In our hectic lives it’s hard to find a time and place to pause, breathe deeply and really reconnect. And colder weather can somehow make us our bodies feel even more tense. It’s time then to take some tips from the Scandinavians and turn to saunas to reap wellness benefits during those long, dark winter months. Here’s how we can follow their example on a Glass House wellbeing retreat.
The origins of Scandinavian saunas
Colder weather, intense schedules – both can increase physical tension and emotional stress. Which makes the autumn and winter the perfect times to relax into the warmth of a sauna, relax, detox and breathe in the scent of pine.
In Finland saunas have a centuries-old tradition. It’s hard to say exactly when Finns started heating a structure for wellness purposes, but Suemedha Sood, writing for BBC Travel, puts the traditional Finnish sauna as dating back to at least the 12th century. While the oldest Finnish public sauna still in use was built in 1906.
The health benefits of saunas
Finland famously has some 5.3 million people and 2 million saunas – that’s roughly one sauna for every two Finns. What’s more, 99% of Finns take a sauna once a week. To Finns their health benefits are clear – saunas are known as “the poor man’s pharmacy” and a Finnish proverb states "If a sick person is not cured by tar, spirits or sauna, then they will die.”
And it seems that while alcohol is never the answer, a sauna often is. All around the world countries have their own bath house cultures. We can trace the general principles back to Neolithic times, when early people would soak in natural hot springs. As varied as global traditions are they are they all have one thing in common – using heat to release toxins, induce calm and increase wellbeing.
The Glass House is arguably the best wellness retreat in Essex. It has a naturally-heated Himalayan salt block sauna – enter to appreciate the detoxing effects, sense tense muscles loosen, breathe more deeply and feel waves of warmth and wellness wash over you.
It’s important too that your sauna sits within a calming environment. There’s little use in experiencing those well being benefits then heading straight back on a crowded train or into stressful commuter traffic. The Glass House is a purpose-built detox and wellness retreat less than an hour from Central London. Here you have the time, space, atmosphere and facilities to thoroughly de-stress and focus on your health and well being.
The benefits of hot saunas and cold water outdoor swims
In Finland it’s customary to come out of a sauna and roll in the snow or jump in a lake. This hot-to-cold practise sounds counter-intuitive but is based on good sense. An article for the North American Sauna Society says the heat of saunas helps create a flight or fight response - cortisol is released, we feel more alert, notice pain less and have an elevated mood. And when we then plunge straight into cold water, the adrenaline response is elevated even more.
It’s a benefit you can really feel at the Glass House. Our natural swimming pond sits beautifully within the landscaped grounds. Its water is cleaned naturally, without chemicals – it’s a bit like a wild swim in a freshwater lake. It’s an ideal place to dip between sauna sessions or before you unwind in our outdoor sauna. It’ll release a flood of feel-good endorphins and enhance the well being benefits of your detoxing, de-stressing retreat at the Glass House.