Want to burn 1,000 calories in one sitting? Same. Which is why one week ago, I found myself sweating profusely from my earlobes while wrapped inside of a glowing hot sleeping bag.
The concept of sweating for health is nothing new. Native Americans have embraced ceremonial sweat lodges for eons, and Scandinavians (the creators of "hygge") are masters of the sauna. But now with the invention of FAR infrared technology, the modern sauna experience is next level. Places like Shape House in Los Angeles and New York claim that one session spent in their hot-pocket-esque infrared bags will burn between 800 and 1,600 calories, improve your skin and sleep quality, and detox you to an exponential degree. Selena Gomez says it's her little secret; Emma Roberts loves the glow; LL Cool J says it helps him stay cut. And all you have to do is lie down and watch TV. Sign. Me. Up.
I chose a rainy Saturday morning for my first session. I prepared by eating a healthy dinner of grilled salmon and asparagus the night before and a light snack (banana) plus plenty of water shortly before my session. You can wear pretty much anything because Shape House provides a cozy cotton outfit during your sweatventure. Still, I chose a loose cotton hoodie and leggings because as much as you'll want to, they encourage you not to shower for a while afterward in order to gently wind down the sweating process. A quick change into a long-sleeved cotton tee, cotton pants, and thick socks provided upon check-in, and off I went into the darkness.
The "urban sweat lodge" houses several beds all lined up but separated by curtains for privacy (if you want it) or left open if you're sweating with a buddy. Each person gets their own TV, complete with HBO, Netflix, Hulu, and all the shows. An attendant tucked me into my sack, sat a bottle of water by my bed, and showed me how to navigate the Roku before leaving me to sweat out my
demons toxins. The introduction video helped me understand what to expect, which was about 20 minutes of cozy resting followed by 35 minutes of gradually increasing heat that makes you sweat from places you didn't know had pores.
I've never been one for extreme heat. Saunas aren't my favorite, and Bikram yoga is my personal hell. So I'll admit that I was mildly terrified. Thankfully, I needn't have worried, because if you do get panicky, the body bag opens easily by Velcro, or you can simply slip out your arms anytime. The attendant checks on you twice, but I passed the time easily with a few minutes of meditation followed by an episode of HBO's Girls. The worst discomfort that I experienced was the residual effects of the aforementioned asparagus. Apparently not the best choice before an inside-out detox. But if ever I doubted the FAR infrared abilities to pull out toxins, all doubts vanished with the pungent reminder of last night's meal. I kept thinking that this would be a great hangover recovery tool after a night of too much wine.
The 55 minutes were over before I knew it, and it was time to cool down in a little Zen room with fresh oranges, more water, and hot tea. Eventually I ditched the mop of soggy cotton clothing swathing my body, resisted the urge to shower (showers are available if you choose to ignore their advice of waiting an hour), changed back into my own hoodie, and headed home.
So was the sweaty experience worth it for more than just a funny Instagram Story? I spent the rest of the day feeling calm, slept like a baby, and woke up the next day to jeans that fit just a little bit looser. On Monday, I bought a package of three sweat sessions at Shape House. Rainy days when I need to warm up? Lazy days when I can't make it to the gym? Bloated days when my jeans feel like a death sentence? You ain't got nothin' on me and my hot pocket.