Are you relaxing properly? Here are three techniques that will help you get the most relaxation out of your sauna sessions.
Your sauna is your personal sanctuary. As soon as you step into that box, it’s your time to tune into your body and relax.
Proper relaxation has so many benefits - it aids in digestion, reduces blood pressure, relieves tension, increases blood flow around the body and leads to a calmer, clear mind.
But here’s the big question… Are you relaxing as deeply and effectively as you could be?
Honestly, relaxing can be easier said than done so we’re sharing three techniques that can help you to relax completely and make the most out of your sauna sessions.
Tip 1: Try mindful breathing exercises
How often do you work on your breathing? It’s easy to forget about - the body just takes care of it for us! - but mindful breathing has heaps of benefits. Turning into your breath allows you to be present in the moment, helping the body to reduce anxiety, decrease negative thinking and even help with pain relief.
Here are a couple of mindful breathing techniques to practice in your next sauna session:
This is a common breathing method that you may have tried in a yoga class before. It’s a simple technique that can help you re-centre yourself.
Repeat these 3 steps for about 4 minutes:
- Step 1: Get comfortable and close your eyes: Sit with your back supported and feet on the sauna floor, then close your eyes and breathe through your nose. Count to four slowly and feel the air fill your lungs.
- Step 2: Hold your breath: Hold your breath while slowly counting to four again. Avoid clamping your nose and mouth shut.
- Step 3: Exhale: Slowly exhale your breath for a full four seconds.
Wim Hof Method breathing
Ready to level up? Wim Hof (aka The Iceman) has developed the Wim Hof Method (WHM) breathing to help keep the body in optimal condition.
A few notes from Wim Hof’s team to keep in mind before you try this method… Hof recommends practising this method right after you wake up, or while the stomach is empty, and explains that it is best practice sitting or lying down. WHM breathing can affect motor control and in rare cases lead to a loss of consciousness.
With that said, here is the 4-step WHM breathing technique:
- Step 1: Get comfortable: Sit or lay in a meditation posture in your sauna so you can expand your lungs without constriction.
Step 2: Take 30-40 deep breaths: Close your eyes, clear your mind and start to become aware of your breath. Inhale deeply through the nose or mouth and exhale through your mouth. Inhale fully through the stomach then chest and then let go. These breaths should be short and powerful. Continue this 30 to 40.
Step 3: Hold your breath: After your last breath, inhale as deeply as you can, let the air out and stop breathing. Hold this until you feel the urge to breathe again.
- Step 4: Take a recovery breath: Once you feel the urge to breathe again, draw one big breath to fill your lungs, feeling your stomach and chest expanding. When you’ve reached full capacity, hold your breath for 15 seconds and let go. Repeat this 3-4 times.
Once you’ve finished, take the time to enjoy your body’s calm state!
Tip 2: Stretch your wrists and neck
Sitting in your sauna is a great time to stretch your body - the heat helps to flush out lactic acid and release tension - so make sure you stretch it completely. No doubt you know how to stretch your arms and legs, but what about the other areas of your body that work hard to get you through the day?
Your wrists and neck are two body parts that need a bit of extra stretching (especially if you sit at a desk all day long), so here are a few easy stretches for each.
Extended arm: Hold your arm out with your palm facing up toward the ceiling. With your free hand, press your fingers down to the floor and pull back toward your body. Hold for about 10 to 30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each arm.
Cat Cow pose with inverted wrists: In your sauna, get in a table top position - your wrists should be underneath your shoulders and your arms and legs should make 90-degree angles. Now, link your breath with your movement. As you inhale, drop your belly towards the ground, lifting your chin and chest to gaze toward the ceiling (cow pose). As you exhale, drop your head and round your spine so you resemble a cat stretching. Once you have warmed up your spine, flip your wrists around so your fingers point towards your knees and continue through these poses.
Lateral neck flexion: Sitting in your sauna, place your ear to your shoulder and simply tilt your chin up. You should feel a stretch along the opposite side of your neck. Hold for five seconds and repeat on each side 2-3 times.
Forward neck flexion: Slowly lower your chin toward your chest so you’re looking downward. You should only be moving your head. Hold the stretch for five seconds once it is flexed forward as far as it can go. You should feel this down the back of your neck.
Neck extension: Keeping your back and shoulders still, slowly extend your neck by looking upward. Lower your head as far back as it can go without pain and hold the stretch for five seconds before slowly returning to its neutral position. You should feel this stretch around your throat.
Tip 3: Surrender to guided meditation
Relaxing the mind is usually the hardest of all. Thoughts come racing in and out of your brain and it can be challenging to stop them, but guided meditation apps can help. Using your sauna’s Bluetooth speaker system, try apps like Headspace, Calm or The Mindfulness App.
Here’s a quick intro to each of these apps:
Headspace: This app works to help you find calmness, wellness and balance with its guided meditations. It has a library of soothing sounds including sleep music, nature soundscapes and storytelling sleepcasts.
Calm: This is an award-winning app with heaps of calming exercises and breathing techniques to help you relax. It features sleep stories that are read to you by some of your favourite celebrities, including Matthew McConaughey and Harry Styles.
The Mindfulness App: This app is great for meditation beginners. It includes a 5-day guided practice that helps you get started with mindful meditation. The app features a meditation journal so you can track your progress.
Each of the above apps is free, but to get the best experience you’ll have to upgrade to a paid version.
The time you spend in your sauna is your special time to unwind, and it's ultimately up to you to find out what works for you to do this most effectively. So get sweating and trying out new things!