Sauna Q&A / Jan Seepter

Morning sauna - the battery charging sauna

22 Feb 2022

Going to the sauna has always been linked to an evening activity, where both the relaxation of our body and mind happens either after an active day or week, training or strenuous physical activity.

The heat and steam of the sauna alleviate muscle tension, activate skin "breathing" and sweat out all the toxins, all of which can be boosted with whisking or the Parenie (a thermal massage using leafy and fragrant bundles of birch twig) skin exfoliating and mood-enhancing, soothing aromas. After the steam and hot/cold alternation create a "stress effect" on the body, which further strengthens the protective mechanisms. With the help of the body's internal chemistry the heart calms and the mind plunges into the processes of recovery and relaxation – all of which can be maximised by lying down immediately after and allow yourself some me-time. Lying down on the hard surface is recommended, taking on board the after-sauna effects.

But is it possible to get the opposite effect from a sauna by starting the day with "quickly charging your batteries" before immersing yourself in the daily hustle and bustle?

Yes, with a capital' Y'! And it doesn't take much - just a few small but essential changes in the sauna routine and the right mindset!

Below you will find some great ways to rouse your internal resources.

The initiative requires pre-tuning to smoothly and efficiently redesigning your sauna experience. Pre-tuning or one's conscious preparation and commitment to results is no stranger for those who have experience in training or practising a sport. Also, when getting ready for intense exam sessions or when preparing for important tests. And, of course, for those who engage in spiritual practices that require concentration and directing attention. 

The process of pre-set can be very individual. Each of us has developed methods of collecting ourselves and committing to the result. To face the challenges that require effort over time, to achieve stability, it is usually good to be aware of all your preparative actions. They typically contain self-input. Formulate and visualise the desired result with some focus on an accompanying activity to succeed in this. Often the simultaneous activity is the action of writing down your purpose. 

If you desire to dynamically engage the subconscious to your self-attunement, one option would be stimulating your imagination whilst falling asleep. Be it in any format you wish. It depends on whether you work best with your feelings (as a visualiser) or you are are a "more grounded" (an indicative) person. But it could also be a healthy mix of great visuals with subtitles. Whilst we are falling asleep when everyday reality has begun to slightly "blur", the different parts of consciousness come into contact by exchanging information (Carl Jung), and so the subconscious can start working for itself. Imagine this as installing your subconscious with a line of commands that can be activated when you most need it and help you focus and engage your internal resources.

If your battery-charging sauna rituals have already become regular, it is good to reiterate some awarenesses, right here and now, that hold the clues to ensure presence and avoid habitual behaviour. The development of habituality reduces the positive effects of the sauna and the intensity.

It's common sense that sufficient sleep is a prerequisite for freshness. But since sleep deprivation can also be compensated for at the expense of internal resources, constantly catching up with sleep is not usually sustainable.

Breakfast should be light and healthy. Something easy to digest. Since the options are endless here, the only advice would be that if you can go to the sauna and cool down in less than half an hour, it is advisable to take a meal after "charging your batteries" so not to burden your body with digestion and "reserve" blood circulation for heat regulation. Unless your breakfast is very ascetic and digestion is not a significant burden, it is good to take daily food with a flying start after the sauna.

The morning sauna could be heated to the degree that the aromas could fly off the stones and temperature should be a maximum of 60C (140F). If necessary, it is recommended to cool and ventilate the room. Fresh air is always welcome in the sauna, but especially in the process of morning sauna to avoid "oxygen debt" and possible drowsiness.

It is recommended to stay in the steam room only for sufficient/light preheating time. Experienced winter swimmers also pay good attention to warming the feet so that the body is evenly warm but not necessarily hot. Therefore, it is best to bring your feet up to the same level as the rest of your body because the temperature in the lower spheres of the steam room is significantly lower. Lying down would inevitably lead to complete relaxation. It is difficult to determine the exact recommended time in the sauna, but about 5-7 minutes is usually enough. Be sure not to have a 'roasting head' feeling.

Essential oils or infusions stimulating natural aromas help create a mood and atmosphere. Intense smells quickly and effectively help affect the state of mind and emotions. And since there is no right or wrong in what's a good taste or smell, everyone needs to identify the scent they would like to start their day with or, if you go with the sauna with a group of friends, agree on one that suits everyone.

However, some smells are known to be more effective to start your day, such as lemongrass – whilst it's intense but not too intrusive, homely but not too mundane. The world of stimulating scents and combinations of scents is endless, and it shouldn't be difficult to find several favourites. The aromas of rosemary, eucalyptus, juniper and citrus fruits could be some on the menu. From time to time, it might be good to vary the scents to keep the daily start-up sauna new and thus keep your mind alert. At the same time, you should avoid throwing too much water to the stones, as very little is enough to fill the sauna with invigorating aromas.

Once the body has been preheated in the sauna, the central part of the start-up process is self-tipping with water or, if possible, a quick dip in cool water if desired. However, to get a shock effect that activates protective reactions, it is enough to immerse yourself in the water only for a second. It is advisable to leave the head to be submerged last so that the body can absorb and adjust to the shock first. Watering the head helps to completely cool the body and create a balanced reaction.

It makes the process easier for novices to have a mindset of a hot sauna being immediately at hand. Dipping into an ice hole has even started to appeal to some who cannot bear the idea of cold.

In colder environments, whether under running water or immersed in a body of water, a process of "start-up" takes place. The sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the characteristic state of arousal, is activated, resulting in constriction of the blood vessels under the skin and an increase in the amount of blood in the large blood vessels, resulting in an increase in heart rate.

It is comparable to moderate exercise, but you should always consult your doctor before performing the cooling phase in case of any heart and/or blood pressure problems.

Immersing oneself in cold or even icy water or taking a short bath, one must be prepared for a rapid change in heart rhythm ("palpation") and in some cases, for a significant increase in breathing. However, it lasts only for a second and the process is compensated by a flood of adrenaline, endorphins, noradrenaline and beta-endorphin, which on the one hand have a calming or even detoxicating effect and a mobilising effect on the other. At this point, pre-set will become helpful in focussing on the mobilising effects of the body's defence system and choose freshness, alertness, and a good (and often highly elevated) sensation.

For those who have not been exposed to this experience before, starting with a cold shower or pouring cold water over yourself is recommended. Avoid any extremes! Kickstarting your body protective mechanisms with a morning sauna, getting out of your comfort zone is necessary, but be aware of testing your boundaries sensibly. Should you wish to start practising ice water dipping or start winter swimming, it must be done gradually. It is pretty easy to apply a step-by-step regime in temperate climates because of the body's "heat retention" - as the weather cools, water begins to cool gradually, too.

Since the body's reactions to a sudden change in temperature can be very individual, and the sense of co-ordination can change very quickly, it is strongly advised to have company to help you get out of the water for the first time when going from a sauna to a cold body of water.

You could also start training your body in cold water, either in shallow water or in the immediate vicinity of a specific support point, such as a dock with a ladder. But, again, preliminary gradual preparation is required for more extended stays in the water.

If an attractive body of water is not available or entering one makes you feel uneasy, a great alternative would be starting by rinsing yourself with plenty of cold water or devoting yourself to a cool shower.

After the experience when enjoying the energy rush from hormone-lease and the feeling of pleasant awakening feeling from and detoxicating has peaked, you could pop back into the sauna for a few more minutes, recharge your batteries with a full-bodied cloud of aromas, and then move on to the day.

Sauna is a place to keep a healthy and reasonable pace and mindset. Therefore, the whole procedure should not take more than half an hour. As for more profound relaxation, a private space, silence and natural background sounds are recommended. For kickstarting your senses, communication with others and doing pleasant activities are more suitable.

In addition to feeling well, a morning sauna serves as training of internal organs and body defence system. The cold water shock intensity and the calming strengthen the heart muscles during heat regulation, blood transfers "massage" the blood vessels, which helps maintain their elasticity and prevent blood pressure problems. In addition, the shock reaction stimulates the nervous system and activates/enhances the production of hormones that maintain homeostasis and the functioning of the immune system.

To conclude, yes - it is possible to get hormones to play part in both the relaxation and stimulus through the body's defence mechanisms utilising the changing of the hot temperature of sauna and the cold. Small manoeuvres like taking a sauna and self-attuning will allow you to radiate and divide the energy you need for an active day and leave some for evening sessions that calm and mediate experiential information - to filter the relevant from irrelevant and reposition where we put emphasis in life.

Smooth saunaing!