Magazine articles say Hollywood actors swear by them to shed puffiness; fitness trainers, weightlifters, and MMA fighters use them for workout recovery. Your fitness center or chiropractor may have one, too. It’s an infrared sauna – a relatively new take on a wellness practice that dates back thousands of years.
Saunas are hot. Infrared saunas are cool(er)
In loose terms, a sauna is an enclosed area designed to make inhabitants sweat…lots. Cultures across the globe have used them for millennia. You may have heard some of these terms: hammam, sweat lodge, banya – all of them are a type of sauna. Saunas are part of the family, community, and culture throughout Europe. Remember Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna in “Frozen”? Traditionally, saunas have used wood to heat the air and water poured over rocks to make steam. Newer “traditional” saunas use electric heaters to produce the heat and can be installed outdoors or in the home, depending on the model and location.
An infrared sauna is designed to make you sweat, too, just in a different way. Traditional saunas heat the ambient air around you, but infrared saunas use near-, mid- and far-infrared wavelengths to penetrate the body. Think about the warmth you feel as the sunlight warms your body, even when it’s not hot outside (but with no UV skin damage). So, instead of the 175℉ temperatures felt in a traditional sauna, you can get the same beneficial sweat at 130℉ or less.
Infrared saunas offer several wellness benefits. According to Cryotherapy Indy, NASA initially used infrared technology to grow plants. When using technology to treat the painful side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Pain institutes around the country use the FDA- approved use of infrared saunas for their patients.
Other reported effects of infrared saunas include:
- Increased blood flow
- Improved muscle recovery
- Decreased pain and inflammation
- Reduced puffiness and swelling due to PMS and sodium intake due to water loss.
- Reduced pain from fibromyalgia
- Reduced muscle, tendon, and joint pain
- Some companies suggest potential weight loss due to the cardiac effects of increased heart rate
It’s important to note that those claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Those with heart or kidney problems, diabetics, or chronic diseases or injuries should consult their doctor before trying sauna therapy.
Infrared saunas have practical benefits, too. The lower temperatures make it less likely to experience overheating, allowing you to stay longer and sweat more. Plus, the lower temperatures infrared saunas can be used indoors. The lack of water allows infrared saunas to be placed on almost any surface. Most infrared saunas come in easy-to-assemble kits that latch together and require a few screws to install the door, secure the bench and install any accessories. Smaller units may use 1 or 2 standard, 3-prong household outlets (110V). Depending on the style and accessories, larger units may need a dedicated 20 amp outlet or both types of outlets. Available accessories may include chromotherapy lighting, decorative lighting, an audio/video entertainment system or radio, a Himalayan salt bar, towel and magazine racks, and aromatherapy diffusers.
Try before you buy
Get on the bus! Friends Marketa Ruzickova, Navi Haur, and Chris Johnson converted a decommissioned school bus into a stunning traditional sauna space as a pandemic project, naming it Sauna Social. The bus, named ‘Schooleesha’ brings the experience of a traditional wood-burning sauna to locations throughout the city and includes a changing area and a cold shower so visitors can enjoy the benefits of a hot/cold thermal experience. A comfortable lounge area offers guests the opportunity to relax and socialize. Meditation and guided sauna sessions are offered on Sundays—walk-ins are based on availability. Prices start at $20— with a reward program for frequent customers.
Get the coldest and hottest wellness experiences, literally, in one location. In addition to flotation therapy and its eponymous service, Cryotherapy Indy also offers 30 or 45-minute infrared sauna sessions. $27-$42 for single sessions. Packages available.
Sweat while you sweat by working out in an infrared sauna! Hotworx offers pre-programmed 15-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or 30-minute isometric workouts with other members in a large infrared sauna. Isometric workouts include yoga, exercise bands, barre, pilates and more. HIIT workouts include cycling, rowing and blasting.
Think pink! The Indianapolis Salt Cave offers several types of halotherapy (salt therapy) using pink Himalayan salt and other holistic treatments. $35 for 45 minutes. Packages available.
Align your spine and spirit with Shrout Family Chiropratic’s Sunlighten mPulse Conquer unit which produces near, mid, and far infrared wavelengths and has several pre-programmed therapies. Patients can pass the time streaming TV/videos using the built-in DVD player. Fitbit users can connect their units to monitor heart rate and caloric burn.
More hygge in your home
There’s nothing like the convenience of having your own sauna (I do). Renovations are a good time to do built-in units with special electric requirements and plumbing for steam. Check Pinterest for ideas or visit sauna manufacturers’ websites or Instagram accounts.
Family Leisure offers a selection of traditional and infrared saunas for the home. Prices start at $2999 (on sale).
After years of selling infrared saunas at home and garden shows, the Salus Saunas pivoted to online sales and expanded its offerings to include freestanding sauna cabins, barrel saunas, cold plunge units, outdoor showers, as well as traditional wood/electric saunas and infrared units. They are now one of the largest distributors in the US. 5-star rating on Google. Prices start at $2695 and include free shipping in the continental US. Check out their photo gallery with pictures from customers who have customized their set-ups and installations.
Saunas go high-tech with Sunlighten. Sunlighten offers three high-end infrared sauna lines in various sizes for 1-5 people and can also build custom units. Sunlighten saunas are known for their integrated technology, including Bluetooth, entertainment systems, and pre-programmed sessions using various infrared wavelengths. Pricing is not immediately available online.
- Measure the space and know what electrical outlets are in the vicinity. If your preferred sauna requires a different outlet, consult with a certified electrician before purchasing. Older homes may require additional electrical upgrades.
- Consider contacting Ace Handyman to discuss installation options. (If you are a Maven Member, you get a discount. Check your member portal on Circle!)
- Have a plan for delivery, unloading, and discarding packing material. White glove delivery may cost more but it can be a huge help depending on the size of the unit and the weather on delivery day.
- Use carpet or floor “coasters” to allow the unit to slide into place (and to pull out easily to clean behind it).
- Use a bath mat in front of the door to reduce slippage from sweaty feet.
Natalie Rodriguez is an Indy Maven contributor who loves working up a sweat in hot tub, steam room, sauna or on her e-bike. Nat can’t grow plants, so look for Lego flowers on her table when she’s working at Maven Space.