higher dose | new york, new york
This onset of brutal cold feels like an appropriate time to talk about one of my favorite "wellness" places in NYC - Higher Dose. Pretty much the OG of infrared saunas, Higher Dose has become one of my go-to spots when I need some time to myself to just sit, sweat, think, and chill. Much more than just a sauna, Higher Dose provides not just a beautiful place to sit and unwind, but there's some pretty great health benefits to infrared as well (plus they have LED color therapy lights - more on that in a second). That said, I'll be honest - in writing this I did have to research whether or not there's the science behind what it says it does and what I've found to be true - and although some of it holds up scientifically and some doesn't, I do know that I've seen first hand numerous benefits from even just one session.
First, how it works. In a traditional sauna, your body heats from the outside in, so temps inside that little box tend to be a bit higher (185-195 Fahrenheit), and for those that can't handle heat as well, sitting in a sauna for an extended period of time can be less than enjoyable. Infrared heats your body from the inside out, similar to the way a good workout does, so the temps are a bit lower (120-150 Fahrenheit), and you continue sweating a lot longer once you leave. In the sauna, you do have control over how hot it is, the lighting and the music (there's an iPhone jack - clutch). Plus there's private space outside the sauna if you do need to take a break from the heat. Although they say there's some great health benefits to the chromotherapy light (reduce swelling, pain reduction, anti-aging, collagen and elastin production), in my experience it's the emotional connection to color that I find most beneficial. I won't get too much into it here, but between Western science and psychology connecting certain colors to certain benefits such as stress and anxiety reduction or feelings of empowerment and strength, and Eastern thinking connecting certain colors to the chakras and stages of enlightenment - chromotherapy is no joke. Each Higher Dose sauna has a light setting that runs through each of the colors on loop. Personally, I like to let it cycle a couple times before settling on one - choosing whatever color happens to be calling my name that day.
Now, the benefits. Higher Dose outlines nine in particular: detoxification, calorie burn, pain relief, anti-aging, de-stress/relaxation, improved circulation and cell health, skin purification, mood enhancing and wound healing. I won't get into the science and details of all that here (there are tons of articles out there on the interwebs with more details, including this handy one from Furthermore) - but what I will tell you is that I think it's true. I always walk out of there feeling great, energized yet calm. My skin always looks better for the next few days and any soreness I've had seems to disappear. Here's the caveat. Personally, I don't go often. My non-scientific, based only in experience and common sense perspective: the three times a week that's recommended is excessive. At the end of the day you're sitting in a heated box sweating buckets - it's dehydrating, and your body is only meant to take so much, so proceed with caution (and, as always, talk to your doc beforehand). BUT. If you're looking for a great place to escape this cold, sweat a little without an instructor yelling in your ear and reap some killer health benefits while literally doing nothing - Higher Dose is your place.