When RITUAL Nordic Spa was in the planning stages, there was a thoughtfulness about different ways to welcome community. One idea that stood out was to set aside time, one evening a week, when the spa was open exclusively for women. As an urban sauna house following Finnish tradition, RITUAL at its heart is casual, comfortable and welcoming. Visitors attest that the warm social atmosphere of the Nordic Circuit is a key part of the experience.
When planning Ritual we intentionally designed the spa to be accessible and relaxing for all genders, making choices along the way like having very few mirrors, multiple change rooms, and limiting use of phones and cameras in the space. We also admired local recreation centres that have created women-only swim sessions, making it possible for women whose religious practices require female-only spaces to take part.
In short, we knew we wanted to create space for women to feel comfortable, experience body neutrality, explore wellness, and build community.
And so Women’s Wellness Wednesday (WWW) was born. Each Wednesday evening from 5-9 pm, the guest attendance is women-only (including those who identify as female). The vibe shifts into something special in Victoria… Women Wellness Wednesdays are a hit, and one of our most popular evenings!
These concepts have all been proven valid and valued, and yet there is a bit more magic to these events we have yet to name. Why are these evenings so awesome? How to explain the vibe that occurs when women gather like this? With the popularity of WWW we thought we’d take a moment to dive into this topic, while exploring some of the benefits of Nordic Circuit to women’s health. Read on to get a sense of why women are building hot and cold therapies into their lives.
Health Benefits A-Plenty!
–Research shows that spending time in the sauna or other hot environments can boost your circulation, alleviate chronic pain, reduce joint stiffness, and even strengthen your immune system. The body responds to the heat of sauna by releasing dynorphins and endorphins in the brain; these cause discomfort at first but then biochemically deliver enhanced effects on our mood and body, which is why after sauna we feel a nice type of mellow, glowy happiness.
-And then there is the Cold Plunge, a practice that requires determination and grit, a test of mental fortitude and stamina, that has been described as empowering and liberating. Immersing in cold water and building tolerance can feel like a victory — many people who are initially tentative to try it later claim they look forward to it, and the mood boosting effects may even be slightly addictive. Cold plunge and cold water swimming isn’t new (people have been doing it for centuries). It’s gained more popularity in the last decade, and in particular the last few years. Perhaps for its exercise and social opportunity during pandemic restrictions, or maybe because it helped many counter the stress and anxiety of a difficult time. For many, it has become an important ritual benefitting their general wellness and state of mind.
-Why does cold plunge work? Immersing yourself in frigid water triggers the release of stress hormones, such as noradrenaline and cortisol which give you an immediate wake up. Then, after your dip, studies report increases in “happy” brain chemicals that regulate mood, such as dopamine. Getting you body (or even just your face) into cold water can activate the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which helps the body relax after a stressful event.
-Plus, when you do hard things you learn that you CAN do hard things. And on Womens Wellness nights, the friendly calls of “You’ve TOTALLY got this!” from other women passing by the pool definitely make the plunge easier.
Good for specific health concerns or symptoms
-Women of any age can benefit from the sauna / cold plunge combination, also known as hot cold therapy or contrast therapy. It’s effective for helping the body recover from exercise and sports, or simply relaxing, managing stress and getting a mood boost
-Cardiovascular health gets a boost too: did you know the heat of the sauna triggers the same mechanisms in the brain and body as if you were doing cardio? It’s true! In the sauna your heart rate and blood flow increase, and your blood vessels dilate as your body works to cool down and regulate its own temperature. Heart health for all genders is an important factor in living a long healthy life. For women it’s critical!
Moderating Menopause? We think so
We are still waiting for the definitive studies on this topic – showing that regular use of the sauna or sauna plus cold plunge helps reduce the symptoms of menopause. But while we wait let’s trust and share our valid LIVED experience: many women in or going through menopause also find the Nordic Circuit helps reduce symptoms such as night sweats, hot flushes, low mood or anxiety. We hear it each week as happy WWW guests leave the spa: “My God I’m going to sleep SO WELL after this.” And it’s true! There’s something about the experience –whether it’s the release of stress, the detox from sweating, the happy mood of endorphins, the physical “reset” of the plunge, or the chance to spend two hours among friends and other women, leaving the worries of the day behind — these all help deliver the most amazing sleeps. And let’s say it here too: having a fun night with friends that doesn’t focus on alcohol means you get to skip the sleep-disturbing impact that a few glasses of wine can deliver.
“I feel that it’s been easier since starting this. The sweats and the night sweats haven’t been so bad. I also suffer with anxiety and I’ve found my anxiety levels don’t feel as bad either.”
The Social Benefits of Gathering
There is a social atmosphere at RITUAL, an ease and an openness as women share space, that many women say is part of what makes Womens Wellness Wednesday great. We shouldn’t be surprised! Women have been going to spa for centuries, gathering after a day of work to bathe, rest, cleanse and connect. We also know that social activity can have a positive impact on mental health, and that a range of different types of social interactions have value. Many guests come to Ritual solo while others bring a friend, co-worker, sister or mother.
You can find a quiet moment if you like, but frankly some of the best conversations happen in the pink Salt Lounge, relaxing in our robes, after we’ve cheered each other on in the cold plunge.
There is often friendly chatter among guests and ages range from 18 to 80. The WWW vibe shifts weekly, based on who arrives, how everyone is feeling and sometimes even, the music we throw on! Think mellow, happy, calm, liberating, empowering, fun.
Womens Wellness — How We Work to Widen the Circle
We recognize that going to a spa or saunahouse is a privilege, one not every woman can afford. Since the beginning, when we started offering Womens Wellness Wednesdays, we acknowledged that many women struggle to take care of more basic needs such as personal security, food security and basic health. So we made a decision: a portion of the fee for every woman that attends WWW is donated as cash, to a local charity that works to improve the lives of women. Twice a year we quietly pass along these funds.
This year during the month of May as we celebrate our Mothers, honour ourselves as mothers, value the work of mothers in our lives, and take part in Women’s History Month events and readings, we will be adding a portion of Nordic Circuit fees from Mother’s Day guest visits to this fund.
We hope you will help us shine a light on women’s wellness. Join us when you can, cold plunge and sauna where you can, and share your own stories of the benefits of contrast therapy for yourself or women than you know. #womenswellness #womenswellnessyyj #ritualnordicspa