Bathing oneself in heat for the purposes of purification, cleansing, and healing is an ancient practice, dating back thousands of years across many cultures. Variations of its use are seen today in the banyas of Russia, the hararas of Turkey, the sweat lodges of the American Indians, and, most famously, the saunas of Finland.
Sauna use, sometimes referred to as “sauna bathing,” is characterized by passive exposure to extreme heat. This exposure elicits mild hyperthermia – an increase in the body’s core temperature – that induces a thermoregulatory response involving hormonal, cardiovascular, and cytoprotective mechanisms that work together to restore homeostasis and condition the body for future stressors. In recent decades, sauna use has emerged as a means to increase lifespan and improve overall health.