP OF IT TO HOLD RIVER ROCKS. WHEN AND IF YOU HAVE TIME, ID REALLY LIKE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS ON MY “SAUNA PROJECT”.

    I HOPE TO HEAR FROM YOU SOON, SINCE I ONLY HAVE 5 DAYS TO START AND FINISH THIS PROJECT AND BE ABLE TO SURPRISE MY PARENTS UPON THEIR ARRIVAL FROM VISITING FAMILY IN RIO VERDE, SAN LUIS POTOSI, MEXICO.

    THANKS IN ADVANCE AND I WOULD LIKE TO COMMEND YOU ON YOUR WEBSITE…………IT IS ONE OF A KIND, VERY UNIQUE…….YOUR PERSONAL INPUT/ EXPERIENCE WITH SAUNAS MAKES IT EASIER TO UNDERSTAND AND MAKES ONE FEEL “RIGHT AT HOME”, UNLIKE THESE OTHER WEBSITES WHERE ITS STRAIGHT TO BUSSINESS……………

    HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY……GRACIAS!!

  4. Ruben: Happy to help you out. You can use the search bar on this website for learning more, and a lot of what you’re asking is in my ebook, which may sound like a big upsell to you, but it’s $20 and saves everybody lots more in time and money, so there you go, i’m encouraging you to part with your hard earned money!

    I can’t speak for that stove “ultra sauna” and I can speak to metal studs: good. plywood: you can use but not really recommended unless you use foil wrap insulation and seal off as the glue in plywood will deteriorate over time and who knows what bad smell plywood glue can give off with heat and humidity. Anyhow, with 5 days you may not sleep, but it sure sounds like a marathon, and the book will get you to the “Finnish” line faster.

  5. We are Nature. Sauna helps us to recognize this by bring us closer to who and what we are: biology. 99.9% of our conscious modern life is designed to constantly ‘think’ ourselves away from this simple fact. Sauna is an opportunity to return and reflect on the primordial state of what it means to be alive. We are fortunate and grateful for that. Thank you heat – thank you cold – thank you sauna – my friend of truth.

  6. My backyard sauna is still under construction. The hot room is 95% done (still missing some trim), but functional. The changing room is only roughed in. Yesterday, I experimented with the stove to see how long it would take to heat up and how much wood is needed. When the temps climbed over 160, I couldn’t resist sitting on the bench. Aaahhhhh!!! I never would have imagined a year ago when starting on this project the timing would work the way it did.

  7. Sean… I can feel the heat from here. And you’ll never forget this time, and how you’ve been able to parlay this time of isolation with the advancement of your own backyard health and wellness retreat.

    Now, as your spiritual advisor, think about hooking up your outdoor shower, and or cold plunge tank, take two beers, and call me in the morning.

  8. I started my mobile sauna build over a year ago using Glenn’s ebook plus advice from other folks who have built mobile saunas. Having a toddler and a demanding job has made for very slow going, with the project sometimes sitting untouched for weeks at a time.

    Over the past few weeks since I’ve a) been working from home now and b) really needing that sanctuary more than ever, I’ve been re-energized. Even if it’s 10 minutes at the table saw making some trim in between Zoom conference calls (and the occasional hour scheduled on my calendar as “meeting”), I’ve been making the time that I never seemed to be able to find much of during the past year. I tackled some projects that were intimidating and thus procrastination-inducing…cutting the hole in the roof and installing the chimney support and building and installing the door and windows. Now it’s just a matter of installing the stove and I’m ready to sauna (and then I have to finish trim, exterior paint, fine the perfect piece of rhododendron for a handle, etc.).

    Anyhow, this post has me headed out back to turn on the work light and keep plugging away. Thanks, Glenn!

  9. Glenn:

    Fabulous! As you bring your project to the “Finnish” line, another unintended benefit is how rewarding it is to channel energy towards a project, something constructive that helps produce that flow state present moment thinking.

    And at bedtime, instead of ‘monkey mind’ thinking like counting sheep or fretting about the 401k, it is calming and rewarding to be constructive thinking before bed, how many lineal feet of trim do I need?, shall I face my durarock with stone vs. skim coat? This is how our ancestors lived and it’s wired into our DNA. After being chased by tigers, they’d hang around in the cave before bed and calculate their next move, and it probably made for good deep sleep, only thinking about what’s in their control.

    “Me make sauna. Sauna good. Heat good. Woman like sauna. Kid like sauna. Sauna good. Body clean. Sleep better. Must write note on cave wall: Do more sauna.”

  10. Living in Northern MN most of my life we enjoyed the traditional sauna in an old log cabin next to the lake. We moved to SW Montana 8 yrs ago and have missed the sauna very much. We are now in the planning process to build our outdoor sauna during our time of ‘shelter in place’ to give us a focus and hope that we will once again enjoy all that the sauna does for our mind, body and soul. Hoping to get started this week and looking forward to seeing the mountains through the windows.

    Corinne

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