Do you Aufguss? I hadn’t until this last Saturday night and I can’t wait to do it again.
Don’t know what Aufugss is?? Aufguss is defined below:
“This sauna experience combines high heat (like a Finnish sauna) with lots of steam (like a Russian banya), with some aromatherapy mixed in. It’s guided (a bit like a yoga class) by a “sauna meister,” who encourages you to stretch your limits of tolerance for heat and cold.”
The above quote was taken from a Star Tribune article and you can read the entire thing HERE.
A few years ago I got in a great routine of utilizing the sauna because it was one way I could relax, sweat (which helps your circulatory system amongst other things) and I started training myself on hot/cold therapy.
Sauna for 8-10 minutes, take a cold shower for 1-2 minutes and repeat.
I have said many times recently that I miss doing the sauna and when this experience was gifted to me, I got really excited (and super nervous).
I knew a few things going in:
- It was going to be HOT (likely hotter than any sauna I had done before)
- There would be other people there – strangers
- It was ok to leave if it got too hot
- It would involve hot and cold
- But that was really about it
I was going alone and nervous about a group sauna experience and I figured everyone would have done it before. Turns out, we were all new so there was nothing to worry about.
It was an incredible experience. In so many ways.
We did a warm up sauna where Alex, our sauna meister, talked with us about his origins with sauna in Germany and why he is so passionate about bringing it to the US. He also told us what to expect with the heat, steam, essential oils and the cold therapies in between. Luckily we were not doing the sauna naked like they do in Europe. 🙂
We were instructed to do the following process to get the most out of our experience:
- Stand outside on the roof to cool down
- Cold shower
- Back to the sauna for the next round
The first official round of Aufguss was expectedly hot but I was pleasantly surprised by how much the lemon/orange essential oils impacted my experience. They were there to stimulate the senses and these particular oils were used to wake you up on the first round. The heat was tolerable and Alex led us through some breathing exercises and also explained how Aufguss is kind of like endurance races (now I was listening!)
Aufguss is like endurance racing because you have to put your mind over your body and let it know you will be ok. It was going to get hotter and hotter and it was going to challenge my mindset. But of course, once he compared it to racing, I was up for the challenge. And I did channel my inner 24 hour competitor and remind myself that nothing lasts forever and I am capable of pushing through the uncomfortable.
What makes Aufguss such a unique experience is that the sauna meister, Alex, uses a towel and different techniques to basically push hot air around the sauna. It becomes like waves of heat rushing toward you that can make you feel claustrophobic all of a sudden. There were times I was “bracing for impact” of these heat waves.
I also find it very humorous that I dislike summer, I hate sweating (unless exercising) but YET, I love the sauna. I think it’s because it is so relaxing deep into my body.
Alright, back to Aufguss.
It felt incredible to be out on the rooftop after the first round, to take that cold shower and then soak in the pool. Then we went back in and the second round was hard and I almost left.
The smell was pinewood and we all joked that he was transporting us further “up north.” Most of the people left the sauna early on this round because of the intense heat. I decided I would stay as long as I physically felt fine and if I knew my mind was what was telling me to leave.
The heat was intense and many times I wanted to walk out. I chose to focus on my breathing, calming my body, saying positive mantras and reminding myself that I can do hard things.
I felt my body twitching, moving and becoming anxious. My mind was also racing and anxious because it could feel the nerves about being hot.
The third round was easier and he used peppermint and eucalyptus as the oils. I could feel my body easing into the routine of sauna/cold/sauna/cold
SO. MUCH. SWEAT
And it felt incredible. A friend asked me when I was done if I was tired and I said “I’m exhausted to the core but yet feel so energized and ready to take on the world.”
When I reflect upon my experience I think about how it’s not about the heat and the sweat. Just like how so many things in life are not really about the “thing.” It’s your interpretation, what you make it mean, how you handle it, if you can breathe through it, and if you can remember that nothing is forever. Even pain.
The overwhelming heat is temporary and I can make it a big deal in my head – OR NOT. It was an incredible lesson in mindfulness, breathing, and calming my own nerves. Something I need to take into my every day life.
As I sat there with sweat pouring out of every possible pore of my body, I was calm, excited, nervous, anxious, mindful and also in the company of strangers. Alex shared with us that the real benefit of Aufguss sauna is doing it with strangers. Being in a room (a really small sweaty room at that) is powerful and he’s right. I could feel everyone having their own struggle, I could hear their breathing, and I could feel the calm radiating out of everyone else.
We were strangers when we walked in, we had a shared experience and left knowing a few more people and experiencing a similar thing. We do not do this often anymore. We live very isolated lives and stick with the people we know. I told several people that I went alone and each one said “wow-that’s brave.” When in fact, it’s what we should all be doing more of.
Maybe sitting in a sweaty small box with strangers is not your way of pushing your limits and learning more about yourself but I know you can find something.
Find something that makes you make this face when you experience it!