For centuries, people have used various forms of steam rooms and saunas — wet and dry heat, respectively — to heal their ills. Ancient healers believed that disease was caused by the accumulation of impurities in our bodies and a good way to excrete them was to work up a good sweat.
Today, most health experts would agree about the general benefits of sweating to open pores and cleanse skin while offering a general sense of well being.
Dr. Andrew Weil, a noted health expert and leader in the field of integrated medicine calls himself an “enthusiast,” saying steam rooms and saunas can help improve sleep, decrease stress and improve energy levels.
Of course, caution has to be used when immersing yourself in rooms with high temperatures. “The main risk of either a sauna or steam bath is overdoing it — you can faint from overheating,” said Weil. “Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after, and be sure to limit the time you spend in the heat —10 to 20 minutes is usually enough.”
If all this talk has you in the mood to sweat, here’s a look at a variety of saunas and steams available in our area.
Russian & Turkish Baths
268 East 10th Street
Established in 1892, this classic New York bathhouse originally catered to the first wave of Russian and Eastern European immigrants living on the LES. Expect various types of authentic steams and saunas, such as Russian and Finnish (dry heat), and Turkish (humidity with a touch of steam) and a relaxing redwood sauna (right). Other key services: A eucalyptus-filled aromatherapy room and traditional massages using oak leaves soaked in olive oil. After your shvitz, be sure to sample some Russian cuisine or soak up some rays on the luxurious sundeck.
10 West 32nd Street,
Amidst the bustle of Koreatown, there are several elaborate Korean bathhouses known as Jjimjilbangs. Hanyang caters only to women, offering traditional Korean amenities with an emphasis on the full body scrub. After a sauna or quick steam, patrons receive an hour- long exfoliation treatment, in which your body is scrubbed with a sandpaper-like mitt then washed with a bucket of hot water sending unwanted toxins down the drain.
25 West 32nd Street,
Juvenex, another Korean Jjimjilbang, sports a jade igloo sauna and a diamond-shaped, all-glass steam room. Also on hand: Several hot and cold soaking pools and a baked-clay “relax” room where patrons can take a snooze. Juvenex also places an emphasis on the vigorous after-scrub massage. It’s open 24 hours and caters only to women from 7 a.m to 5 p.m., but turns co-ed from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
1158 McDonald Avenue, Brooklyn,
Located in Midwood, this popular Russian Banya and Turkish Bathhouse offers spacious wood-and-tile saunas, multiple jacuzzis, cold plunges, three swimming pools and steam rooms.
New York Health& Racquet Club
Various locations, nyhrc.com
The steam rooms and saunas at the New York Health and Racquet clubs are located in the ladies and men’s locker rooms and are both kept at moderate temperatures, as most American facilities are. Members can request a spray-bottle of eucalyptus for added respiratory cleansing if others don’t object. Here, steam rooms are tiled and saunas are designed in the classic Finnish style, with wooden benches and walls.