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Hot Yoga moves - So what is Sauna Yoga?

By Patrick Drew, updated November, 2013
yoga
Photographer: Charlotta Boucht

You heard right! Sauna yoga! And as you might have guessed — it is done in a Sauna! Not to be confused with Bikram that is yoga style done in a "relatively" hot (40°C or 104°F) room — Sauna Yoga is hot yoga moves actually performed… in a Sauna!

Sauna Yoga is actually performed… in a Sauna!

Invented in the motherland of the sauna, Finland, by Tiina Vainio, Sauna Yoga is an attempt to marry the complementary benefits of yoga, Pilates, and meditation in a room that is very conducive to quiet and peacefulness. I have personally never been inside a sauna with loud, screaming, and shouting people — there always is an atmosphere of quiet and peacefulness. Given that, going to a sauna forms such a large part of the Finnish culture it should not come as such a surprise that there is now a yoga form being practiced in one.

In fact — the practice of going to a sauna in Finland is one that has been researched to go back about 2000 years in history. Practitioners of these hot sweaty "baths" associate them with many positive benefits including healing and having preventative and cleansing properties. Some Finns state that the reason they live long and healthy lives is due the sauna. These are akin to the sweat lodges of the Native Americans — who also swear by their benefits.

When in a sauna there are a number of physiological effects that happen to the body, including an increase in your metabolism and pulse / hear rate, the blood vessels becoming more flexible and your joints receiving an increase in circulation, as well as helping you to sweat out your toxins. And this is all while sitting down quietly. Imagine then doing certain physical activities in this same hot space.

Furthermore there are the mental aspects and benefits of going to a sauna. Typically most people explain that there is a profound feeling of peace, happiness, and quiet that envelops you in a sauna. Some people also claim that there are minor medical benefits to the sauna including the prevention / cure of minor colds, clearing up of complexion (this through the sweating) and helps relieve muscles after a tough workout by helping the blood flow to remove lactic acids and other byproducts of a hard workout from the muscles.

When in a sauna there are a number of physiological effects that happen to the body…
yoga
Photographer: Vuokko Salo

The practice of these hot yoga moves called Sauna Yoga consists of a 30-minute period of exercise (and if you have ever been in a Finnish sauna believe me that this is plenty of time), which is broken up into 6 asanas (poses), which are conducted while sitting on the benches. In particular it is purported to be very relaxing! The interesting thing about the 6-asana series is that Tiina Vainio has decided to break them up in 4 yearly seasons. So there will be a summer series, autumn, winter, and spring.

The entire 30 minutes is conducted at once — though at a lower temperature than normal, of 50°C or 122°F.

The initial pose always stretches the head and neck, which among other things, increases the flexibility in your spine. Then there is the "Solar Salutation" as Tiina calls it, which also flexes the spine. This is then followed by the Sauna "Warrior" — which is no longer seated but a standing leg exercise. This you are to hold for 6 breaths and will get to be quite tough! Then comes a seated leg twisting exercise for leg flexibility, followed by some abdominal work, and finally a hip opener pose.

This is one of the hottest (literally), if not THE hottest, yoga styles around these days — you can find Sauna yoga classes in some 60 cities — though all in Finland. Being that it is Finland, many companies though have decided to offer Sauna Yoga to their employees — because of course many companies have a sauna in Finland — So there are now 160 instructors who will help teach you these techniques.

One of the hottest (literally) if not THE hottest, yoga styles around these days is Sauna Yoga.

Tiina Vainio is currently working on extending the sphere of Sauna Yoga's hot yoga moves out of the Finnish realm, and has made inroads into saunas in Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Estonia. This particular style of yoga is growing fast and is gaining large popularity! I look forward to the day it comes here so I can practice it for myself!

yoga
Photographer: Charlotta Boucht

There is though a slight caveat — as these hot yoga moves are conducted in a 50-degree hot sauna (and thus are very effective) you need to be very careful not to overextend your muscles and joints. As always, try to find a good instructor and they should be able to guide you through this amazing new, hot yoga style.

Remember to drink lots of water before and after doing any exercises in a sauna.



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