Everything You Need to Know About Steam Rooms vs. Hot Yoga vs. Saunas
Steam rooms have long been a healing and rejuvenating mechanism for humans. In fact, using a steambath to fill a room with hot steam for relaxation is a practice that dates back to ancient Roman and Greek periods. In the distant past, Roman baths were heated by natural hot springs beneath them, and since then, we’ve taken the concept of a steam shower or steam bath to the next level. From luxury spas to hot yoga sessions, steam has infused its way into hearts and homes of people around the world.
The Benefits of Steam Sessions
“Just 15 minutes in the steam room…stimulates circulation, increases perspiration, and eliminates toxins,” dermatologist Dr. Engelman, MD, told Refinery29. Here are some other benefits you should be aware of:
- It can improve your circulation. Multiple studies have found that sitting in steam can have a positive impact on the cardiovascular system. Ultimately, this can lead to a healthier heart.
- Lower blood pressure. According to some studies, many people release hormones that change their heart rate when they sit in a steam room. Those hormones include aldosterone, which helps to regulate your blood pressure. When aldosterone is relaxed while you’re sitting in a steam room, your blood pressure naturally lowers, allowing you to relax.
- Helps reduce stress. Another reason why steam is so relaxing is because it reduces the body’s production of cortisol, the hormone that causes stress.
- Clears up sinuses and congestions. You may have noticed that after you’ve sat in a hot shower for a while, your stuffy nose starts to clear up. In fact, one study found that when children with respiratory infections sat in a steam bath, they were more likely to recover quickly.
- Give your immune system a boost. Leukocytes are cells that fight infections, and when those cells are exposed to warm water and steam, they become stimulated.
“When the skin gets warm, the capillaries and vessels dilate, causing nutrient-rich blood and oxygen to be brought to the cells,” says celebrity aesthetician Renée Rouleau. “Blood circulation is what feeds the skin and its cells and keeps them acting healthy, while giving the skin a glow from within.”
Steam Sessions: What to Watch Out For
As you can see, there are plentiful benefits of steam rooms. On the same token, too much of anything can be harmful, so it’s also important to keep a few key things in mind. Staying in a steam room for too long can cause the body to dehydrate, so it’s important that you don’t stay in steam rooms for over 15 minutes. And it’s best to drink water before you head in.
Additionally, you should use moisturizer immediately after you exit your steam session. This will help you lock in the moisture from the steam room; otherwise, your skin could end up more dry than before you went in. Therefore, always lock in your hydration with oils, lotions, or creams.
Furthermore, some steam rooms can be a haven for bacteria from other people. Although generally speaking, hot temperatures tend to kill bacteria, there are some bacteria that thrive in these heated environments. Always read reviews before you visit any steam rooms, spas, and saunas to learn more about what other people’s experiences have been like and how clean those facilities are. If you think you plan on taking advantage of steam benefits often, consider investing in steam shower installation for your home, where you can enjoy steam baths as often as you’d like, and will have peace of mind knowing you’re taking care of the cleaning.
And lastly, although steam sessions have plenty of circulatory and immune system benefits, it should be noted that this doesn’t mean it’s a cure all for some ailments or infections. And although it can mimic the body’s response to exercise, it doesn’t replace exercise.
Steam Room vs. Sauna vs. Hot Yoga
It’s also important to know the difference between a few key terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. For example, there’s a difference between a hot sauna and a steam room. Steam rooms are heated using boiling water, while saunas are often heated from closed stoves and hot rocks.
A sauna will help the body loosen up and relax the muscles, however, a steam room typically has a higher amount of health benefits. The biggest difference between a steam room, a sauna, and bikram yoga is the humidity (moisture) in the room, which, as previously mentioned, is chock full of benefits. Here’s how humidity breaks down in each of these categories:
- Sauna: 100%
- Hot yoga/bikram: 40%
- Sauna: up to 20%
Hot Yoga & the Steam Effect
Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, is a great way to combine the positive aspects of steam with mental wellness and physical activity. Just as with any form of intense exercise, when you sweat during hot yoga, it helps your body to detoxify, and this encourages you to consume more water that the body needs. And when combined with a higher water intake, it helps your cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal systems, and urinary systems work much better. You also tend to burn more calories and improve your flexibility and muscle tone. When you’re finished with a hot yoga session, you’ll leave feeling cleansed and ready for the day.