Sweating, perspiring, sweltering, glowing: whatever you call it, it might not feel or look glamorous in the moment, but it has its lasting benefits. Stepping into a sweat house is a wellness practice that has transcended centuries and taken on its own form in various cultures, including the Roman baths, the Scandinavian sauna, the Japanese onsen, and the Native American sweat lodge, to name a few. Traditionally, sweat rituals have been used to not only purify and heal the mind, body, and soul, but also to give thanks, seek wisdom, and spiritually cleanse.
Shape House, an “urban sweat lodge” with locations in both Los Angeles and, more recently, New York City (2017), has brought sweating to the new millennium and the broader metropolitan populace. Upon arrival, guests change into the provided sweat attire—grey long-sleeve shirt and pants—and are guided to their private booth where they are tucked into the FAR infrared beds. This type of natural energy, as the company explains in detail on their website, “can be felt as a nourishing heat that safely penetrates the skin to increase core body temperature,” not to be confused with harmful UV light. Once in your cocoon and with headphones in place, you’ll be able to tune in to any number of streaming services to help relax and keep your mind off the heat. Alkaline water is in arm’s reach to stay appropriately hydrated, and attendants are only a buzz away should you need anything else. The 55-minute session is experienced differently person-to-person depending on your heat threshold (personally speaking, my experience during my first session was far more enjoyable compared to a sweat from the dry air typically in saunas), but most people feel incredibly comfortable and relaxed—even sleepy—for the first 40 minutes. The final 15 minutes is the stretch that proves to be more challenging. (A chilled lavender towel on the forehead will help with that.)
The company’s list of heath-benefit claims is lengthy, and certainly enticing. Beyond the obvious weight loss and detox profit, sweating ignites a natural skin glow by "bringing a fresh blood supply and essential nutrients to the surface, and adding elasticity to collagen structure.” And the effects of that can be massive, including slowing down the aging process and reducing the effects of previous sun damage. Shape House also claims that sweat sessions prompt quality, deep sleeps—I can attest to an amazing night’s sleep following mine—boost endorphins, improve cardiovascular fitness, relieve muscle tension, and put your mind and stressors to rest for at least 55 minutes of your day.
Founder and CEO Sophie Chiche believes that sweating at Shape House is a great way to get balanced. When asked for her recommendations for someone who wants to make Shape House a part of their regular wellness routine, and if these sessions take the place of a workout, Chiche explains that “Shape House can fit into your life however you want it to.” She continues, “For those looking to relax and have the remote to themselves, once a week might be enough. For those looking to lose weight, three times a week might be better. Sweating is like going to the gym. It works if you show up. But what we have found is that sweating can be a strong gateway to other health and wellness [habits]. You have a good sweat with us, and then maybe you choose a salad for lunch, or you make it to that yoga class. One good thing leads to another, leads to another. Sweating is a good catalyst.” And regulars agree, calling it their “happy hour” that allows them to zone out, rejuvenate, and enjoy the break from the outside world.