Saunas, in my book, are not a relaxing indulgence. I’ll sit in a sauna, sure. The whole, time, though, I’m wondering: how much longer do I need to sit here in silence with these strangers. At 11 minutes in, have I soaked up enough benefits health benefits? Can I leave the awkward sweaty silence, yet?
At Dew Sweat House they’ve done away with the hoi polloi. Toronto’s first, and only, sweating-focused destination promises customers the “ancient benefits of sweating (like relaxation and detoxification) in a modern way,” which translates to a sauna-like heat experience in the privacy of your own curtained-off bed. And, instead of a wooden room, the heat comes from infrared heat blankets that push your core temperature into sweat zone: forcing out toxins (the age-old promise of sweat therapy) without the fuss and bother of a Japanese onsen or an Arabic hammam. Perfect for those who crave a dry heat-driven sweat while reclining in a comfy bed.
Before I arrive, I get an email telling me to wear loose cotton clothes and to hydrate. As for what to wear: the closest thing I have are my “It’s -25°c outside PJs.” I imagine that the sweat-dedicated temple will be full of yogi types in elegant Kit and Ace outfits.
As soon as I arrive at the airy east end spot, owner Sue Kuruvilla puts me at ease. Pyjamas are common attire she tells me before tucking me into my infrared cocoon. Because I’m athletic, my session starts and ends at 70°c. (Some start at 60°c, while the most dedicated perspirers endure 78°c sessions.) I commit to a Netflix show (RuPaul), the noise-cancelling headphones go on, and the 55-minute session begins.
The first 40 minutes is a pleasant warm lounge—somewhat like sunbathing minus the sun, sand and sea. Then, as the RuPaul contestants face elimination, suddenly my heart rate begins to tick up. The sweat beads begin to annoy. I begin to feel more and more like a burrito that’s being led by Dante (in this case RuPaul) towards hell’s sweaty epicentre.
A cooling lavender-scented cloth is applied to my brow. It helps for a moment. When will this hour be up? I begin to fixate on the clock: nine minutes left.
I open the blanket to check my heartrate tracker: 90 BPM—the equivalent of a light jog. I drain the mint-lemon water sitting on my bedside table, then tuck back in and struggle through the final minutes focusing solely on the countdown. When the machine beeps signalling my release, I rejoice.
After I change out of my sweat-soaked clothes, it takes another half hour for my heart rate to return to normal. My always taught muscles have loosened, and that night, I have a fabulously deep sleep.
During the sun-anemic depth of winter, the hour-long broil was a nice reprieve from the cold. It heated my bones, loosened taught fascia, and was appealed to my inner curmudgeon, keen to sweat privately. I, however, am a heat wimp, I have discovered.
Dew Sweat House, 811 Gerrard St E, dewsweathouse.com