Writings

A really good practice


One of my most cherished, most needed and most transformational practices I do is going to the sauna. I joined a gym down here only because it had a sauna and even though I, when time allows for it, combine my visits with a light jog on the tread mill, the sauna is always the main event.
It is a bit weird that I have taken up this habit now that I live in the Algarve, seeing as I hail from the cold north where sauna is not only more common but also more needed. And it does feel a bit over the top sometimes to go and submit myself to such a heat bath when the weather outside is perfectly lovely, but the sauna has become my little sanctuary down here. The warmth and it's soothing and healing effect on my body is very important but even more so, the time I get to spend with myself there is vital and practicing in such intense heat is very revealing.

I actually have somewhat of a routine, I spend about 15 minutes in the steam room where a combination of ujjayi breath and focused mula bandha gives me a good sweat, after a bottle of water I then I go to the sauna to do savasana or some very soft long held asanas. Sometimes I can stay almost an hour in there. I have found, and this is actually quite fascinating, that if I manage to really relax both my mind and body, I don't shed a drop of sweat.
It doesn't happen everytime, circumstances have to be favourable, for example if there are many people talking in there, it's not possible. Or if there is someone who comes in wearing a strong perfume or makes funny sauna noises, (some people feel that their cleanse is not complete without heavy grunting accompanying their perspiring), in other words, I cannot let go fully if there is something going on that on a conscious or subconscious level annoys me. So sauna practice is very revealing. Sweating or not sweating has provided me with a very clear barometer that lets me know if there is a' back of the head' kind of dialogue going on, and if there is anything that arouses medium to strong emotion, whether it's from the external environment or my own thoughts the immediate physical response is perspiration.
This means that whenever we manage to be mindful/aware/relaxed, we actually go into energy saving mode. I knew this of course, from reading about it, feeling it on my mat and cushion, but from these sauna experiences, I now actually have tangible proof. What drains us is not the intensity of whatever activity we are partaking in, but the resistance to what we feel when doing it. Interesting and valuable information indeed.

Sometimes my solitary sauna experience is interrupted by an elderly gentleman who likes to do yoga with me. He caught me once in a twist, got curious and started asking me about what I was doing and why I was doing it, and now, whenever we coincide in there after exchanging pleasantries, I usually just assume a simple yin like pose which he copies and then we breathe a bit together. And even though I feel slightly cheated out of my solo time, I do enjoy these little yoga encounters with my sauna friend.

It's may not for everybody, the practice of sauna. But for those of you who enjoy heat I heartily recommend it, to soften an aching body and soothe a stressed out mind. It is like a mini visit to the tropics, and everytime I come out of there regardless of sweating or not sweating, I feel refreshed, renewed and a little bit wiser, like only a really good yoga practice makes you feel.

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