Next Level Human

Embracing Heat: The Life-Changing Power of Sauna Rituals and Finnish Sisu- Ep. 248

December 27, 2023 Jade Teta Episode 248
Next Level Human
Embracing Heat: The Life-Changing Power of Sauna Rituals and Finnish Sisu- Ep. 248
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever found yourself wondering how a simple sauna session could transform your life? My journey into the world of heat and cold therapy has been nothing short of revelatory, and in this episode, I'm thrilled to have Emma O'Kelly, the author of "Sauna: The Power of Deep Heat" share her fascinating transition from British skeptic to sauna devotee. Together, we uncover the cultural tapestry of sauna rituals, discuss the health benefits of embracing the heat, and delve into how this practice can foster a deep sense of community and self-reflection.

Imagine a place where resilience is not just a concept but a lived experience. In our discussion on 'sisu,' we journey through the depths of Finnish fortitude, embodied in their indomitable winter swimming and sauna culture. As Emma and I unwrap the layers of personal growth associated with these extreme temperature practices, we also inspect the burgeoning interest in wellness and self-optimization in the US. The conversation is a reminder that finding balance through restorative practices like sauna culture could be the key to navigating the complexities of modern life.

Concluding our sauna saga, we provide you with a roadmap to crafting your own sauna rituals, emphasizing the importance of personal comfort and listening to your body's needs. From vivid descriptions of traditional Finnish saunas to the nuances of infrared variants, we touch upon the skin and health benefits that await inside these heated havens. Whether you're looking to heal, meditate, or just sweat it out, this episode is your guide to integrating the power of saunas into your wellness routine. Join us as we turn up the heat on health and spirituality, unpacking the profound impact a good sweat can have on your life.

Get The Book:
https://www.amazon.com/Sauna-Power-Deep-Emma-OKelly/dp/1801292426

http://drjade.com/butcherbox

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Website: www.jadeteta.com
Instagram: @jadeteta

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the show, everybody. A very exciting episode today. I actually have Emma O'Kelly with me and I have her new book here and I'm just gonna show it to you. This is called a sauna the power of DP and I want to set this up. Before you know, we get into this discussion and as I introduce Emma, I have been a fan of sauna more probably specifically contrast hydrotherapy when I was first introduced to it back in the late 1990s and probably ever since I don't know, probably 2006, 2007 I've had access to a sauna and contrast hydrotherapy and absolutely just love what this has done for my health, for my patients health. It's something you all who listen to this podcast have heard an awful lot about, and this resource that you've done, emma, is absolutely amazing. It goes through all the health benefits of both hot and cold. It has beautiful photography on some of the most beautiful saunas that I've seen, and it goes through a lot of the history and all the different uses. Actually, I was surprised to see so many different uses of heat and how people use this, from sweat lodges to saunas to, you know, infrared therapy, to traditional, you know, finished saunas, to sort of everything in between, and so I really feel incredibly lucky to talk to you because I considered myself really well versed in this subject and then I got your book and I was like, maybe not, and this is absolutely amazing piece of work you put together. So, first of all, thank you so much for doing this for the world, because it's becoming incredibly popular and I'm sure many, many people are gonna want and use your book. But get us started in. You know, as I was reading in here, I was, I was. It was funny because right away I'm like oh my god, she's. She didn't love sauna or didn't know much about it in the beginning, although you were a fan of cold water swimming, and so I'm wondering tell me a little bit of how you got into this and you know, because it's really interesting your story along these lines.

Speaker 2:

I would love to know how you got into this in the first place how this project came together well, yeah, like you say, I wasn't into sauna because I'm British, I did not grow up with the sauna and I didn't really know what a good sauna was. So I went to Finland for work, because I work at Wall Paper magazine as a journalist, I'd go quite often to Scandinavia on assignment and I was doing an art story on an island of Finland and when we'd finished working, the people who were on this island said let's go and get in the sauna and chill out. And I thought what? We got some beers and some snacks and then we all headed down to this beautiful little wooden cabin next to a lake and we spent the whole evening just going in and in and out of the hot and the cold, swimming in the lake, eating a little bit, talking, hanging out, and it was a fantastic way to unwind at the end of our working day and it was a really good way to connect with all the other people who I was with and I thought, my gosh, why don't we have this in the UK? This is incredible and because I've always worked on wallpaper, I've work on visual stories so I thought I knew that these little sauna cabins look beautiful because I've seen them a lot the little curl of smoke, a little wooden cabin on a windswept archipelago and I asked the curator on the island to introduce me to a Finnish photographer who she thought might want to photograph some of these cabins for a book. So she so me, myself and Maya, the photographer, who is based in Helsinki met and she photographed some saunas around the city on spec, and I wrote a proposal and we faced rejection after rejection after rejection, so we kind of both got on with our other jobs and forgot about it and moved on. And then, anyway, in 2019, finnish sauna culture was added to UNESCO's list of cultural intangible heritage, which is a kind of esoteric charter that protects things like beekeeping in Slovenia or Spanish flamenco, and Finnish sauna culture had been added to UNESCO's list and an editor I knew remembered we'd done this work. So we wrote a story. Then came the pandemic and, in the aftermath of the pandemic, this new, renewed focus on health and wellness, and we finally got our book deal. So it took six years in the making and, as you will have now learned, I didn't know anything about what happened actually inside the sauna, because I was focusing on what the sauna actually looked like from the outside. So then that's when my journey began, because I had to obviously familiarize myself with, with what this all was, and the photographer, maya, being finished, was practically born in the sauna. She's a total expert. She has a sauna in her house, she has a tent sauna that she takes on assignment with her when she goes around Finland in her van and she pops her little tent sauna up next to a river or, you know, in a forest somewhere, and so she was the knowledge in terms of what an actual good sauna is. And then I wrote about the journey of discovering what proper sauna is and how good it can make. You me one feel, and and now I'm completely hooked. I'm completely hooked so opened my eyes to a whole new world that I didn't know was there yeah, you know what you all are gonna find when you read this book.

Speaker 1:

This is what's really cool, emma. It's like really nice to have like a true train journalist, right, it's an interesting story because you have this journalist who knows how to tell stories, knows how to do the research, and then you have someone who's sort of a veteran taking pictures, and you really do get that sense of walking through this book, this sort of discovery process I actually want to start. You know most people would want to start and you probably guessed that I'd want to start, like, what are the health benefits? But you know where I really want to start and I'm hoping you're up for this discussion. But there's something that you said it as you were describing your introduction to the sauna. There is something in my mind. I mean, the best word to describe it in my my way of thinking is there's something very spiritual about this process. When you begin to get exposed to heat and cold, it does something to you. It's like creates this liminal space, almost like between sleep and wakefulness, reminiscent of psychedelics in a sense. It's this thing that is puts you in a place that is kind of indescribable. And I want to unpack this a little bit, because I think when we talk about sauna, as most people go oh well, what are the health benefits? And they get very Western in their sort of mindset regarding it. But I think the reason that I have stuck with sauna and falling in love with sauna is because it does something for me that makes me feel connected to something outside of myself, and I'm wondering how you see this. Are you like Jade? Yes, I agree, or how do?

Speaker 2:

you see this, oh, I completely agree with you. I completely, a hundred percent agree with you. And you know, the Japanese have a word for that state of my, of that state of being that you're describing, which is toto nota. And because sauna is a huge trend in Japan, they've, they've come up with this word and it's like a kind of nivana is. You can't even make a direct comparison, but it's the feeling you get when you've been doing your hot and cold and you've, you've probably done, you've been in there for a little bit of time. It doesn't come straight away, that feeling, but you pass into a different headspace. I think maybe something about the heat that's pushing your body a bit and your brain just kind of melts a little bit, but in a good way.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know what it reminds me of If you ever study sort of the pineal gland and how the pineal gland sort of releases certain chemicals from melatonin and the posterior pituitary gland, things like oxytocin, vasopressin, and then dopamine and serotonin and this whole cocktail of chemicals that is similar in some degree to psychedelics. It feels like that. I don't know the best way I can explain. It is almost like a sauna orgasm in a sense. What's the Japanese? Word again Tottonota, Tottonota In the book.

Speaker 2:

I interviewed a Finnish doctor who is famous in Finland and she's called the Finnish love doctor because she talks about what you've just said, that oxytocin, serotonin and the dopamine that are all released when you're in the heat. You know the levels of cortisol diminish and these other hormones kind of are augmented. And she says that that is a moment to capitalize on. When you're aware of what that is, what is happening, you should use all that feeling to reset, to regroup. So she's kind of saying you notice that feeling and then you do something positive with that feeling. But it takes a while to get to that feeling. I think that doesn't necessarily happen straight away. And also, if you're a new sauna bather, you know I couldn't take the heat in the beginning for very long. I had to keep getting out and then I'd have to try and remember what people had been saying to me so I could write it down, and I couldn't remember what they'd said or find my pen or my notebook or my phone, because my brain had been so scrambled. So to get to that place that you're talking about takes a little bit of practice, but once you get there you're completely, completely hooked on it, like you clearly are and like I now am.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, let's talk a little bit. Sorry to interrupt you, but let's talk a little bit about that getting into that state. Because I will tell you and I'm curious how you see this that when I have a I just built a sauna in my house and so I have. When I have guests over to me, sauna is like one of the best ways to connect with people. But many times they will get a little bit stressed in that and from my perspective, I always just tell them look, don't overdo it, stay in the heat until you're just slightly uncomfortable and if you get any kind of anxiety, it's just time to get out, reset for a minute and then you can kind of come back in and same with the cold. What I've found is you have different personalities. Some people are more averse to the cold and love the heat and can handle the heat fine, but don't want to go anywhere near the cold. And some people want, you know, are very, you know, love the cold but are very averse to the heat, and it really does sort of challenge you in this way. It's sort of like balancing the Tao in us in a sense. You know that yin yang sort of aspect. But I'm wondering, you know what you discovered and you said that you, you know, sort of were not feel. You know we're not feeling great in the beginning. So what can you tell people to? How did you stick with it and end up falling in love with it? I'm curious how that first couple experiences went for you.

Speaker 2:

Well, I was one of those people that was very used to the cold because I've been a cold water swimmer for about seven years. So the cold bit I could do and I think I the heat. I found really hard and I would just get out like you're saying. You know, the first time I had a really proper sauna or a wood-fired finished sauna, it was in Hackney in London actually, and I stayed in the cold plunge for too long to try and combat how hot I was feeling and then I couldn't warm up. So then I ended up having to go back in the sauna in my winter coat and my hat and all my clothes to stand there for a minute, and one of the founders of that sauna was a trained doctor and he said this is fine, you just do what you've got to do. If you're feeling a bit lightheaded and your heart is racing, it's all normal. Just take a few deep breaths, take your time and just don't worry about it, because it's normal, it's part of your body adjusting to this kind of temperature changes and then over time your body you know your body remembers and it gets more used to it, and then I think it probably took me about four or five saunas before I felt really comfortable in there, with my heart racing, for example, or with feeling like lightheaded after I'd come out of the sauna and gotten the water, and then I'd be a bit dizzy and then I. So it took me a while to be to get used to those feelings, but they're all kind of part of it, and now I don't have those. My body has toughened or adapted, if you like, to the kind of stretching, the thermoregulatory stretching that happens between hot and cold, which is part of the amazing feeling. I'm sure you know. I don't think the science is there quite yet to help us understand why we feel so good, but we just know from doing it. You know and I know that that makes you feel really good.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and you brought up a term I didn't know in your book. Sisu is that? Am I saying that?

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, sisu, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Sisu. So I want to unpack that a little bit, because part of this does remind me sauna. You know so like. I'm a big weight trainer too, so I spent a lot of time in the gym and there's something about different forms of exercise like, for example, cardio lifts my mood. It's really great whenever I'm feeling down and depressed, but weight training is very good for sort of my self-esteem, right Uh-huh. And sauna seems to have this sort of anti-anxiety, anti-depressive and sort of this self-esteem effect. It's almost like doing hard things and making it through. And then, as I was reading through your book, I saw this reference to sisu. So unpack for us. What is this sisu? Because as soon as you said it I was like oh, I totally get that. That's why I love it so much, because it reminds me of working out.

Speaker 2:

Oh, really, uh-huh. Well, sisu is a Finnish word and it's a kind of a word that kind of defines Finnish culture. You know, it means resilience and strength in the face of hardship and being practical and just getting on with it. So I interviewed a Finnish swimmer who's the for the book, who's a cold water swimmer, who has swum around something like 250 lakes dragging a raft with her camping gear and her food oh my God, and she swims every day and if and it could be minus 25 in Finland very easily and she has her eyes sore and she cuts her. if she's somewhere and she needs a plan, she just cuts a hole in the eyes with her eyes sore and she just gets on with it and she's like I don't think about, I just do it. I don't I don't expect things to be any better than how they are, I just deal with what's in front of me. So if it's minus 25 and I have to cut an eye hole, then that's what I do. So that's the kind of Finnish spirit of sisu, which is very, very impressive.

Speaker 1:

And you know, I think the, you know the American culture is really interesting. It's an interesting kind of culture, but one of the things there we're, we're, we're a, we're a kind of a culture of extremes. I feel like, right, we're the, we're both the fattest country in the world and the fittest country in the world. We're both the dumbest country in the world and the smartest country in the world. We're like this land of you know, extremes, I feel like in the United States. But I feel like this concept of sisu definitely relates to a lot of the biohacker sort of fitness community that resides sort of in the western world and obviously we're incredibly close cousins to the Brits. So you know, we have a lot of that, that similarity there. But I really think that's an idea that many of the biohackers community, the fitness community you know, will gravitate towards, because that's the reason we do what we do. Like, I wonder for you, like, what even got you into cold water swimming? I mean, that has to build an incredible amount of resilience to just be able to get in the water and, and you know, experience that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, that's well. I live in North London near the near Hampstead Heath, where the there we're lucky enough to have three freshwater ponds that have been there for hundreds of years, and for me it was partly the community thing. So me and three of my neighbours, we all, we all said let's do this thing through the winter. I was like I'll never be able to do that. I hate the cold. I'm, you know, I'm not a biohacker, I'm not particularly athletic, but I'll try it. So it just started like that and there's no way I would have done it unless I'd had my friends and neighbors with me. So we were a little group of five and we would all encourage each other and go together. And then then, you know, overtart, and we'd stay in for a few seconds in the beginning, because it's hard when you start, you know it's really cold, your heart is pounding and we but we'd love it, you know, we'd love the build up to it. We'd all be stressed about going in and like ooh, and then we'd come out and we'd all be really proud of ourselves and, and, and then, and now. Actually, now we, we don't swim together because we're all really used to being swimmers. So we I go on my own now, but in the beginning it was, it was definitely the camaraderie and the challenge. So, yes, I guess there was sissou involved, for sure to do it even though I don't think of myself as a particularly having lots of sissou, because I also quite like my creature comforts. But I guess to do that maybe you do need to have a little bit somehow.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I feel like you know, we, one of the things I feel like and I'm wondering how you see this. I feel like sauna and the sauna culture and you know, you know the fitness culture as well, and anything that we do that is difficult as humans, it crosses over into our you know, our real world, right sort of experience. So, from from my perspective, I almost see that we need more things like this that are hard to do, right, more things that are difficult, so that we can take our time and relax and restore and recover, you know, and and it's that balance between the two that I think culture needs. Of course, fitness isn't always the way that people want to do this, but I feel like this sort of more passive, especially with heat, the sauna can be a little bit more passive than what we might be used to with extreme fitness, if you know what I mean.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, because I'm not one for extreme fitness, you know, or going into gyms or particularly being a biohacker or doing Vim Hof, but I think it's a gentle, it can be really gentle sauna. You know, you, if you just go into a 50 degree sauna and you stay in for 10, 15 minutes, it's not, it's not, it's not a huge, it's not a huge challenge in a way, even though you may have some, some challenges about going in there in the first place and also being, maybe the self consciousness of being semi naked around others there are all various kinds of challenges which require sisu. That is also something where you need to dig deep if that's something you're not comfortable with.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, you know, us Americans are very uncomfortable with anything that involves being naked around other people, except for our lovers.

Speaker 2:

Oh we. You won't be surprised to hear that the Brits are too.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, the Brits as well, right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I was. And I had to overcome that challenge because at certain points during the book I had to. That was, that was what was expected and I had to go along with it. So I had to find some sisu there as well.

Speaker 1:

But yeah, I think you're right, though I think as a gateway into doing something that's a bit a bit healthy and quite good fun possibly, and that can be quite good for you, it's an easy entry point, yeah to be honest with you, but that's that's really why, like when, that's really why I want to talk more about Sauna's and have been doing so for a little while, and we'll be doing it more, and that is because I really feel like, at least in the Western world, this is something we don't have. Many things that put us in this state, you know, and to me, I look at it like we need to have more things that give us time to contemplate, time for recovery, time for relaxation other than TV. Of course there's many people who walk. Walking is an excellent way to do it. Of course that that for many people, they don't want to walk, you know in the cold and things like that. But to me, sauna is the perfect thing for cultures like ours where people are sort of like it can they can have it in their house. It's incompatible with eating. You're not going to bring you know some, some chips and a burger into. You know the sauna and it allows you to connect in with people. It doesn't. Usually you don't want to be drinking and eating in there and things like that and allows you to reconnect with self and or reconnect with others, and that's one of the things that I think is really important, that we, you know, need to have in our culture, especially cultures like the British culture and the American culture, where a lot of this stuff simply does not exist. So I'm always looking for tools that we can have in our homes, which is one of the reasons I built myself you know a sauna.

Speaker 2:

Exactly, I absolutely 100% agree. And also the other thing is a sauna is a tech free zone, one of the last few places where you can't take your phone 100%, and I think that's why a lot of people in their 20s and 30s are really getting into sauna in the UK as well. You know it's a relief. It's somewhere that's quite cheap to go to a community sauna. You know it's like 10 pounds for an hour, an hour and a half, there's no phone and you feel good afterwards. There's no drinking involved, it's all the things you're saying and you get this amazing feeling afterwards that it's a really good de-stress and it's relatively easy to achieve if you can find a sauna space near you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, you know it's interesting. So I live in Asheville, North Carolina. If you're familiar with United States, it's in North Carolina, up in the Appalachian Mountain Range. Actually, believe it or not, I heard this interesting fact. Maybe you can have thoughts on this as well, but I heard that that mountain range, the Appalachian Mountain Range, is essentially the same mountain range that runs through Scotland. So it basically goes up through the United States and then goes under the Atlantic and then basically connects over in Scotland. When we were all one sort of landmass there. Yeah, it's really interesting. But what's interesting about where I live is they have one of the few European style bathhouses here that started up probably four or so years ago. It has become incredibly popular. It used to be called Bada Basta, which I think is Finnish or Norwegian for a sauna house.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Norwegian.

Speaker 1:

But now they've changed the name just to the American sauna house and they're beginning to spread out. But it's really interesting that that saunaculture started here in this tiny little town in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and it's really interesting because reading in your book, it seems like it's starting to become much more. They're starting to become a really burgeoning British saunaculture as well and typically this was not the case for the Brits and the Americas. And now it seems like we're beginning to do that, so I'm curious what your thoughts are on that and if you're seeing that as well. And when you did your work, did you at all come over here, or was it just mainly in Europe?

Speaker 2:

It was mainly in Europe because of time and budget restraints, but we would have loved to have come to the States, but here in the UK it's um, most of the saunas are the kind of horse box, trailer type saunas on beaches, because the cold swimming is absolutely huge in the UK, you know, like it is, so many people are cold swimming. Now it's, it's become, it's become as normal as kind of doing yoga or or or something. And so the horse box saunas, they, they, they can pull up quite easily on beaches without too many planning restrictions, and that's where the main ones are, and there are about um 60 around the UK on the beaches, according to the British Sauna Society. Who who keeps track of what's happening? And then there are a few forest saunas uh, pop up, not pop ups. Cabins in the forest, finish a Scandinavian style, uh, which? Which? Or near rivers. So it's the cities that are the places where finding good saunas is difficult, right, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and you know what. You know what I would like to do with you because I'm going to do follow-up. Uh, I already have, I have a whole course on sauna and I'm going to do some follow-up stuff on the science. So what I would really like to do with you for someone you know now that I have a journalist and someone who's been around and been in all the different saunas what I'd really like to do is find out from you a little bit about sauna etiquette, a little bit about, like for those people who are like me, who are kind of American sauna enthusiasts but don't necessarily know kind of the history and some of the etiquette that, uh, you know, you would want to be aware of in different countries. You know you mentioned one thing. It's like you know, I think in some countries you know it's considered unsanitary to be wearing clothes in a sauna. In other areas it's, uh, the a lot of Americans pronounce it loily, but I believe it's called a low lo-loo, right, low-loo, that's the water that you put on the, on the, the stones. That's also. There's a lot to have to do with that. So I'm wondering if you could just walk us through a little bit about, you know, sort of sauna etiquette. And also for those of us one of one of my main goals is I want to I want a vacation to the UK and, you know, check out all the saunas. I want to do a European, you know sauna vacation, basically for like a month or two and just travel to all these saunas. So I'm wondering of what, what kind of tips and tricks can you give us in terms of saying hey, jade, you got to go here. Here's some things to be aware of in these different cultures and and where, if we were going to do a trip like this, where would you say you have to go?

Speaker 2:

to these places. Oh gosh, there's a lot in there. I mean, I think you'd have to start in Finland. Finland's the mothership really, because you know the UK, maybe, maybe North America, maybe Norway a little bit. We're all kind of coming at this. We're much younger, so we're coming at it from a new, exciting, mixing and matching perspective. But in Finland there's a different. There's any kind of sauna experience that you could imagine. So you can go to a mixed sauna in a city or a male only sauna in a city or in the countryside, or you can go for a hike and pitch up and use a sauna for free, just like there's a pile of woods and a tarp and you just chuck the tarp over the frame and like the logs and there you go, and as long as you leave it clean afterwards.

Speaker 1:

I saw that in your book. That was fascinating. These sort of tent saunas right, that's what you're referring to.

Speaker 2:

Well, yes, and also tent saunas. But the photographer found Maya when she went up to Lapland. She came across like a really ancient, just wooden frame with a tarp and a pile of logs, and they were a particular type of. I guess some locals had decided to build these saunas just as a hobby, because sauna building is a big hobby in that part of the world.

Speaker 1:

So you've stumbled across this beautiful makeshift sauna, then huh yes.

Speaker 2:

So makeshift saunas or cabins, people kind of in Finland, judge the judge. They go all duee-eyed at the mention of grandma's sauna in the summer cottage in the forest. You know that's how they measure horses.

Speaker 1:

And for the people who are watching this. Not everyone will watch it, but look at this, look at this makeshift sauna from the book right, that is just yes. Yes, so you just run across these right, and I also was tripping out on the. This one is funny someone, Someone. I'm showing a picture of a plane that someone put it made into a sauna and then here's Five times two, yeah, and here's the tent sauna, if you're watching this on.

Speaker 2:

And that's Maya's sauna, Maya the photographer's sauna, that one that she takes with her on assignment everywhere she goes. So you know, if you want to go on a sauna on a day, there's everything you could possibly want to do in Finland, and you could start by heading to Tampere, which is the second city in Finland and it is the sauna capital of the world.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think I was telling you before we came on live. My brother lived in Tampere for a while and so he's very familiar with the culture. But I'm going to have to look up Maya and get her to.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, Look up with Maya and get her to show me around.

Speaker 1:

But so Finland first, and what are some of the things that we should know about Finnish etiquette and sauna culture?

Speaker 2:

Yes, because there is and hygiene is very important. In Finland, well, and in most of those countries, you wash before you go in, you rinse off before you get in the sauna and you sit on a. You can be naked or not naked, they're quite relaxed about that but you do sit on a towel that covers your feet, that goes over the bench and down so that when you sweat you don't leave your sweat on the bench for someone else, which makes perfect sense, obviously and then you rinse off. Between. You rinse off and then you go back in, and often you can have salt scrubs or honey scrub. Honey scrub is an old, traditional sauna treatment that people still use. And do they use essential oils at all? Yes, yes, they use essential oils and in Finland you always pour water on the rocks. A sauna is not a sauna unless you can pour Lolu, which you On the rocks. So, but in Sweden they don't pour Lolu on the rocks, and they don't in Germany either, where nudity is compulsory. So things vary between cultures.

Speaker 1:

And in Germany is that coed as well. I think Americans would be freaked out by it. So that's coed, men and women in the same, and you're kind of required to be nude and could you Like an American like me who's not used to that, is it like? Do you have to be completely nude or could you cover yourself with a towel, or how does that work? Is it considered?

Speaker 2:

Well, you can have a towel. That's me as well, I had to go to a German Alphguss competition in which there were 200 naked people in an event sauna for an Alphguss, which is like an international competition where sauna masters have to perform for 15 minutes and waft the steam. It sounds mad. They use towels to move steam around the sauna and it's a huge. It's kind of like the Eurovision Song Contest, but maybe that's like a bit irrelevant for American audiences. But yeah, and you know, we were told off. I was told I had to be naked and take the sarong down and use it to put it, so my feet were on it, so I wasn't leaving any sweat on the benches. So that was another moment where I had to find my sisu.

Speaker 1:

Yes, no kidding, yeah, and I also, my brother, told me, because he spent a lot of time in Russia, that Russia, you know, in Ukraine, have a huge sauna culture as well, and one of the things he talked about that I saw in your book is using these leaves like these bundles of branches to kind of pull the steam down. I think a lot of us Americans think we know, we see that, we think you know what are they going to do, like hit us with, you know, like these, these switches, but it's really to control the steam, right Is that what they're using them for.

Speaker 2:

They're using them to control the steam. And in the old days they were typically birch, because there are so many birch trees, but birch has got a saponin, which is like an oil in the leaves, so it would clean your skin and it smells nice. So so very, very early on, you know they were used for cleaning the whisks and everybody in every village had a whisk. Even if you were so destitute that you couldn't afford a whisk, someone would give you your own whisk, and you always have your own whisk. You don't share whisks, which was another thing, another etiquette point, which I got wrong in Estonia and got shouted at. But so, yeah, the whisking it helps exfoliate and clean and the smell of the birch is lovely. And then the sound the whisks make they sound like snare drums. So, going back to the meditative state that you're talking about, the whisks help induce that trance like state, the feeling on your body and the sound of the whisks. They take you. It's very transportive, it takes you, it enhances the feeling of going elsewhere. The whisks and of course, it doesn't hurt at all.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know it's interesting, emma, talking about this, because when I, when I got your book right, I was expecting sort of I don't know what I was really expecting, but I typically think in terms of like, oh, this is going to be a scientific treaties on sauna, and that's why, to me, it was really kind of this spiritual journey into the sort of sauna world. There's a, obviously you go into a lot of the science which we, you know, could talk about, but to me it really is. This is, this is a book that is sort of like brings you into this world that I feel like every human should experience. It's almost like it's almost like our birthright and you know, to be exposed to these temperature extremes. And I'm just so curious how historically you know, and how you brought this together with all these different, you know types of cultures using hot and cold for many, many different reasons. And I guess where I want to go next is more, just let you, you know, kind of take us where you would like to take us in the time we have left in that, what would you like people to know about? You know, sauna and what you've discovered in this work that you feel like is most potent or powerful for people to take away, because you've obviously done a piece of work here that not everyone gets to be this in depth exposed to this kind of culture.

Speaker 2:

No, I feel so lucky for that. I mean, it was a total privilege doing this book and I think some of the some of the the ends that talk in the old days the sauna in a village, in a typical Nordic village, you know, it was a pharmacy, it was where women had babies, it was where the dead were laid out to be buried. They'd have bridal saunas and marriage saunas and people would perform love spells and obviously healers would go around from village to village healing people in the sauna. So it has always been an all encompassing space.

Speaker 1:

It's almost like the church or something.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, like the church or like I mean in Estonia and Lithuania. In Latvia they were pagans and they didn't. The sauna was one of the last places that did not fall to Christianity and they still have a lot of their traditions, like they really believe that if you pour the, when you pour the water on the rocks and it turns to steam, the steam is the gateway to your ancestors and to ancestral wisdom and some of the things we're talking about that you can go really. Sauna can take you to a deep place if you want it to. So it can operate on many levels. It can be a quick 10 minute thing where you just feel better and you you're glad you did it, or you can really go for hours like they do. You know, quite often in Finland and Estonia it's a Saturday night and it's kind of six hours with all the family or friends and you're in and out and and I think some of the old ideas, like you're not to take conflict into the sauna, you resolve your arguments outside. These all add to this whole. I mean, in terms of the narrative of the story, this was all brilliant for the story, but the feelings, what the feelings go along with that. I felt at the end of writing the book I did a sweat lodge because I wanted to go deeper and that again, that is an incredibly transporting experience. That's like two hours kind of in a little tent around a fire and you don't go out really, and the heat takes you, takes you to a certain place. It kind of your brain, your brain, melts so much that the old thoughts have to disappear and something else can come in in its place. I mean, I'm not explaining that very well.

Speaker 1:

Well, you know, let me, let me, let me give the listener a little bit of my experience with this and tell me if this is what you mean. So one of things happened when I started to get into meditation. Funny, I was in on a plane once and we were on the runway, you know, when you get stuck and I'm kind of I was a control freak, you know, and maybe still in, but this was my first experience where I started to meditate and my brain was sort of having a anxiety attack. My well, my, my brain and my body were having anxiety attack. I essentially calmed my mind down and I went into this place where I'm watching my body react while my mind is just completely calm, right, and this was my first. Anyone who's meditated, you know, can kind of understand what this is like. At first, you start to battle your body, in a sense, and it's your brain against your body, or, and then your mind sort of pops out and just starts to witness and observe and your body can do whatever it wants, and it's just an interesting experience. This is how I see what happens in the sauna as you begin to train your mind. It's basically it's a meditative place that forces you to confront some of your control issues and reminds you that you're you know you are not necessarily just your body that you can be the observer that place where you get into this just I'm aware that I'm aware and my body's doing what it's doing, but I get into this, this place where and again, psychedelics do this when you've ever been done psychedelics, they take you to this place. A very hard workout will take you to this place. So I'm wondering if that's if I'm explaining that right in the experience that you've also had.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's the same for me, like that's, I think, because your body is, your body's going through a lot in the sauna, you know, isn't it? Your body's having to deal with a lot of things. And actually in the book I interviewed, I did a ritual with a Lithuanian bathmaster who's been practicing for 30 years and she treats trauma. She's she, you know, and that is you'd have to be very experienced and everything but she takes she was taking refugees in, and she still does into the sauna space and using it as a healing space for them. And the tech she uses the temperature to create the heat peaks and then the troughs, and these. These bring out, bring out body memories, things that attract in the body, things that attract in the mind. They all come out under her guidance. I mean she, she's guiding people through this. So she's seen, she's seen all sorts of things appear in the sauna, you know, like elation and tears, and I mean everything you can imagine. And there's, there's so much in that that that I can totally see how you, if you've that going and doing, having a sauna experience with somebody really well trained, like that, would really be cathartic and would really help you to change your mindset, calm your, calm your mind or whatever it is you feel you're grappling with, it would come out, I think.

Speaker 1:

It certainly has been one of the places where I wrestle with. You know my difficulties and found it be in incredibly healing in that way, and it's not something we normally think about with sauna. But I want to be respectful of your time and I don't want to leave people without sort of the basics, in case this is the only thing they ever listened to on sauna. Your book obviously goes through all the details how to do this, all the science plus all the history and all the other things that we've talked about. But let's just go through the basics really quick and I'll I'll just go through some of them and then maybe you can add and then we'll just kind of go back and forth for the next 10 minutes or so. So if you're interested and you've never done sauna, you know one of the things that I would say you want to begin with the MMI I already covered for you is you do want to start slow and typically you know people will go, oh, cold plunge and or sauna. They'll either go hot, cold. I like to do both and I usually like to do a five to one ratio. So if you're new to it, you stay five minute in the hot and then you get one minute or less in cold. If you're so averse to the cold, then just get out of the sauna, rinse off in a you know some lukewarm, you know sort of water until you feel ready to go back in Once you're used to it. I, I, my typical thing is 15. 15 minutes and then three minutes cold, 15 minutes in the salt or three minutes cold and then for you Americans you know that would be. Usually it's somewhere between 170 degrees of Fahrenheit up to 200. And I believe I don't know if you know this or not but I believe the finish is that, the finish to have the rule of 200, with the Fahrenheit, where it's basically like, depending on like 170 degrees. You want 30% humidity or something like that, but ultimately you want it to be a fairly hot in there. You stay in as long as you're comfortable and one of the things that happens here is that obviously warm and heat is relaxing in the beginning and then it becomes stimulating. So my thing for all you listeners is stay in until you get a little stimulated. Now, cold is the opposite. Cold is stimulating in the beginning and then it gets. Then you calm down a little bit and to me I say stay in the cold until you get that calm effect, and then you just go back and forth. If you're doing this at night, I suggest you end in hot, and if you're doing it you know, not in the evening, I suggest you end in cold. But Emma has a lot more experience in many different cultures, and so how would you say? What would you say to that? Do you think that's a general, good guideline, or do you have other hints that you might wanna give people?

Speaker 2:

I think that's a good guideline. I mean, yeah, a minute sounds like a long time to stay in the cold plunge if you've never done it before, but, like you say, you can just pour cold water on yourself and then you can just that space between the hot and the cold is also an interesting moment I quite enjoy. You know, when I've been hot, then I've gone in the cold, then I get out and my body's tingling, my core is really warm, but my extremities, my hands and feet and face, are cold, and I love that feeling of being hot and cold at the same time and I think that's a really calming space. For me personally, that's a really calming headspace.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's a really good point. Actually, the place here, the sauna house here, recommends 15, three and 15, basically as a recovery, what you're talking about.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I like that in between, because our tendency being, you know, busy Western is to rush between one from one to the other with no time to pause, and actually the pause can be really nice, but then and you can start whichever way you prefer start hot and go cold, or start cold and then go hot, depending on your preference.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I usually like to start cold. I get in cold for 30 seconds to a minute, then I go hot.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I do as well, because I like the reward after the hardships, so to speak. But actually, you know, whatever suits you, whatever you. In my local swimming pool lots of people are trying cold swimming for the first time, and they're doing that because there's a sauna there, and so they go into the sauna first because it makes getting into the cold easier. So, whichever way, whichever way works and in I think it typically in Finland or Estonia it's like three rounds, three cycles of hot and cold, is the kind of average or the norm. That's what I do.

Speaker 1:

I do three to five rounds, depending on time, so as you imagine that can take anywhere from just over an hour to almost two hours, when I'm doing 15 and three, 15 and three plus perhaps a little bit in between, and, of course, you wanna maintain hydration, and electrolytes are really good. So when we talk about hydration, you really want a good quality salt and you talk about this in your book as well but I think it's one of the best ways to detox the blood. Urine and sweat studies basically show that we remove many more toxins from our sweat than we do feces or urine or breath, and so sauna is amazing for that. So getting that sweat response is a really nice piece.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, and also sweating is really good for our skin and our skin is a huge organ, so we're not only giving our internal organs a workout, it's really good for our skin. For example, when I started doing the book, I had a really itchy eczema eczema all over my torso and the the swimming costume and the sweat obviously was exacerbating that, so I would wear a bikini. But now my skin is from, from having been doing saunas for a year and a half, two years, and I've really noticed that my skin is is more resilient, more and in better shape than it was. So so that's another another thing.

Speaker 1:

Huge, huge benefit for skin. I get, I get people remarking on my skin all the time. I think it's my, my mom has great skin, but I think the sauna just you know, you know, does that for you. So they always like you know, I'm, I'm, I think it's. It's an amazing detox and I've seen the same thing with things like psoriasis, acne, eczema. It's amazing for skin health.

Speaker 2:

In that regard, yeah, and obviously as long as you drink lots of water, because otherwise your skin shrivels up and feels awful the next day. But you know, you keep hydrated because because you want to anyway, don't you? The natural thing when you're doing that is to reach for a drip, reach for water. So that's, that's another stay hydrated and just stay in as long as feel you feel comfortable, and there are there are no, no rules about timings. I think it's important not to be too competitive in there, because you can come you know, it can come unstuck.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and a lot of Americans tend to do that, Don't I mean? And a lot. I think a lot of people in the UK as well have a lot of.

Speaker 2:

UK friends.

Speaker 1:

I used to come over there to London and teach a lot, so we do have this kind of competitive. You know, harder is better, more is better. But I think you know maybe what Emma and I are trying to impress upon all of you listeners is that if you're new to this, enter into it slowly. It's a personal journey, it's kind of like anything else, but you will find just amazing things for your physical health, your mental, emotional health, and I would say you're gonna. You'll discover a spiritual aspect of things that you may not be expecting when you begin to expose yourself to hot cold. One other thing I do wanna just mention here is that people, at least in the United States and I'm not sure how it is in the UK, but they will oftentimes one of the first questions they're gonna ask people like you and me, emma, is like okay, what about infrared versus sauna? My take on that is I prefer the traditional finished sauna with the water and the steam, because the thermal challenge is much different. However, there's plenty of research on way on therapy or infrared therapy and some of the benefits there as well. You just don't get as much of the thermal challenge, and so those of you who are maybe, you know, really afraid of the hot. You know, maybe an infrared does well for you, but you won't get as hot and therefore you won't feel the contrast as much. So while I love that stuff, I'm a more of a fan of the finished style. How about you?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm the same. I mean, I've been in infrared saunas before and they're good too, but yes, it's a different kind of, it's a totally different experience and you know, you feel very different and I don't think that you would get the same, the same feeling that we're talking about in the same way. But I don't know, because I haven't done enough infrared saunas to know that. But yeah, I get why people want them at home and they're in easy. They're easy and they're also a good entry point. You can start your heat journey any way you like, 100%.

Speaker 1:

Really, that's what I think. Yeah, and here in the United States they're actually starting to. There's several companies that are starting to do, you know, prefab, finished based saunas. But I know we're coming up on time, emma. I think you have an appointment. You know that's coming up, so I'm gonna. I'm gonna let you go, but for all of you, the book Sauna, the Power of Deep Heat. Thank you so much for this work, emma. Is there any final things you wanna leave us with? I really appreciate you taking the time to educate all of us.

Speaker 2:

No, it's been great. I'm so glad to hear you're such a big fan.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I am, and I'm a fan of you now and I'm a fan of your book as well, and I hope that you know what's great about this book. It's a coffee table book, but it's also an education book, because it's just so beautiful to flip through.

Speaker 2:

So thank you so much for having me on the show. It's been really really great.

Speaker 1:

I'm glad you agreed to it and I'm glad we got to speak and have a great night and we'll see all of you at the next episode. Appreciate it.

Speaker 2:

Yes, thanks very much. Okay, bye, bye.

Benefits of Sauna for Spirituality and Health
Discovering Sisu
The Sauna Culture and Its Benefits
Exploring Sauna Etiquette and Culture
Mind Training and Healing in Sauna
Sauna Benefits for Health and Skin