Not a Hot Tub: A Minnesotan Reflects on Her Home Sauna
Carrie Shade lives in Minnesota, and her family owns a home sauna. She graciously allowed us to pick her brain recently to find out why that was something they decided to invest in and what they’ve learned from the experience thus far.
When was your first experience with a traditional sauna?
We were on our honeymoon in northern Minnesota and the suite we reserved had a sauna inside. We got married on a very hot day in July and honeymooned immediately after. I came down with a pretty bad cold while we were at the resort and the only time I felt better was when I was in the sauna. I ended up going to the doctor when we got back and found I had an ear, throat and sinus infection and immediately wished we had the sauna with us at home.
What are some of the biggest benefits you’ve experienced from traditional sauna bathing? (Physical, mental, social, etc.)
Mental relaxation – this is a time when I can truly unwind and let go of stresses. Social – truly a time for my husband and I to connect without outside interruptions. Even the times our kids sauna they actually want to engage in conversation! Physical – I feel amazing after and my skin has never been softer (with no cracked fingers or hands this winter!)
Are the people in your circles – friends, family, neighbors, etc. – pretty familiar with saunas, or are you a singular representative of the practice?
A few friends and family are familiar, but none of them truly knew the history and tradition that comes along with a sauna. Many of them actually thought we got a hot tub, not a sauna! We have been reading a book about the sauna life (while in the sauna) and have learned so much more to enhance our own sauna experience.
What are some sauna tips you’ve picked up so far – either from your reading or from personal experience?
I don’t know if these are tips so much as my preference. Getting into the sauna as its heating (around 120 F) is a nice way for my body to warm up after being cold from the winter temperatures. Letting my body temperature fully drop to normal between sessions allows me to stay in the sauna longer and for more sessions. Also, more than 2 sessions is too much if I have just come from the gym. At our gym we have a sauna which is used by everyone and therefore, we cannot control the steam, which is why having our own sauna is heaven!
It seems like the words “Minnesota” and “sauna” end up together frequently. Why do you think that might be?
I believe a lot of Minnesotans have Northern European heritage, hence the Minnesota Vikings football team. With this comes a lot of culture and tradition of which the sauna is part. Personally our families are more of the German heritage and there is some sauna history in that culture as well. So it could come down to two things – 1) we have it in our heritage and 2) its darn cold here so this is a way to escape the weather and get some warmth into our bones. I’m leaning toward the latter!
What’s a favorite memory or idea or moment that you associate with the sauna?
There are a few that come to mind; immediately I think back to our honeymoon and my first sauna experience and then I think about the times we are spending at home in our sauna. It’s a wonderful feeling to enjoy the sauna experience in the comfort of our own home and to be able to share that with my family is even better.
Do you have any wise words of wisdom that you might pass along to someone who doesn’t “get” saunas?
I recommend understanding the health benefits and ‘proper’ way to enjoy the sauna. I think most people envision a sauna to be about sitting in there one time for as long as you can handle the heat, when I feel it’s more about enjoying the various sessions while cooling down in between to allow your body and mind to relax.