After trying Sydney’s most luxurious new infrared sauna, I’m totally drinking the Kool-Aid – quite literally, as it turns out, ’cause you gotta stay hydrated…
I’m a sucker for a good sauna. My best mate from high school went on exchange to Finland for his ~gap yahr~ and therefore developed an addiction and appreciation for a blisteringly hot sauna, which he also got me hooked on. For years, we’ve conducted an informal yet dedicated review of Sydney’s best public saunas. We take saunas seriously.
But something we’d never tried before was an infrared sauna. Unlike a traditional sauna, where you experience heat as a result of conduction and convection from the heated air and by radiation of the heated surfaces in the sauna room, an infrared sauna instead just uses radiation. Infrared heaters emit infrared light, which is experienced as radiant heat which penetrates the body.
The result? This heat gets deep into your tissues, muscles and cells, increasing oxygen flow and circulation, producing a detoxifying sweat and dissolving harmful substances accumulated in your body, in a deeper cleansing experience than your average sauna.
That all sounds good on paper, but the prospect of essentially roasting yourself under heat lamps sounds a bit strange (or, at least, stranger than steam off hot rocks). That’s why when I was offered the chance to try out a 50-minute session at Rimba Sweat, a luxury infrared sauna near Manly Beach in Sydney, I was curious, but a little hesitant.
I’m glad I went, however, as it was truly worthwhile.
Unlike the sometimes rather gross sauna you might be used to at your local swimming pool, Rimba Sweat offers a properly unique experience. It’s special not just because infrared saunas are uncommon in Australia, but also because it’s a proper luxury experience.
It’s like some sort of Santorini day spa, just fewer hot tubs and more hot boxes. You immediately get zen vibes as soon as you step inside – and those vibes only increase once you start sweating it out in one of the saunas. They offer both individual or twin saunas, so you can sweat with a mate if you like, and I took my sauna aficionado mate with me to do just that.
It’s rather different heating experience, as you’re essentially being heated from the inside out rather than the outside in. Infrared saunas don’t have to get as hot in order for you to feel the same effect as a traditional sauna: the average ambient temperature in an infrared sauna is usually 40-60°C compared to 70-90°C in traditional saunas, which means they’re arguably safer and less harsh on the body.
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While it takes a bit of time to heat up, once the infrared sauna starts going, you start working up a proper sweat very quickly, which surprised me. What was also surprising was how much more bearable it was. Sometimes when you’re in a really hot steam sauna, it can be hard to breathe, especially if you’re standing up or sitting on an upper bench. But you don’t have the same problem in an infrared sauna.
Also, because there’s no steam, Rimba Sweat’s saunas even have tablets built in, so you can watch a film or listen to some music. There’s even a multicoloured chromotherapy light. Apparently, the different colours are supposed to help you relax or stay energised depending on what colour therapy you want… Sounded like a bit of ‘woo’ to me, but it looked cool, so whatever.
Each private sauna room has its own shower – thank god, because I was sweating like a pig afterwards. Yet despite how intense the sweat it produced was, I didn’t feel the same sense of fatigue that I sometimes get with a traditional sauna. Quite the contrary: it was a much more relaxing, soothing experience. My skin also felt way better afterwards.
Some of the health benefits of infrared saunas may be up for debate but I can say from my own experience that I found it to be a far easier, less aggressive undergoing than a traditional sauna session that produced similar if not better results. My sauna expert mate agreed.
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As we left, a rugby player fresh from his morning match rolled in, ready for a recuperative sauna session. That’s perhaps not a surprise, as that’s one of the main use cases for an infrared sauna like this: infrared sauna sessions are great for muscle fatigue and recovery. No wonder sporty Manly locals and pro surfers love coming into Rimba Sweat. No doubt the luxurious fit-out is icing on the cake…
All in all, I was pretty impressed with the infrared sauna experience. The fact that it’s so much less harsh on you than a traditional sauna means that it’s something you can easily incorporate into your daily routine. Indeed, it’s rather meditative, on top of the other health benefits it offers – no wonder luxury infrared sauna spots like Rimba Sweat’s are in such high demand right now.
My only piece of advice? Stay hydrated. Even though there’s no steam doesn’t mean you don’t need any water…