In the dead of winter in New York, the last thing that you think about doing is sweating. Obviously, you can hit the gym, maybe a hot yoga class, but what about sweating just for sweat sake? I recently visited Shapehouse in New York, also known as 'An Urban Sweat Lodge' where you go and do just that, sweat. The concept of perspiring for your health has existed since ancient times - everyone from the Greeks, Romans to Native Americans believed that sitting and sweating for a prolonged amount of time had benefits, Hippocrates said, “Give me the power to create a fever and I shall cure every illness.”
Shapehouse started in Los Angeles by Sophie Chiche after she realized the power of getting rid of the toxins and losing weight from exposure to FAR infared heat. Unlike harmful ultraviolet rays, infared warms you from the inside with tempeartures that can reach up to a sweltering 158 degrees Fahrenheit - I experienced a lower dose since I have MS and heat isn't particularly good for it. Recently they opened outposts in Manhattan with locations in the Flatiron, Upper East Side and the Hamptons, which is open on the weekends only during off-peak times. I checked out their Flatiron location and here is the breakdown of my 55 minute session.
It was a cold and blustery day in New York, so the though of tucking into an infared sleeping bag sounded like exactly what I needed. They provide a super comfortable outfit that you slip on prior. ONe they have wrapped you up inside the blanket you have the option to watch TV - you can choose from a variety of programs on Hulu and Netflix. When in doubt, since I don't really watch that much TV, I went for an episode of Seinfeld (20 minutes) and an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (40 minutes).
I make sure to drink the entire bottle of water Shapehouse provides and rang the bell to ask for another. I started to feel the heat penetrate my skin and felt rather claustrophobic, since your arms and hands are tucked inside.
Okay, so this is where I begin to get a little uncomfortable. I am the type of person that doesn't like to sweat during thesummer, so I am questioning why I decided to do this in the first place! My skin feels so warm that I reach one of my arms outside the blanket. I got a moment of repreive when the staff comes in and checks on you and places a cool lavender scented towel on your forehead. The cold towel turns warm and I begin dripping sweat from my forehead. I notice my heart beating faster, but they said this would happen, so I am not worried.
The first program ended and I am thinking if I want to equate one of my favorite TV shows, Curb Your Enthusiasm with being so uncomfortable. I can hear the editor next to me moving around and I can't help but do the same thing. I flip the towel hoping it will feel cool, it does, but then slowly turns cold again. I keep doing this to try to cool down.
I ring the bell and ask for more water. I am regretting the fact that I didn't drink my normal amount for the day since I had been running around to meetings prior to arriving. I know that the session has to be almost finished so I suck it up and put both arms back into the heated blanket, which lasted only a few minutes, before an arm came out.
I have entered a state of full on discomfort. Do I get up and say I have had enough or just wait it out? I can hear the attendents helping the person next to me, so I know that I must be next. I was very happy when they came and said I could go and relax in the lounge area. They offer you orange slices - an orange had never tasted so refreshing or delicious - and advise you to melt into the room and get your blood pressure back into a normal range. After sitting there, I felt the way I recall after a hot yoga session when you have sweat so much your body feels just lighter.
My Sleep that Night
Let's just say this, I slept like a baby. Truthfully, with deadlines and some looming issues, I cannot recall a time in the past few weeks that I woke up feeling so refreshed.
So Why Sweat for Sweat Sake?
There are many benefits to sweating, including weight loss - it revs your metabolism, in fact one session typcially burns between 800 to 1,600 calories. It also promotes skin health, since regular sweating opens your pores and helps remove impurities. In addition, it helps with sleep, stress and general quality of life.
This being said, would I do it again? Perhaps, since I know what to expect. I wouldn't do it in the summer, but perhaps on a really cold day when I need to act like I am in the tropics I would definitely consider it.