Thursday, March 17, 2011

The cathartic use of sauna

Of the recreational interests I have pursued that have stuck with me for a long time, I think many have a cathartic function in the sense that they relieve stress by allowing me to experience suffering in a form that is healthier because it is easier to address.  Exercise, like riding a bike, is not just about looking at the scenery, it is also about pushing my physical endurance to its limits.  A runner thrills at testing her stamina to see how long she can persevere before giving up.  (Unfortunately, more often the runner's body fails before her stubborn resolve.)  Tests of physical ability and stamina are varied, and can even involve forms of deprivation; this is because self-control is synonymous with stamina.  My interest in saunas is no different.  For some people, or at least myself, the mild suffering of enduring the high temperature and humidity inside a sauna before re-emerging into the cool outdoor air is very cathartic.  And honestly, it is a stretch to describe the experience of a good sauna as coming anywhere near "suffering."  Coincidentally, from Wikipedia I learned:  catharsis is a Greek word meaning "cleansing" or "purging". It is derived from the verb καθαίρειν, kathairein, "to purify, purge," and it is related to the adjective καθαρός, katharos, "pure or clean."  A sauna can help purge physical and mental stress from your body, while purging your skin of toxins.

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