I’m not a fan of winter.
I’ve been freezing on my morning commute walking to and from the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry. Sometimes I even jog from my car to the office so I can get inside as quickly as possible.
But then I discovered saunas.
This week I went to Q Sauna & Spa in Lynnwood in the hopes of escaping from the cold, if only for a bit, while also sweating off some stress (and maybe a few extra pounds) that I’ve been carrying during my winter-long hibernation from exercise.
My trip to the sauna helped me escape the winter blues, but maybe that’s because the rain and snow were stressing me out.
Some history: The oldest saunas date back 10,000 years. Europeans threw hot water on hot stones to produce steam and warm their dwellings during winter. In Korea, since at least the 15th century, they have been promoted for their health benefits, mainly the treatment of illnesses.
Medical studies have shown the dry heat that causes people to sweat also releases endorphins, increases blood flow, burns calories, lowers blood pressure and soothes some chronic pains such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Saunas can also help people sleep better, cleanse their skin and relieve stress (but not “sweat out toxins;” that’s a myth). In other words, a sauna should make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
I always pictured saunas as small rooms with wooden walls and benches where people wrapped in towels would sit in heated misery before washing off the sweat in a cold shower. But that wasn’t my experience at Q Sauna & Spa, which opened in 2017. I decided to check it out because it has excellent reviews online.
The saunas here are coed. Patrons are given cozy uniforms to wear.
The Korean-style heated rooms are inspired by hundreds of years of Eastern traditions. The walls are covered in different minerals and organic materials for myriad benefits.
There’s a rock salt room (136 degrees) to relieve aches and stress, a charcoal room (134 degrees) to help cleanse the blood and lungs, a yellow clay room (128 degrees) for skin treatment, rheumatic diseases and recovery from varying ailments, and a jade room (109 degrees) to ease muscle tension and arthritis pain.
You can go at your own pace and experience all four, which is what I did in five to 10-minute spurts. A fifth space, called the “Snow Room,” for cooling off, is set at 60 degrees. It was surprisingly cold after the insanely hot rock salt room, but after five minutes I felt refreshed enough to go back in a sauna.
I imagined I was sunbathing in Southern California, then cooling off at a mountain ski resort.
A day pass with access to the sauna and spa costs $30. Q Sauna & Spa’s facilities also include jacuzzis, steam saunas, a relaxation room, hair salon, skin and nail care, and massages. It’s owned by Sunjochi Choi of Lynnwood, a native of South Korea, where saunas are ubiquitous. About half of her business serves returning clients who visit on the weekends; the other half are first-timers like me.
How often do people visit to escape the cold?
“Every day,” she said.
The trick to a safe sauna experience is staying hydrated and not exposing yourself to the heat for too long. You’ll want to sit inside for no more than 10 to 15 minutes. If done correctly, the body should feel refreshed and not tired.
“As long as you’re constantly hydrating yourself, you’ll be fine,” Choi said. “It’s very relaxing. When you go to the gym, you feel tired. But the sauna is the opposite.”
While the physical benefits of saunas are well-documented, are there are any psychological benefits?
Not exactly, according to one local clinical psychologist.
Dr. Kira Mauseth, of Snohomish Psychology Associates, said she wasn’t aware of any data specifically pointing to psychological benefits from saunas. But acts of self-care generally help.
“It would be similar to anyone committed to an exercise regimen,” Mauseth said. “It reduces stress hormones and increases positive moods.”
Sunshine is still the more proven method for coping with winter, she said.
Mauseth added that saunas visits could promote stress-relieving socialization. If you have a friend who also wants to blow off some steam, consider taking them with you.
Part of me wishes I would have visited the sauna sooner. Because now, I know how to steam away my winter blues.
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
Q Sauna & Spa in Lynnwood is at 17420 Highway 99, Lynnwood.
A day pass to the men and women’s sauna and spas is $30. It also has various other facilities, including jacuzzis, steam saunas, a relaxation room, restaurant and hair salon. More at www.qspalynnwood.com.
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