With ever more studies pointing to the benefits of sweating — from increased longevity and athletic endurance to decreased pain and anxiety — Sauna 2.0 led this year's trend report from the Global Wellness Summit.
One of the breakout sessions for the 500 or so doctors, spa directors, hospitality executives and other industry pros in attendance was "Sauna Aufguss: Hot Doesn't Get Any Cooler Than This."
Auf-what? Unpronounceable though it may look, it actually emerged as one of the summit's big buzzwords. Translated literally from the German, Aufguss means infusion. But the looser translation — party in a sauna, basically — is what's resonating across Europe, where so-called sauna-meisters are using ever more elaborate rituals (song! dance!) to infuse hot air with aromatherapy … and fun.
Not that the party sauna will remain the sole province of Europeans for long. You can already find North American Aufguss sessions — and DJ-manned sauna soirees — at Nordik, a massive spa in Quebec. Closer to home, the designers at Seal Beach's Blu Spas Inc. have developed a similar concept they'll start unveiling across the U.S. later this year: "Using lessons we've learned around the world, whether from the Turkish hammam, the Mexican temazcal or the Russian banya, we've updated our favorite elements and put everything into a fun, social context — think sauna as indoor-outdoor playground," says co-founder Doug Chambers.
And as with every wellness trend, Angelenos are all in for a good sweat. Thus, the crowds outside the Traveling Sauna when it pulled into a street fair in Duarte earlier this year — right alongside the Korean wings truck and the pupusa mobile. A compact wooden chamber, complete with multi-level seating, a wood-burning stove and perhaps most amazingly, a shower, this purpose-built trailer is road-tripping across the U.S. throughout 2017 to celebrate 100 years of independence in the spiritual birthplace of the sauna: Finland.
But L.A.'s favorite take on the trend? Infrared saunas, said to heat you from within, detox and de-stress you — oh, and burn calories. Though the exact figure is up for debate (claims range from 100 to 1,000 calories per session), fans don't seem to mind the margin of error. Take Shape House, where you'll find, essentially, your own sauna in the form of an infrared-heated sleeping bag — and a TV to watch while you power shvitz. Having opened a fourth location less than a year ago, the self-styled urban sweat lodge is such a hit (fans include Emma Roberts, Selena Gomez and yes, the Kardashians) that the brand is going national this year.
Meanwhile, new variations on the theme continue to crop up all over Los Angeles. Consider these three:
Located on a busy Culver City street, this space — which primarily serves as a float studio — is surprisingly serene the second you slip inside. When you enter the sauna chamber, you'll turn off the light, let the infrared rays warm you and the overhead fixture (a Lite Brite-recalling installation that changes colors every few seconds) soothe you as the minutes fly by. Prices start at $29. PauseFloatStudio.com
Lined with hundreds of jade spheres and emitting a range of infrared light, the SaunaPods at this Brentwood hideaway claim extra healing and soothing powers. As if to prove the point, this writer dozed off inside one. Prices for customized treatments start at $70. SaunaBar.com
Splurge: Le Plaza Spa Medi Spa & Massage
At the Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel, you can get all manner of massages and body treatments atop a cushiony infrared-emitting bed (there's an optional infrared dome you can pop over the bed, should you want the surround-sauna experience). But the newest addition to the spa menu is the Infusion Ionzyme Facial, during which the infrared bed opens your pores for maximum absorption of the treatment's vitamins A and C, among other customizable skin revivers, as you're being lulled into, well, La La Land. $85 to $250. beverlyhillsplazahotel.com, plazamedspa.com