Sweating for Health: From Historic Tradition to Modern Day Healing
Sweating is commonly seen as an undesirable, repulsive function of the body. We do ourselves a disservice by hiding or attempting to curb this natural ability. What is sweating for health really? How can we benefit from this ancient practice of release?
The History of Sweating with Intention
Although “Sweat Lodge” sounds like a great moniker for a fitness chain, the practice of intentional sweating for health is a tradition that is linked to Native American ritual. Tribe members engage in “the sweat” to bring clarity, remove the ego, and come together as a community. Traditionally, a “sweat” is experienced with a specific purpose or intention in mind, such as curing an illness, communicating with the higher self, problem-solving, and spiritual expansion.
Lodges are typically constructed using natural materials, such as wood and animal hides. Once inside the structure, participants are exposed to high temperatures given off by heated stones and steam. Most sessions incorporate sacred offerings (such as tobacco or sage), shamanic drumming, and chanting into the experience. The ceremony leader must be highly experienced and “worthy” of the role, as this practice is not to be taken lightly. Great care must be taken to ensure that participants are safe and protected, as well as respectful of the practice.
Modern Day Practices
Sweating for health has rapidly becoming a practice of interest as health aficionados seek out more effective, holistic ways to remove toxins. Urban sweat lodges are cropping up around the country, because a traditional sweat lodge is far from practical. Rather than utilizing hot, steamy stones, modern sweating practices typically incorporate infrared technology into the experience. FIR (Far Infrared Waves) are similar to sunlight, and penetrate the surface of your skin gently, but deeply. It’s a more efficient and safe way to heat the body. The temperature increases in increments, and makes it easier for the body to adjust to the changes. In an infrared bed, the body is heated from the inside, raising the temperature of the core. Essentially the heat induces a “fever” so that the body’s defenses kick into gear and produce sweat in order to attempt to cool the body down.
The Benefits of Sweating
Sweating cools down the body, and acts as a sort of dumping system for trace toxins. When the kidneys and and liver are overworked (due to an overabundance of toxic substances), the body switches on the sweating mechanism to rid itself of harmful substances. We know that upping our water game by drinking more aids in flushing toxins out of the system.
Sweating it out in an infrared bed can help your body burn an average of 700 calories per session. That’s pretty awesome, considering you don’t have to move a finger in the process. Although pounds can be shed due to water weight alone, the practice itself trains the metabolism. It continues to raise your metabolism for days after the infrared session. All in all, one good sweating session can induce a 1,200-1,400 calorie loss.
When the pores get blocked, the skin responds with inflammation in an attempt to kill the bacteria. This is fine for occasional acne sufferers, or the random skin eruption. However, chronic skin conditions can spell a never ending cycle of inflammation. Thankfully, sweat has antimicrobial properties that eradicate bacteria of various kinds. Once you get a good sweat going, your pores will enjoy relief from bacteria overpopulation. In addition, sweating can help heal wounds more quickly (a phenomenon which is currently under deeper research in the dermatological field), and give you a healthy glow.
Did you know you can alter your DNA by engaging in intentional sweating? This is a more intangible byproduct of infrared therapy. It involves literally and figuratively releasing the memories and conditioning that our cells hold on to. We tend to integrate every impression we receive, good or bad, and begin to immerse ourselves in our own “stories.” Whether your mother told you that you’re too fat, or your elementary school teacher was too critical of your penmanship, your body and mind absorb these experiences and carry them deep within the self. Sweating gives us permission to release toxins of every kind – biological and spiritual alike. Therefore, it’s important to carry an intention with you while you work up a sweat.
Train Your Sweat Glands
Sweating regularly helps the body become more used to the event, even inspiring it to begin cooling the body more quickly during a steam or workout. Sweat glands can become larger with regular “use,” enabling us to release more rapidly.
A good sweat is often accompanied by an increase in endorphins (the “feel good” hormone). Happiness, confidence, and a sunny outlook are welcome side effects of an intense workout (or a healing infrared sweat session).
Sweating for health is, in essence, a way to remove what is no longer needed from the body. Sophie Chiche is the owner of Sweat House, an urban sweat lodge. She uses an illuminating analogy for this process. Sophie likens the unhealthy body to a car that’s overdue for maintenance; suggesting that the body runs better once the “crap” is removed from it.
“We give the body an opportunity to empty itself of the stuff that it doesn’t need… It’s a very simple concept. It’s very commonsensical, for me, to take the machine, the car, to the mechanic Shape House, and have us offer a process that allows your body to eliminate the stuff that it doesn’t need.”
We naturally strive for homeostasis, bringing balance and stability to the many functions of the body. The body desires to heal. It’s up to us to ensure that we give it plenty of ways to do so. By sweating for health, we let go and allow – enabling the body to regain the strength and capability to heal itself.
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