Thursday, January 8, 2015


Let's talk about what the Germans refer to as "sauna".

Going to a sauna is pretty common in Germany. I've met several people who make plans to be at "sauna" for 3-4 hours once a week. They take this sauna business seriously!

My intro to the sauna in Germany:
I was invited by a lady from church (after visiting the church one time) who is in her mid 50's to go to sauna with her on a Friday evening. I thought to myself, "I'm not really keen on sitting in an extremely humid room and sweating for an hour or so, but I want to get to know some people and get out of the house, so I should go with her and try it." I told her I'd go. I at first didn't understand why she was so excited and told me I was the first "westerner" that had agreed to go to sauna with her. I laughed and told her I had used the sauna at my university in the states a few times, and didn't love it, but it wasn't foreign to me either.

Fast forward to a few nights later. I was invited by the same lady to dinner with two of her friends. After meeting them, one friend of hers was astonished that I had agreed to go to the sauna. She giggled and said she'd never met someone from the U.S. who would jump right in to "European sauna" experience. At this point I'd figured out that I must have missed something, so I asked why. She then explained that going to a sauna in most of Germany is usually something most people from the U.S. don't feel comfortable with, as you must be totally naked (you sit on a small towel) and they are MIXED saunas. And by mixed I am certainly meaning that men and women sit in the same sauna.

After learning this, I turned to the lady who had invited me, verified this information with her and took in her response of "Yes, it's no big deal here. I thought you knew. Everyone keeps their eyes up and it's very normal." I then turned down the sauna trip offer. I explained that when I sat in the sauna in the states, it was after swimming and while still wearing a swim suit with several friends. And it was in the women's locker room, so it was only ladies in there.

Now, if you know me, you know I actually have been going to the sauna for the past two months or so and have been loving it! The sauna I go to is in my gym here, which is a women's only gym. So no men around! :)

Here's a typical sauna schedule, as I have both read about and been instructed in by employees of the gym:

*You take a warm-hot shower first complete with a scrub or soaping of your body. You want your pores and skin to be free of anything that is a barrier, such as perfume, makeup, lotion, dirt from the day, etc.

*After showering, you sit in the sauna of your choice for no longer than 30 minutes. There are three separate saunas at my gym, one is the infrared sauna and is the least humid and hot, and the other two are hotter and more humid.

The saunas at my gym look very similar to this one, including the wooden "pillows" women can move around to lay down on. (P.S. Lesson I just learned the hard way: don't google "sauna" unless you want to see nudity. Then again, this was on Yikes!)

*You go into the sauna naked as the day you were born. You do not wear a bathing suit or wrap yourself in a towel. You sit on a towel when in the sauna to absorb your sweat.

*After your time in the sauna is complete, you take a cool-cold shower to wash the sweat off and "shock" your body. Most women don't soap off, but just rinse off. They believe (and I've read articles that both support and contradict this, so I'm not sure) that the warm shower followed by the hot and humid sauna (where toxins and things are sweat out and purged from your body) and finished with a cold or cool shower will strengthen your immune system.  The lady who invited me said since she started going to the sauna about a year ago, she has yet to be sick, and usually is sick several times a year because she works with children.

*There is a shower right next to the sauna with a huge wooden bucket hanging in the middle where you can stand and be drenched with icy cold water! I have not and do not intend to ever do this! Hahaha!

*There is a place at my gym where the women go outside to a small courtyard to sit in the cold and fresh air after showering off. Most saunas also have a lounging area, where you sit and relax (they strongly recommend this!) for 20 minutes or so after your cold shower. At my gym, there are about 10 brown wicker lounge chairs with blankets, lamps above each one you can click on to read, several small brown wicker tables with chairs, and two green couches. On the tables are pitchers of water so that you can refill your water bottle and hydrate. All very peaceful, serene and cozy. Plus the OUTSIDE AREA that naked women go to. Haha! It's totally secluded, as the gym is on the third floor of the building and the outside courtyard is surrounded by other parts of the building without windows. But still....

*Drink lots of water afterward. You lose a lot of water and hydration when you are sweating in the sauna, which needs to be replenished very soon after.

Here's my personal sauna routine:
*Work out
*Take a warm shower
*Sit in the infrared sauna (I still can't handle the other ones; they make me feel as though I cannot breathe) for about 20 minutes. The infrared sauna is more of a dry heat, which I don't mind as much.
*Take a lukewarm shower
*Sit down and towel off, apply lotion, drink some water, and chill for a few
*Get dressed and go home

I do not meander outside naked. Nor do I sit around naked. Haha! The second I come out of the sauna and shower off, my towel stays wrapped around me until I get dressed. That's just my personal preference. Yes, most of the women stay naked the duration of their time in the locker room, shower area and sauna area, which are all connected in the back. And they are very cool and normal acting. No one is ogling anyone else or being judgmental. In all honesty, it's a very relaxed "all naked" setting, if you can believe that. And more than that, it's totally normal here.

Why I like the sauna:
*I first started sitting in the sauna after my chiropractor here recommended it for my chronic neck/shoulder/back problems. The heat would be good for loosening up my tight muscles and also in the long run should help with my chronic inflammation.
*After trying the infrared one I found myself extremely relaxed. I look forward to sauna time now!
*It does feel therapeutic to sweat and feel as though you are sweating toxins and other bad stuff out.

There you have it! My personal sauna experiences here in Germany. Feel free to share any sauna experiences you have had or ask questions about it!

Here are some links if you want to read up about the benefits of using a sauna!