“What’s in your driveway?” A wide-eyed emoji followed my neighbor’s curious text.
Busted! It’s impossible to fly under the radar with a giant sauna on wheels hanging out in my driveway. Was I a terrible neighbor for not inviting anyone to test drive the sauna with me? This was serious research, not a block party.
The practice of taking a sauna is well established in Europe, so it’s not surprising that Bring Me Sauna founder Monika Marketos is originally from Poland. Before the pandemic, she took her daily schvitz at Westerly’s YMCA. But when COVID closed down the gym, she was desperate for her daily dose of dry heat. She enlisted her handy husband to build a dry sauna (one that uses burning wood for the heat) but had the inspired idea to make it mobile. A small business was born.
The benefits of sauna are seemingly endless. It reduces stress, helps alleviate aches and pains, and lowers inflammatory markers. There are even studies that point to cardiovascular benefits of regular sauna bathing. (Don’t give up your gym membership just yet, and always consult your doctor first, particularly if you have high blood pressure.)
For those reasons, I wanted to love saunas, but – full disclosure – I was not that person. My husband was more excited to give this a test drive. He swears by sauna. For our honeymoon in the Poconos (don’t judge), we got the deluxe room that included a two-story champagne glass tub, a heart-shaped swimming pool, and a tiny sauna. I lasted about two minutes in the dry heat. It felt like I was on the Las Vegas strip in the middle of July at high noon. (Dear reader, that’s the last place you want to be.)
“Oh, you need a cap,” Marketos said when I explained my trepidation.
According to Marketos, sauna caps, which are made from wool or felt, come from the Russian sauna tradition. Counterintuitively, the cap keeps your head cool, making the sauna’s 220 degree heat easier to tolerate. Willing to try anything for a story, I grabbed my cap and, with the fire stoked, headed to my driveway.
Pride goeth before the sauna. The hat made me look like an overgrown Keebler elf. Fashion aside, the cap was magic. The high heat wasn’t suffocating; in fact, it felt glorious. At Marketos’ suggestion, after 15 minutes, I left the sauna for the plunge pool. Embracing my inner Wim Hoff (extreme athlete and cold exposure devotee), I slid into water that was just-above-freezing degrees. I am pretty sure my sauna-heated body sizzled when it hit the liquid. While the impact of the cold was jarring at first, it felt amazing after baking for so long. When my teeth started chattering, I headed back into the sauna to do it all over again.
By the time I finished four rounds of heating and plunging, I was a noodle from serotonin overload. I’d never felt so serene. Even the next day, my normal aches and pains were diminished.
Bring Me Sauna does all the heavy lifting; all you have to do is step inside. They bring not only the sauna, but the cold plunge pool and several cords of wood, enough to keep the fire stoked for the 24 hours you have the rental. As add-ons, you can purchase the handmade hats and a sauna scent — essentially a large sachet of birch and other aromatic herbs placed in the water used to douse the hot rocks, adding some aromatherapy to your session.
If an overnight sauna rental is not in your budget, Bring Me Sauna hosts a monthly Full Moon Sauna at Country Wellness Center in North Stonington. The next one happens on April 16.
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