Infrared Sauna Review

As you’ve probably noticed from my recent posts (Exhibit A, Exhibit B), I’ve spent most of 2019 in self-care mode, or really recovery/healing mode. Much of this time has been doing the less fun things like going to doctors, physical therapy, and working hard to keep myself positive and motivated while my ankle recovers, but it hasn’t been all serious.

Infrared saunas have become all the rage for detoxing and, in a desperate attempt to help with inflammation, relax, and sweat (sweat withdrawal is real), I decided it was time to give it a go. Before I get into the review, I want to note that this is based on two sessions at Nao Wellness. Like everything in life, I’m sure everywhere you go will be a totally unique experience, in fact these two sessions were wildly different from each other.

It’s like I took this knowing one day I’d be writing about a sauna. Also… “disco inferno!”

It’s like I took this knowing one day I’d be writing about a sauna. Also… “disco inferno!”

After doing my research, I believe that many of the benefits touted by proponents of infrared saunas are without merit. That said, it’s not harmful and above all is very relaxing, or can be if done correctly, and I’m all for anything that can provide space from the world and calm the mind.

My first trip to NW was stressful at best. I was two days post-sprain and in pretty poor shape both mentally and physically. While I love that NW is a shoeless space, walking without sneakers, let alone getting them on/off, was not easy. Upon check in, I let the woman at the front desk know it was my first time but I received no instructions. Luckily I happened to pick up the guide sitting in the waiting area which went through the instructions and informed me that I could adjust the color of the sauna. (I kept it on red as the alleged benefits of red were most aligned with my reasons for being there.) The woman asked if I wanted some water, which I assumed was just for my wait. Unfortunately I declined and to my dismay, this would be my only chance for water, leading to 30 min. in the sauna without any.

For the first session, I booked just 30 min. Personally, I didn’t find this to be long enough, especially as the timer begins as soon as the staff leave the room, meaning that undressing/getting in the sauna is part of your session time. I chose to bring my phone in, but quickly found this distracting and placed it back outside.

“It’s getting hot in herre..”

“It’s getting hot in herre..”

The sauna room has sandals, towels, and a plastic tote bag which I assume is to transport your things to the shower. I spent the whole time stressing over this and if I had to shower there/how I would carry my stuff- remember, I could only sort of put weight on my foot at this point. Ultimately, this session made me sweat but left me feeling more anxious than calm. I had a feeling so much of this was due to the lack of hospitality and instructions I got so I decided to try again.

My second trip to NW was much better. Unbeknownst to me, one of my favorite studio staff from a fitness studio now works there and she was on duty when I arrived! She walked me through the colors (I kept mine red again) and this time I knew to take water and put my phone outside on airplane. Full disclosure: I forgot to ask about the sandals/tote bag situation, but I knew I wasn’t going to shower there anyway. For this session, I reserved an hour and it was perfection. I did open the door and have some water but an hour was the perfect amount of time to truly unwind and I didn’t mind losing a few minutes to getting in my towel and into the sauna.

Before I go into my takeaway, a few thoughts on NW. With it’s below street-level location, shoeless policy, and decor, NW feels very cozy but pristine. The couch in the waiting area feels like the perfect place to catch up with friends … or nap 😊The bathroom and sauna rooms are immaculate and very well-maintained. In addition to the infrared saunas (there are two and you can do a joint session with a friend/partner), they offer reiki, nutrition programs, and workshops in similar wellness areas. I can’t speak to their other services, but I may try the reiki.

Now for what you came for: The verdict. I liked the sauna, but I didn’t love it and I don’t think I’ll be booking a session again, at least not any time soon. I can’t say that I noticed any improvement to my ankle, nor do I think the sessions did anything else claimed. That said, I did notice that the day after both sessions, my skin looked clearer. All in all, it wasn’t a total waste, but if you’re in need of a good sweat and/or relaxation, I’d put your money and time towards a workout, meditation session, or a massage.

Have you tried infrared saunas?