Are You Experienced may be about the best Jimi Hendrix album, but if there were a mobile sauna backstage at Woodstock, he would have been best to experience water, nature, and time as his holy trinity to a good cool down between sauna rounds.
Looking back on my 2019 pilgrimage to Finland, I enjoyed 50 saunas in 12 days. And Jarmo Lehtola, a sauna pro who has been in a thousand different saunas, was along with me for a good part of the ride. As we’d compare saunas, we agreed that a “water element” is a key criteria to good sauna. In Helsinki, there are iconic public saunas with good heat. For example Uusi Sauna, Kotiharjun Sauna, Sauna Hermanni, built in the basement of a nondescript apartment block, are all kick ass, but when we experience Löyly or Sompasauna, well the game changes completely. After we exit the hot room and immerse ourselves into the fresh cold Baltic Sea, we emerge refreshed, restored and rejuvinated.
A water element is a key attribute to good sauna.
For those of us not able to deploy sauna by a natural cold water element, one option is to pony up some serious coin to purchase any one of several cold plunge products on offer. The issue for me, though, is despite filtration systems, how do we filter out sweat? For that, I encourage installing a simple outdoor shower for between rounds. With our without a cold plunge, we are able to not only dejankify between rounds, but benefit from the clean rinse.
There is a vocal sect of Eastern European banya enthusiasts who give a thumbs up “da!” to the bucket rinse, which is a great way to flush the pores of our skin and rejuvenate the endorphin vaso constriction action (without the need of a performance based podcast to tell us why this is good for us). For many, a 5 gallon pickle bucket coupled with the frost free faucet for winter access may be all we need for serving up water as a checkmark to the holy trinity of a good cool down.
For many, a cold plunge via a hole in the ice is about the pinnacle of cool down.
The second of the holy trinity to good cool down is nature. Sauna in nature is bigger than all of us. When we allow ourselves to chill out in the garden all misty wet with rain, we open our bodies, minds, and spirits to the wonders of nature as a healing and calming element. This is medicine. The power of nature as a calming and healing agent is accentuated with the endorphin rush of our bodies cooling down after a kick ass hot round and cold water immersion.
We all seem to be living busy lives. When we allow ourselves to slow down, leave the cell phone behind, we become one with the present moment. It’s easier to be in the present moment when we are free from time constraints. For many sauna enthusiasts, 2 hours is a minimum. Maybe longer. In Finland, nobody seems to count their sauna rounds. A sauna session can go on for hours, especially in summer with the midnight sun.
Fot those of us relegated to gym saunas, both nature and time are often scarce. A work out and a quick sauna round are often what many consider to be sauna. But let’s allow ourselves a new approach. The holy trinity of a good sauna is best realized when we can allow enough time for our bodies to completely cool down. When we lose track of time, the phone, the clock, we open up to connecting with our bodies, our mind, our spirit.
We can only allow our bodies to completely cool down if we allow ourselves time. And what a gift! A cold beverage, some casual conversation, hanging out on the sauna deck or the dock at the cabin can become the most valued, precious moments in our lives.
Are you experienced? We think so! Water, nature, and time: The Holy Trinity of a good cool down.