About Sauna Talk
Today we welcome a very special guest to Sauna Talk: Dr. Charles Raison. His biography is as follows: Dr. Raison is a the Mary Sue and Mike Shannon Chair for Healthy Minds, Children & Families in the School of Human Ecology and a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Dr. Raison received his medical degree from Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, where he was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha and won the Missouri State Medical Association Award. He completed residency training at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital in Los Angeles. In addition to his medical training, Dr. Raison obtained his Masters of English from the University of Denver. Dr. Raison has written and published over 100 scientific papers as well over 20 review papers and editorials. Chapters he has written have been featured in over 30 books, and he has written two books, most recently The New Mind-Body Science of Depression, published by WW Norton in 2017. Dr. Raison’s publications have been cited over 14,000 times, with three publications having more than 1,000 citations. His H-index is 44. The recipient of several teaching awards, Dr. Raison has received research funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His visionary work focuses on the treatment of depression in response to illness and stress, translating neurobiological findings into novel interventions. In addition to his activities at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Raison is the mental health expert for CNN.com.” Reference: UW-Madisonhttps://www.psychiatry.wisc.edu › staff › raison-charles Sauna Talk excerpts We discuss Charles’ academic and personal background, how he has been interested in World’s ancient practices including Buddist Tuumo meditation, where Tibetan monks are wrapped in cold wet blankets and through breathing and meditation, are able to warm themselves for a long period of time. The area around research and studies to treat depression are of special interest. Reaching a hypothermia state has proven health benefits. Dr. Raison’s 2010 depression study with 16 people, who reached 101.3 degrees f. shown a marketed decrease in depression. The participants actually lowered their internal body temperature. The World leader in Hypothermia We discuss other work and studies happening right now in the United States, through Harvard University and Massachusetts General. Also Ashley Mason’s work in San Francisco. More on this soon! The Vail sauna lab Eagle County Co. is an interesting place. The disparity of rich and poor, and people moving their and experiencing the Paradox of Paradise, are likely culprits that lead to the area having the highest suicide rate in the country. Ashley Mason, UCSF. Heat has an antidepressant effect. Transforming mental health The good news is a private investment of $100mm towards a new hospital in Vail that is committed to transform mental health in this country. Providing equitable care for rich and non rich, integrating mind/body practices. Vail Health is set to be a world class research institute. Heat, thermal studies, psychedelic research are all areas of study. It is an exciting time for sauna research. The CHILL study. Can you benefit from heat whether you are taking an antidepressant or not? This episode tees the ball up for our follow up conversation which I will be equally excited to bring to you in the future. So, for right now, I am pleased to present to you Dr. Charles Raison.
Welcome to this mini Sauna Talk episode from inside and around the World’s Largest Sauna. The sauna was constructed as part of the RunningMan festival outside of Atlanta Georgia, this past weekend, mid October 2023. I’ll try to connect the dots to how the World’s Largest Sauna came about. And it started with the folks at Embrace North, building a few saunas for the All Day Running organization. And as All Day Running began planning for the RunningMan festival, well, their experience with good heat and creative right brain thinking on the bench fostered a way to “scale” sauna.\ And we move over to All Day Running’s co founder Todd Ferneaux’s backyard. Here is where Todd built the mock prototype for the World’s Largest Sauna. I’ll spare the nuts and bolts of its creative construction, as you can listen to my recent podcast interview with Todd for more on that. World’s Largest Sauna building I was able to lend to help with some of the construction of the sauna and set up. For now, though, I’d like to welcome you into the event: RunningMan. I attended for a few reasons, and one was to help share what I know about running the sauna stoves. I have used this same stove for 30 years. As elder statesman with more grey hair than most at the event, I was happy to help coach the stokers who became quick studies on stove operation. (note: you don’t have to go into the hot room to see how your stove is performing. If you see smoke coming out the chimney, it needs attending). Runners and Sauna enthusiasts Another reason why I was happy to attend RunningMan is to celebrate and experience all the goodness happening with the Venn diagram overlap of people into hot/cold contrast therapy and people into running. As we look at the overlap, the commonalities become clear. Runners: know how to push the limits of human performance. are tuned into their bodies.. and their minds. get high on their own supply. are generally conscious folks who can feel when endorphins are rushing. know how good it feels the moment you stop banging your head against a wall. All above also applies to all of us who dig sauna. And cold plunge, as peanut butter and jelly. Knowing our bodies, minds, spirits. Runners, generally, all dig sauna. And when they feel good heat, it’s all over. So, in this episode you’ll hear from Todd at All Day Running, C T from Nomad Sauna, Tyler, one of the stokers, and a couple other guests, all of whom will give you a good flavor of what it’s like to be in and around the World’s Largest Sauna.
Today on the bench, we welcome Todd Furneaux who is spearheading the building of the World’s Largest Sauna. The sauna is being constructed as part of Running Man, a three day festival happening outside of Atlanta Georgia this mid October 2023. During this episode, you’ll hear about Todd’s company and cohorts, All Day Running. And how the idea of building the World’s Largest Sauna was surely fostered on the sauna bench or in the cold plunge. As with endorphins running and community spiriting, this is the environment for Sauna Talk and crazy out there thinking. Atlanta steeplechase. Grass track. Sauna Village, fun zone, DJs, live music, conferences, October 17, 18, 19 event. Sauna can hold. 250 – 350 people at a time. Mechanics of World’s Largest Sauna Specially designed Todd Right Brain Thinking: 3,000 square feet in modular squares using 4’x4′ framing material. Side walls: sauna tent material 3 ply oxford. 9′ tall 20′ wide. Flooring: cedar flooring. Roof: Greenhouse style sauna inspiration from NorthUp in Minneapolis. Clear polycarbonate roofing. Same material It’s rated to over 550f. to melt it. The material let’s the light in. There is a greenhouse effect with clear polycarbonate as roofing. On sunny Atlanta days, it’s about 120f. before lighting to the stove. Sauna stoves: 13 large Kuumas. oven for every 200 sf. Prototype: 200 sf sauna 20’x10′. A great way of testing the temperature of things. How the size of the panels. Final dimensions of the world’s largest sauna 65′ x 45′ with extra 200 – 400′ square feet entry and exit. Exercising your immune system Running and Sauna.. they go hand in hand.
Today on the virtual sauna bench, i’m pleased to bring you Sauna Talk: Emma O’Kelly, author of the new book Sauna: The Power of Deep Heat. We join Emma from her home in North London. And, we hear from Emma how the idea for this book was seeded through the pandemic. Plus, how the health benefits of sauna helped make the book happen. In the book, Emma does a great job outlining the reported health benefits of sauna, and we touch upon a few of these during our interview. You wil be transported to how Emma and photographer Maija Astikainen became fast friends, collaborators, and travel partners through the Nordic regions of Europe. Sauna: The Power of Deep Heat is shipping starting mid September. Pre orders are available now via Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Editor’s note During Sauna Talk: Emma O’Kelly, we need to dive deeper into Sauna Brain! What it is and why it’s good, but I forgot where I left my towel and water bottle. Glenn’s notes I found myself reaching for a pen many times while reading this new book! So, a few excerpts and notes include: Health Benefits: Good reasons to roast Sweat “Sauna makes us sweat which is a good gym work out for the organs and the blood vessels,” says Hans Hägglund MD, PhD, a medical doctor and professor at Uppsala University in Sweden. Sauna Detox We produce about 0.5kg of sweat in a 30-minute sauna, and while around 97 per cent of this is water, studies have shown that some toxins and heavy metals are excreted too, and sweat does this more effectively than urine. Good Stress Hormetic stress is “good stress”. Things like jumping in a cold pond, or competing in a marathon, or making a really complicated cake are examples of good stress. Temperatures of around 38°C to 40°C stimulate the immune system A few other sauna health benefits from our Sauna Talk: Emma O’Kelly Inflammation Charles Raison MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA), is an active proponent of this theory. “Since the 1980s, we have known that depressed people are hotter and find it harder to sweat,” he says. Plus, “The pathways that control our ability to cool off overlap with pathways that regulate our mood. Body temperature and mood are directly linked.” Pain relief Because blood vessels relax and dilate in a sauna and blood flow increases to muscles and joints which can in turn alleviate pain and stiffness. What’s more, sauna causes levels of beta-endorphins – important pain relievers – to rise. So, for those living with pain for which there is no cure, such as rheumatoid arthritis, regular sauna sessions can provide immense relief. Immunity Because blood vessels relax and dilate in a sauna and blood flow increases to muscles and joints which can in turn alleviate pain and stiffness. What’s more, sauna causes levels of beta-endorphins – important pain relievers – to rise. For those living with pain for which there is no cure, such as rheumatoid arthritis, regular sauna sessions can provide immense relief. Blood Pressure Laukkanen’s seminal study found that those who took sauna baths four to seven times a week cut their risk of high blood pressure by almost half compared to once-a-week sauna bathers. Why? Well, the most common theory is that the increase in body temperature during sauna causes blood vessels to dilate, which can increase blood flow and improve the function of the endothelium – the tissue that lines the inside of blood vessels. “Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral.” John Burroughs, The Writings of John Burroughs, 1913
Today on the global sauna bench, we Sauna Talk with Mikkel Aaland from inside and just back from war torn Ukraine. Introduction from Minnesota Before we dive into this episode, I’d like to paint a picture of where I am sitting and what i’m thinking about. I am speaking to you while sitting on my deck at our island cabin in Northern Minnesota. I can see about 8 miles to the East, along a shoreline dotted with islands and outcroppings of birch and pine. It’s a crystal clear day with light puffy clouds across the horizon. I’m in shorts, barefoot, and have just immersed myself from a cool morning swim. Random cold exposure being that much more effective than deliberate. There are no airplanes overhead. The aura is of calm and peace. To my right, 25 or so steps down a walkway through the woods, sits our cabin sauna that we built in 1996. Original stove. Original design, it’s been my thermal tranquil oasis for decades. It exudes spiritual patina. Those of you with your own saunas know what i’m talking about. In sauna we are transformed with peace and tranquility. I recently turned 60. I am scaling down my professional career in the food industry. Gratefully, I am free from contractual bullshit in the sauna industry. I get to work with who I like, and most all of us are really cool, thoughtful, conscious people. I am feeling mighty blessed, and in times like these, sitting quietly on the sauna bench or on the dock between sauna rounds, If i listen quietly enough, i can hear soft voices of people, even half way around the world, miles less fortunate. Can you listen quietly enough to hear their voices? And speaking of really cool, thoughtful, conscious people, I’d like to reintroduce to you Mikkel Aaland. Let’s have Mikkel help us hear these voices. Mikkel from Ukraine: three time Sauna Talk guest It’s hard to put into words the respect and appreciation I have for Mikkel. With this episode, he has become a third time guest to the Sauna Talk podcast, outnumbering most all others by two. It’s a lot of Sauna Talk. Yet Mikkel, to me, brings Sauna Talk up a notch. Where many see a crescent, Mikkel sees the whole of the moon. During our July 2016 podcast, we discuss his iconic book Sweat. On our September 2020 podcast, during sauna and the time of Corona, we discuss his Perfect Sweat Documentary project. And now today, you will hear in Mikkel’s voice how Ukrainians are dealing with the invasion of their country from within Ukraine. This is his third trip into Ukraine since the invasion. And with each trip, Mikkel is facilitating bringing a sauna with him to the war torn country of Ukraine. But this Sauna Talk with Mikkel Aaland episode isn’t a downer. I promise you. You will hear about the wonderfulness of what sauna is bringing to the people of Ukraine. And we sauna enthusiasts can put two and two together to get an idea what sauna can do for people in distress. I get choked up during this interview, and that’s what sauna can do for us. Like many of us, we can take a lot of good löyly, but our edges can be soft. I don’t know about you, but when I read and hear about the sacrifices and perils happening with the people in Ukraine, I get very bummed out. Can we do something is a valid question. And I’m happy to report, Mikkel Aaland is doing a lot more than just something. Sauna-Aid Yes, Sauna-Aid! Mikkel is quick to compliment many others, yet he is leading the charge on behalf of Sauna Aid, a multinational initiative sponsored by the International Sauna Association. This is a beautiful story of the magic of sauna. The power of sauna as community, therapy, healing, comradeship, wellness, mindfulness, peace. So many great attributes, let’s hear it from the words of Mikkel Aaland.
Today on the virtual sauna bench, we Sauna Talk with Jackie from Cedar Grove Saunas in Northern Maine. Jackie is just back from her sif week sauna pilgrimage to four countries in Northern Europe. Jackie has built her own saunas, and is four years into hosting guests traveling far and wide to Cedar Grove Saunas. We are kindred spirits of good heat. We share an interest and passion towards the Latvian Pirtus tradition, spearheaded by Biruté and Rimus from the Lithuanian Bath Academy. Are you interested in bringing plants and herbs into your sauna practice? Jackie helps us better understand this tradition. Sauna in Nature is bigger than all of us. And thanks to Jackie, we get to hear her voice and values of how she is bringing this spirit forward. After hearing about mobile saunas Jackie got the idea to start a business and build another sauna to bring to others. She set off in 2019 to convert a horse trailer into a sauna but it wasn’t easy or quick. Jackie’s high standard of quality, initial lack of carpentry skills, and the trailer’s unique challenges (such as all the rounded corners) conspired to extend the build beyond the limits of her patience. Suddenly she wondered whether other people would pay to use her backyard sauna. However, a spa was born. BONUS: We begin this podcast with a few brief words from my sauna bench, last night. Friends and neighbors from age 8 to 84 share a couple thoughts to warm your sauna spirit.
Today on the virtual Sauna Talk bench, we join Marishi Morchida 持田 摩利支, from the Japan Sauna Institute 日本サウナ総研. Marishi joins us from his apartment in Washington, DC. During this episode, we learn about the active Japan sauna culture. How thermal bathing is intertwined into Japanese culture. You’ll learn some key differences between Japanese sauna culture vs. North American in particular. Like many of us, Marishi is a serious sauna enthusiast. Not so much frown serious, but super into it passionate serious. Marishi shared with me that he was a bit nervous to be on Sauna Talk, but I think you’ll agree, he comes off just fine.. as if we were right there on the sauna bench… with you! Link to the 2021 Japan Sauna Institute survey is here. Hi Marishi, welcome to Sauna Talk. Please share with us where you are from, where you are now, and what you are doing where you are now. I am originally from Japan. I was born and raised in a city called Hiroshima, then I moved to Tokyo for my undergraduate studies. After college, I worked in Tokyo for several years, and that’s where I fell in love with the public bathing culture of Japan. People say that Tokyo’s population density is one of the highest in the world, but what they don’t realize is that Tokyo’s public bathing density is also one of the highest. I don’t have any data to back this up, but I’ve visited many major cities in the world, including Beijing, NY, Singapore, and Tokyo is definitely a bathing paradise. Anyway, that’s where I fell in love with public baths, and that’s where I fell in love with saunas. After working in Tokyo for 5 years, I wanted to continue my education in the US, so I moved to Chicago to get my MBA. I graduated last year and am now based in Northern Virginia. Tell us more about your “day job.” I work for a company called Capital One, which is a large financial institution that focuses on the credit card business. What’s interesting and scary about the credit card business is that everything you do with your card is captured and stored as data. I analyze that transaction data and come up with a plan to improve our products or improve our strategy. “Customers don’t like the rebate percentage on this product”, let’s change it. “Customers in the construction industry turn out to be the best fit for our product”, let’s talk to them more. That’s my day job. Sauna. I sense it is an important part of your life, as well. When did you first become exposed to sauna and describe the type of sauna to which you’ve been exposed ? I also feel that sauna is an important part of life! I can’t even remember my first encounter with a sauna. It was when I was a small child, and my father and mother were both big fans of hot springs. We visit the local public bath like every month, and when our family plans a family trip, they almost always make sure that the place we’re staying at has a high-quality bath for customers. Most public baths and hotels in Japan have saunas, and I just followed my father. It was not until I started working that I really saw the value and power that sauna has. This is just my personal opinion, but suffering and anguish improve your sauna experience. When I joined a company, I was just a stupid kid who didn’t know how to talk to my boss properly. This is really a big problem because I was working in a big Japanese company with a long history and hierarchical structure, and my boss often picked up my words and scolded me. I woke up every morning around 5:30 a.m. and worked until 10 to 11 p.m., and when I went home, it was usually midnight. During this period of my life, the sauna helped me a lot. Every day after work, I would go to a gym and just go into the sauna without exercising. I just did nothing there. I would just relax without thinking about my work, enjoy the sauna and cold shower, and then go home. I’m very sure that without the sauna, my life would have been much more miserable. As for the type of sauna, I do everything. I like electronic sauna. Traditionally, many saunas in Japan are extremely dry, but lately more and more places have more humid, Finnish style sauna too, I like it. I used to go to Russian banya in Chicago and I loved it too. Now that you are in the US, you have a special perspective of sauna in two different countries. Two different continents. Please share with us your observations about similarities and differences of sauna in US vs sauna in Japan. It’s so different, the only similarity I’ve found is that a sauna is a sauna. Both countries have many electrically heated saunas. That’s where the similarities end. One big difference I have noticed is where people enjoy saunas. For many people in the US, correct me if I’m wrong, but sauna is something you enjoy at home. Or at least a gym or membership club, a place that only a limited number of people have access to. So when I go to a sauna subreddit, people are almost always discussing what saunas to buy instead of what sauna to go to. In Japan, saunas are a major form of entertainment, regardless of gender or age. Public saunas are everywhere, and you just invite your friends, co-workers, or family members to go together. Let’s be naked, enjoy the sauna and drink good sake or beer, that’s how we deepen the connection with people. Another thing is silence. In Japan, you’re expected to be quiet in the sauna, and in many spas you can actually see posters that say you have to refrain from talking. But in the U.S., not just in the sauna, it’s very common to make small talk with someone you don’t know, right? At first I wanted to concentrate on the sauna experience itself, but now I really enjoy talking to people I meet in the sauna. The Japan Sauna Institute. How did you personally become involved. Give us a history of the organization and your involvement. Japan Sauna Institute was established in 2015. It was started as the first research institute focusing on sauna. We’re also different from other similar organizations in Japan in that our members are just ordinary sauna users while other organizations are mostly operated by companies. We aim to provide insights from user’s perspective, and conduct various studies regarding the sauna industry in Japan. I joined the Japan Sauna Institute in 2021, and it was just a coincidence. When I was doing my MBA, I wanted to study data science. I talked to one of my friends, and he said that if you want to study data science, the best way to learn it is to actually write a script to find out something you’re interested in. I was into saunas, so I thought it would be a good idea to analyze sauna data with Python. So I scraped data about saunas from all the public baths from some websites, created a big data set, and just played with it. I analyzed the data to find out things like the best temperature of the sauna room, the best temperature of the cold plunge, which district in Tokyo offers the best access to the best saunas. At first, I just wrote an article on my personal blog, but at some point I thought it would be great if I could work with like-minded people, so I googled to see if there were any organizations doing research on saunas. I found the Japan Sauna Research Institute, I e-mailed them, sharing a link to my blog and that I would like to collaborate with them, then Tachibana, the head of the institute, told me that I should just join the institute. The sauna study. This isn’t your first one. Tell us about it’s history and how you organize the study, how many participants etc. who they are. How you find them. We started the Japan Sauna Survey in 2016, with the aim to provide quantitative data and analysis on the sauna market in Japan. I suppose this is the same in other countries, but the sauna and spa market is very fragmented, and the vast majority of them are not small companies. What this means is that there is not much public data provided by companies and as a result people only talk about sauna based on their perceptions. That’s why we thought it was important to provide companies in the industry and sauna enthusiasts with a broad overview of the market. Since then, the Japan Sauna Survey has become our annual work, and especially after Covid, it has become an important health checkup for the industry. The good news of the latest survey is that we have seen a solid rebound in the sauna population after the decline due to Covid in 2021. The study, and I will publish it in the show notes, reveals some very interesting data. What couple few things stand out to you in the study results ? One thing I would like to point out is that the sauna population is on the rise again. As everyone knows, the Covid 19 pandemic was terrible, but it really took a toll on the sauna industry in Japan. Japan is one of the fastest aging countries in the world, and people are generally very conservative, and many people stopped going to the sauna. Some cities, including Tokyo and Osaka, enforced a lockdown, so literally public baths in those places were forced to close, which was a huge blow to that business because you still have to pay utilities, you still have to pay rent, all those kinds of costs. The population of casual sauna-goers, which we call “light sauna-goers,” is still much smaller than it was before Coverid. It’s about 8.5 million now and it was about 15 million before covid, but the medium and heavy sauners, people who go more than once a month, have actually recovered almost to pre-covid levels. Let’s talk about sauna bathing in Japan. One of the aspects that I respect and appreciate is no jankification in the cold plunge. What do sauna bathers do after exiting the hot room and before entering the cold plunge ? For many sauna enthusiasts in Japan, the cold plunge water is sacred. You have to make sure you either take a shower or do kakemizu, which means scooping water with a small basin and washing away the sweat before using the cold plunge. I think this custom has its roots in the hot spring culture of Japan. People are expected to wash their body or do kakemizu before using the hot spring bath, and we have to do the same for the cold plunge. Electric vs wood fired? Personally, I like wood-fired saunas a lot, but unfortunately, there aren’t many public saunas that have wood-fired saunas. Sauna tents? I have no experience with sauna tents. What a shame! Back to you and sauna. How would you describe good heat ? Back in Japan, when I was still new to sauna, one of my friends told me that good sauna or good heat makes you sweat, and that’s the definition of good heat for me as well. Personally, I like hot sauna with higher than 200 degrees Fahrenheit, relatively humid, and the heat should be dispersed and evenly distributed in the room. In short, I like hot, humid, sweaty heat. Are Americans f***ed up (I’m kidding! Am I?) I don’t think so, America is a great country. It is a land of opportunity and I really enjoy the amount of personal freedom I can never have in Japan. The only thing I would like to say to the USA is that there should be more public bathhouses in the USA. I really wonder why there are not many public bathhouses in the US. I’ve been to Russian and Korean spas in Chicago, NY, DC and every time I go I have such a wonderful time. I think part of the sauna experience is meditation. Just focusing on the heat and your body, away from all the outside stimuli from friends or smartphones. In the last decade, meditation has become a big part of many professionals in the US and I think sauna has a great appeal to this segment of the population. If you could have a mobile sauna and bring it anywhere in the world, where would you like to go and enjoy a sauna session? I’m a big baseball fan, so I would like to take it to a baseball stadium and watch baseball while taking a sauna. I’m not necessarily a big fan of this, and you probably won’t like this idea either, but a lot of saunas in Japan have televisions in them. Normally, people don’t care too much about it, but whenever there is a big sports game, the sauna room has a strange sense of unity. I would like to have a similar but more real experience by bringing my mobile sauna to a baseball stadium. If you could sauna with anyone in the world, dead or alive, past or present, who would you choose? I honestly don’t have a person’s name, but if I had to answer, I would say people who have ever said no to my invitation to go to the sauna. When I was doing my MBA in Chicago, I invited many people to go to the sauna together, and some people said, “No, I’m not interested. I don’t understand”. I really feel for them, they should at least try it once and then they can judge if it is for them or not. So when I have a change, I want to take those people to the sauna and see their reactions. When you know it is going to be a sauna day for you, from the morning of anticipating sauna, to going to sauna, maybe the preparing and lighting of the stove, the first heat up, the first splash of löyly, the first cool down, second, and on, all the way through to going to sleep at night, what is your most favorite moment if you had to pick, one of your favorite moments of sauna? This is an interesting and difficult one. I love every part of my sauna experience, from the anticipation to going to bed that day and having the best sleep. If I have to choose one, I like drinking beer with my close friends after 5 sauna sessions. Sauna is the best spice for food and the best spice for creating a bond with people. That’s my favorite part. What do you think is most misunderstood about sauna, that you would like others less familiar with sauna to know and better understand? Some people in Japan treat sauna as a kind of mental and physical training. It’s so hot and uncomfortable, but if you can endure this difficulty for 5 minutes, you’ll be fine and healthier. I think they’re missing the essence of sauna. Sauna is comfortable. You don’t have to stay there for a certain amount of time, you can get out whenever you want and take a cold shower or jump into the cold water to cool down.
Today from many of the 12 or so sauna benches, we hear from guests attending Sauna Days 2023 at Larsmont Cottages, Two Harbors, Minnesota. The stories are from their hearts. We get to tap into their motivations and ambitions to make their way to Northern Minnesota for the third Sauna Days festival this early chilly May weekend. Though upwards of 200 people were in attendance, we hear from a fraction of the attendees. Most were on other benches or experiencing the world’s largest cold plunge in Lake Superior. Yet with the voices on this episode, you’ll be able to get an on the spot perspective of what Sauna Days is all about. I’ll take a moment to set the scene. Larsmont Cottage is an upscale resort along the shores of Lake Superior, along the rocky North Shore North of Duluth Minnesota, and South of Canada. If you’re looking for peace and tranquility or a launch pad for North Shore adventures but not your typical hotel — our cottages on Lake Superior are a place to celebrate the immense beauty and scale of our planet’s greatest lake. Tucked away in 40 acres of private woods south of Two Harbors, this location combines a Northwoods experience with 1,300 feet of beachfront shoreline. – Larsmont Cottages.com So, imagine a Larsmont Cottages sauna take over, and you’ve got a picture of Sauna Days. I’ll keep this introduction nice and short, and will leave you with this final thought of consideration. Does sauna bring out the best in people or does sauna bring out the best people. Maybe it’s a lot of both. But whatever the case, judging from the smiles, laughter, and community spirit, Sauna Days was a joyful experience. At checkout on Sunday, many were signing up for Sauna Days 2024. I caught more than a few guests walking the grounds, sizing up their favorite lakeside cottage to commit back to the front desk. Hope you enjoy this episode, and I hope to see you at Sauna Days 2024. For more on Sauna Days 2023, please check the review here.
Today on the bench, we are joined with David Dragseth, Lutheran paster and CEO of Superior Saunas. Let’s consider for a moment, the Venn Diagram overlap of A: Lutheran Pastors and B: Sauna business CEOs. To my knowledge, the overlap is a body of one: David Dragseth. Also of note, if we consider the Venn Diagram overlap of A: Lutheran Pastors and B: Guests to the podcast Sauna Talk, well, i’m happy to report that David Dragseth is joined with Lutheran Pastor Dave Pearson. For those looking for some good spiritual sauna continuity, I encourage you to have a listen to both of these podcast episodes. David and Glenn Sauna Talk David and I were together on my Minneapolis sauna bench recently. We enjoyed sauna and then communing in urban nature, relaxing between rounds on my sauna deck, outdoor shower and cold plunge adjacent. A wood burning sauna and a sauna deck in the rain are perfect backdrops for me to have David expand upon some of his Venn Diagram overlap of religion and sauna as a religion. You could say that if Jesus grew up in a Nordic country, he may have been a sauna builder. We’ll never know, but we do know that David and I are both sauna builders, which is just the beginning of our Venn Diagram overlap. David fell naturally into the world of sauna building and the sauna business. In this episode, we learn about David’s sabbatical to Finland, and being impressed and influenced by Finnish confirmation camps. Could there be a place in North America for similar camps? We talk about one of my favorite subjects: the spiritual connection of sauna, as both a noun and a verb. We talk about his business Superior Saunas. How it came into his life, and now, how it is a big part of his life. Without further ramblings, please welcome David Dragseth to Sauna Talk.
Today on the Sauna Talk bench, we visit with Anya and Dan Bondarenko from the Banya House. Dan is Latvian, with Ukrainian family heritage. Anya is 100% Ukrainian. Her town has been completely destroyed from the Putin invasion. Anya is a nutritionist, with a focus on plant medicine. We gather in their outdoor backyard sauna….. er.. banya. The Banya House, Prior Lake, Minnesota. The design, size, and structure is comparable to the 612 Sauna Society Sauna, a sauna that I had a big hand in building. So, I was very comfortable in the Banya House. The heat is kick ass, as is the spiritual patina, as is the fabulous Latvian style pirtis venik treatment. In this episode, we learn the difference between sauna and banya. The answer? Spoiler alert: it’s not that different! That said, we detail the nuances. And the difference lies within the two biggest measures of hot room climate: temperature and humidity. Where some orthodox sauna preachers claim the importance of tall ceilings and the löyly pocket, we get a very different approach of good hot room climate with Dan and Anya. Sauna in nature is bigger than all of us. And with banya, we bring nature into the banya. Nature plays a big part in Slavic banya. Essences, teas, vennik / whisks are all front forward with banya climate and culture.
Today on the sauna bench we sit with Brian who is perhaps the most researched yet least experienced sauna aficionado in the world. Connecting through consulting services One of the things I do in the world of sauna is offer consultation services. I don’t offer this service to make money, but more to help others realize their authentic sauna dreams. And the other reason is that though I do love to help, my entire day may get sucked up by answering questions and helping guide. I get to meet some great people through SaunaTimes consultations. And today you will hear from one of them: Brian from Austin, Texas (last name withheld as he is on witness relocation program). Brian and I had a SaunaTimes consultation session. Then he came back with several additional sauna questions. And many of them were what I call “400 level thinking.” These consultations are often like tennis for me, where the harder the ball gets hit in my court, the harder I hit it back in the client’s court. I found myself engaged in long volleys with Brian. The more he researched, the more engaged I became with our dialogue. Which way the sauna wind blows Bob Dylan rightfully says that “you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” For when we feel good heat, it’s all over. So why should we listen to a guy who has done nothing but research about sauna, without much sitting on the sauna bench? Well, I’ll tell you why. Brian’s approach to his own backyard sauna is fresh. He has an uncanny ability to process information from multiple sources. Brian applies data points without prejudice. He can smell BS and can sift through pedantic chatter. Brian is a weatherman who has figured out which way the sauna wind blows. We dive into the holy trinity of good sauna (heat, steam, ventilation). You’ll hear about his evolution from barrel saunas to kit saunas. How he graduated away from a custom sauna build in his backyard, and also away from hiring a local contractor in his area. You’ll hear about his conclusions of ceiling height and ventilation. All spot on, my opinion. My 35 year 3x a weak multiple sauna build with my own hands experienced opinion. Our texts and emails went on and on Most people come to me after experiencing good sauna, and then are compelled to make it happen for themselves. Not Brian. Brian is admittedly very sauna inexperienced. But I dare say that he is one of the most researched sauna person I know. He attacked the project of his own backyard sauna with vigor and inexhaustible energy. I think you’ll find his conclusions and choice for his own backyard sauna very interesting. We got to sauna recently during my own trip to Austin Texas, where I was on my own version of witness relocation program. A lot of good things come out of conversation on the sauna bench. I’m happy to report that this conversation is one of them. I’m pleased to present to you Brian, the world’s most research least experienced sauna nut in the world. Final note, as of this podcast, Brian is now becoming more experienced. He’s just taking delivery of his own backyard sauna, and is about to lose himself in his own thermal goodness. Three cheers to Brian, Thanks man, I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and playing sauna tennis!
Sauna Talk: Kirk Jensen is a host of a thousand saunas (and more). Kirk is one of the lead hosts at the 612 Sauna Society sauna, Minneapolis Minnesota USA. This episode may be especially interesting for those considering starting a sauna business. Or for those who have attended a “butts on the bench public sauna” and want to know more about how sauna host manages the comings and goings of sauna guests.
This episode was recorded in January 2023 from the Sauna Village, Malcolm Yards, Minneapolis Minnesota, as part of the Great Northern Festival. It was a cold well below freezing day outside. As the Saunapreneurs began firing up their sauna stoves outside, inside we were able to sit down and visit with Shaelyn and her brother Justus, and then David Dragseth, CEO of Superior Saunas. The history and brain child of a Sauna Village in Minneapolis goes back quite a few years. Subject for another podcast for another day, but in summary, the serendipity meeting of minds of Rod & JP from Stokeyard Outfitters, connecting with Eddie through commercial development, sharing the sauna heat with his wife Kate Nordstrom, the Executive and Artistic director of The Great Northern. During this episode, we learn about the idea, creation, and build of the Superior Sauna by the brother and sister team of Shaelyn and Justus Crutchery. Like so many sauna builds, this one was more than just a sauna build, it also fostered as a rebuilding of a special brother sister bond. The sauna was sponsored by David Dragseth, former Lutheran paster and now Superior Sauna CEO. I'll keep this introduction short, and I encourage you to check out the photos of the Superior Sauna event sauna here on SaunaTimes. Three wood stoves, a swing, some great design with clear consciousness towards to the holy trinity of good sauna: heat, steam, ventilation.
Today on Sauna Talk, we are pleased to welcome Bruce Oreck, who joins us from his off grid home in Baja Mexico. During this episode, we talk about sauna, Finnish sauna, and his experiences being hosted and welcomed by Finns all over the country. As US Ambassador to Finland during the Obama administration, his tenure was unique in that he served for a long period, from 2009 – 2015, which he says with a wink “was made possible because when they called from Washington looking for me, I told my secretary to tell them that I was out of my office.” While in Finland, Bruce became enamored with all things sauna, and especially the smoke sauna (savusauna) the traditional, revered style of sauna going back centuries., where the fire is open inside the sauna building, heating rocks directly for hours. Let’s hear from Bruce as we share his love for Finland and good sauna. This is such a great episode! Bruce is very well spoken, as you can imagine. He lets us in behind the curtain as to what US ambassadorship is all about. He shares from an American perspective what it’s like to live in Finland. I have lost count with the number of people who have gotten into sauna, really good authentic sauna, from their time in Finland.
Today on Sauna Talk, we are joined by several different summer guests to my island cabin sauna in Northern Minnesota. This episode features guests from literally all over the world who have all found themselves on my sauna bench which I co built in 1996 and is still humming along strong. The sauna is 3.5 hours North of Minneapolis, MN close to the Boundary Waters Canoe area on Lake Vermilion, one of the largest lakes in Minnesota. Stretching 26 miles East to West, our cabin sits on the largest of 365 islands, Pine Island. There are no roads or cars on 7 mile long Pine Island, but there are some hiking trails, and one of my fondest memories and routines of sauna on Pine Island is to fire up my sauna stove, then take an island hike, in nature, returning to pull the coals forward and maybe toss a sauna log on the stove. For many, this is where the resonating wonderfulness of sauna shines. In nature, detached from the business of day to day. Birds chirping, water lapping along the shore, long twilight evenings that transition slowly. When the thought of tossing another log on the sauna stove isn’t a question, but something you just do (after pulling the coals forward). This is where and when we get full appreciation of the fact that Sauna in nature is bigger than all of us. Alex & John. “I’ve been coming here my whole life… Wood fired and great heat is what I love.” Becca & Garrett Lamppa. “My dad welded all the Kuuma stoves out of Lamppa Manufacturing until about 2017.” “Finnish culture is very close to home.” Bill & Ingrid. “The fist thing we did is start planning for our backyard sauna.” “We are enjoying our sauna and still working on our sauna.” Lee Sarkela. “My memory of sauna goes back to splashing in the bucket on the floor as a young child.” Petri Leivonen & Mike Tuttle. Scott Gallis & Family from Brazil. “Where you are at is where you are able to enjoy it the most. In sauna, friendships are forget. People are able to get on the same vibration and welcome peace.”
Today’s Sauna Talk podcast episode is with Lewis Jenkinson, who shares with us his heart and soul of good sauna. Today on the bench we welcome Lewis Jenkinson from the absolute midpoint of England, just North of Manchester. With the rise in interest of sauna – real sauna – (not lightbulbs, toaster ovens, or other minimally ventilated fragmentations), it’s interesting to learn how others have become impassioned with and driven towards advancing the authentic sauna experience in their lives. It’s a simple formula, really. And In Lewis’ case, his drive towards authentic sauna was propelled through his resonating positivity of contrast therapy. We’ll hear his journey while marshal arts training, then cold immersion therapy, and onto the sauna bench. Lewis’s unfulfilling sauna experience at the gym sauna, heated by a toaster oven with 9 rocks and terrible ventilation, has driven him deep into the depths of discovery into the authentic, quality sauna experience. Many of us curious enough can become knowledgeable about good sauna and are in clear understanding of the Holy Trinity of good sauna (heat, steam, ventilation). And Lewis is right there with us, a kindred spirit of good heat. Sauna Talk topics for discussion Trip to Germany – oh boy this way incredible. We get to hear about his Therma Erding, the World’s largest spa, just outside Munich, Germany. History with Sauna, getting hooked and mental wellbeing – started martial arts, diet and exercise. Moved on to cold water and breathing, finally discovered sauna. All my adult life has unknowingly been searching for powerful ways to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and Insomnia. I was later diagnosed with Aspergers and ADHD which made total sense. Cedar Sauna Company – Knew I needed my own sauna so started a mobile sauna company to share with the UK but then began to import and build barrels from Russia. Realized not to rely on imports and studied sauna construction. Company enquiries are flooding in and the company is going from strength to strength quite rapidly. Sauna in the UK – the scene is growing quickly. There is a huge rise in mobile sauna businesses and I manage a What’s App group with my friend which was created to help mobile sauna entrepreneurs set up and run their own business through sharing information with other businesses owners. In true British fashion, the UK seems to be moulding it’s own sauna culture taken from cultures all over the world including Russian, Finnish, Estonian, Lithuanian and German styles. What is good heat – manageable and breathable. A heat which initially seems mild but creeps up on you almost imperceptibly, sending your heart rate higher and higher until you have to leave. A cold plunge is essential and the thought of which helps me to keep with the heat a little longer. Recurring Sauna Talk questions Mobile sauna anywhere in the world – someone already said space which would be serene but I’m gonna go with a winter riverside landscape with lots of people. Everyone would be invited to strip off and enjoy the sweat. Sauna with anyone – my grandfather. He was a stoker for the navy so I recon he would have taken to sauna quite easily. Favourite sauna moment – cold plunge, before or after. This is where the world goes quiet for me. My normally racing thoughts go quiet and it feels like pure serenity. Sauna helps me to spend longer meditating in the cold. What is most misunderstood about sauna – that it is intense. It shouldn’t be. It should feel as relaxing as a warm bath on a cold day.
Today on Sauna Talk, we meet with photographer George Cory, who is documenting the British sauna movement. George Cory is reporting in from Folkestone on the Southeast Coast of England. He is a current master’s student studying photography and is an avid sauna enthusiast. We catch up with George in his hometown in Great Britain. He is one of the first photographers in the UK to immerse himself in this emerging culture and has so far documented the owners, builders, and users of authentic saunas in the UK. Reflecting the passion of those involved, George takes the opportunity to express the importance of sauna culture. He shares in imagery and dedication how these values are being adopted in Britain. During our visit, you’ll get to hear from George about the exhibition of his photo project ‘Löyly Life’ in his hometown of Folkestone from Monday 15th – Saturday 20th August. The exhibition will also be the launch for a small run of books created that feature the project. The book includes foreword from sauna owner Sam Glyn-Jones and Q&A with Heartwood Saunas founder Olly Davey. British Air offers several non stop flights from North America to Britain, but if you can’t make it to the exhibition but would like to secure a copy of the book, please message George on Instagram @georgecory_ . The photo books are priced at £15 (free shipping unless international)!
Greetings from Sompasauna in Helsinki. Today we visit with Yana who takes us through her deep connection to sauna, from Aufguss at the large public saunas in Germany, to the Danish Sauna Association, and now with her employment with Studio Puisto, a Helsinki based architectural firm that focuses on sustainable hospitality and sauna design. Here we have a look at their new commercial sauna project Saunaravintola, Northeast of Tampere, Finland. Sompasauna To be able to Sauna Talk is one thing, and to be able to Sauna Talk on the bench is another. And today, it was a treat to be Sauna Talk with Yana by the shores of the brackish Baltic Sea at Sompasauna, the world’s only free public sauna open to all at any time day or night. Sauna Aid Yana shares with us the origins of Sauna-Aid, and her involvement with the initiative. The brainchild behind it, and the relationship with the organizations like the International Sauna Association.* Yana introduced herself to me at this year’s World Sauna Forum in Tampere, Finland, along with Heikki Riitahuhta, Partner with Studio Puisto. We later met up for sauna in Helsinki. Hearing her story compelled me to bring out the recorder, and share her love and passion with you. Yana is part of a young generation of sauna enthusiasts. And, like many of us, Yana is motivated to more than just enjoy time on the sauna bench. Sauna-Aid Participating organizations: Japan Sauna Spa Association, Lithuanian Bath Academy, Association of Professional Bathmasters, British Sauna Society, Finnish Sauna Society, Polish Sauna Society, German Sauna Association, Norwegian Sauna Society, Danish Sauna Association, Finnish Embassy in Poland, North American Sauna Society, Swedish Sauna Academy, New Zealand Sauna Society, The Australian Sweat Bathing Association, Finnland-Institut Berlin, Austrian Sauna Society, and the Czech Sauna Association. (More organizations to follow.)
Today on the bench we hear from several guests attending Sauna Days 2022 at Larsmont Cottages. What a great time we had, sharing our collective and individual passions about sauna. We came from all over, but are united in spirit! Let’s here from: 1. Katy, Sisu & Löyly, Grand Rapids, MN. Who has a sauna by the Lake Superior shoreline, build and converted from an old Fish House on site. 2. Eric, Voyageur Saunas. A big fan of the sauna tribe, and sauna builder from Twin Cities, Minnesota. 3. Dan from the The Banya House in Burnsville, Minnesota. 4. Alex from Bsaunas USA. He initially won the Eric Conover Sauna Magic book. as he traveled all the way from Buffalo, NY. 5. Keegan Kittock, Deep Wave Sauna. Building saunas for several years. Meeting new people who share the same passions, with like minded people. 6. Justin, Cedar & Stone Nordic Sauna. “Our world right now is starving for connection… Almost every single time, sauna is the best way to relieve stress.” New people who have never heard about sauna are coming to sauna. We are drawing on tradition. We get to create together and be part of a community.” In Duluth, access to trails are only 1/4 mile away. Nature is right next to us in 218. Justin doesn’t own and run a sauna company, he owns and runs a stress destroying company. 7. Meinrad Signer saunameinrat.com. Manitoba. Sauna rental or group sauna guide. We are living in a climate very similar to Finland and the Baltic states. A lot of his customers are Russian born. 8. Tom Carlson, a Sauna Map Champion from Madison Wisconsin. 9. Darin Mays, Urban Wing Co. Sauna confessions. I’d be in the hot room, and Darin in the cool down room, during Covid. Urban Wing sells patented designed sauna vents. Sleek, clear cedar. Part of a morning dip Sunrise dip into Lake Superior. We adapted the Mindstrong Harvey 5/15. 10. Nick from Arizona. Surprised his wife that Sauna Days is his gift for his wife for Mother’s Day. 11. Andrea and Art, unwind-body-mind.com Spa wellness center in Wisconsin. “Sauna brings what is real.” More meaning and connection. We can serve a lot of people with sauna. 12. Beau, Ben from Hayward, Wisconsin. Beau is starting a sauna rental and sales business in Hayward, WI. 13. Jean, up for the community and experience. Bringing friends in, like Kate. “when you love something, you bring it to the one’s you love.” Let’s go Sauna!
Dr. Jonathan Bricker is a Professor of Public Health Science at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and University of Washington in Seattle. A recipient of over $25 million dollars in research funding, and author of over 110 scientific publications, Dr. Bricker’s research focuses on developing and testing health habits that prevent cancer. He has been enjoying sauna since his first exposure in 1991 as an exchange student in Oulu, Finland. He now enjoys his backyard sauna which he constructed with his family and friends. It’s always a great treat to Sauna Talk on the sauna bench, as opposed to via Zoom, as was the case with many previous episodes during Corona. But today, Jonathan and I were able to sweat it out together in my Minneapolis backyard sauna. As you will hear, Jonathan was in town to visit a studio film set to record a master class on how to quit smoking. In the SaunaTimes post introducing this podcast episode, you’ll find a link to Jonathan’s Bricker’s 2014 Ted Talk entitled “The Secret to Self Control” which, by the way, has over 7 million views. We discuss “willingness” and its association and application to sauna and contrast therapy.