sweating is the most important detox mechanism our bodies have, but most of us don’t do it enough to reap the deep benefits. Shape House, an infrared urban sweat lodge with several locations across LA (including a brand new one in West Hollywood!), has turned the au natural experience into one of luxury – and we love it for the relaxation as much as the results.

Founded by vibrant Paris-transplant, Sophie Chiche, the Shape House mini-empire is a product of a heath crisis and healing story that will blow your mind. We’re sharing her inspiring wellness journey, and some firsthand insight into the amazing impact of an infrared sauna habit. Learn all about the Shape House experience in our first sit down with Sophie here, and dive deeper with what’s below…

The Chalkboard Mag: How did you first discover your passion for wellness?

Sophie Chiche: Wellness was always a quest for me: how do I live a little better? Think better? Feel better in my body? It’s been a lifelong quest, and what I’ve found is that to maintain that is as much of a quest as finding it. I was born in France. I moved to the states in search of more wellness, more consciousness and a life that was better than the one I came from. Coming to Los Angeles was the obvious choice, as it’s a city that’s always on the edge of new wellness things; there is a mass interest in finding new ways to discover yourself and finding more efficient ways to get there. I felt ill-equipped in France – I didn’t have the tools and felt doomed and miserable, like I couldn’t do anything about it. I visited the states and found I had better conversations, and gained a sense that there was something I could do differently to not feel so disconnected, to be well.

TCM: When did you become aware of infrared therapy and the benefits of sweating?

SC: It makes perfect sense to me to sweat, as a preventative way to stay healthy and a way to maintain health. There are toxins in our bodies, and sweating is a very smart method of getting them out; our bodies were literally built to do it. But I come from a family that treated sweating as a thing to be avoided. We are smart people – always wearing glasses and reading books, not running around – and I got to 320 pounds as a result.  I first discovered infrared technology being used in France to help heal broken bones. It helped fuse the bone back into place, and helped the body recycle cells and accelerated the healing process. That was 35 years ago. Fast forward 30 years later: I was going to a wedding in Paris, and I had lost a lot of weight through diet and exercise but needed to shed a final few pounds to fit into my dress. I learned that they turned this infrared technology into a cosmetic process where your whole body would benefit from it. I started sweating and never looked back.

TCM: What is the appeal of going to an infrared sauna? How does it fit into a holistic wellness plan?

SC:  Sweating the way we do at Shape House is very efficient, providing lots of benefits in just one hour: better sleep, mental clarity, rejuvenated skin, increased relaxation and weight loss. To be clear, sweating isn’t instead of working out – it’s a piece of a complete healthy lifestyle. I remember hearing once that it took 20 times more energy to get a rocket off the ground than it does to keep it in the air. The same goes for exercise. It’s much harder to start up again after you stop, even just in the short term. If I can’t work out one day, I can always go sweat and keep my momentum going.

TCM: Why is it important to detox in this way?

SC: A basic comparison is this idea where we are maintaining our cars: If it has any blinking lights – we need gas, or oil or air – you take care of it as fast as possible. But we don’t do that for our bodies. Aging happens when our bodies accumulate too many toxins and give up on cleaning itself out, as it’s built to do. Little bits are fine, but it adds up. People say I can’t believe x, y and z are happening to my body – but you don’t just get sick overnight. It was years of not taking care of yourself. Sweating undoes that damage. I witness it daily. It’s pretty striking. People walk in looking like they’re not taking care of themselves – their skin tone is dull, their eyes aren’t clear – then you see them walk out and you barely recognize them. Just from one session! The natural aging process is beautiful if you don’t look sick.

TCM: How is Shape House different than other infrared saunas?

SC: A lot of thought went into designing the experience, rooted in my own experience at other places. I did a lot of research on myself: I sweat every day for 200 days. I lost weight. I felt amazing. I eventually started to get doctors involved and together we worked to optimize the process. What’s the right amount of minutes? Temperature? To eat or not to eat beforehand? We were trying to discover the specific science to back up the obvious experience I was having. We then tailored the experience, curated it, to be very comfortable and beneficial. We make the bodies work and at the same time you’re watching TV and someone makes you an aromatic cold towel to make it more comfortable. We give you warm tea and fresh oranges after. I also love that I can hang out with my friends while that’s all happening. The unity aspect is a big part of the appeal – we sit around and share this experience together. It’s very basic and primal, and we don’t always have the opportunity to just sit and spend time together, to heal together. It’s amazing.

TCM: Who benefits most from going to infrared saunas?

SC: I can’t imagine someone not benefitting, that’s what I find so magical about sweating. Wherever you are on your health journey, sweating makes you feel better. Toxins lodge themselves in different ways for different people: migraine, chronic back pain, digestive problems etc. My experience watching 30,000 people sweat over the past few years is that I’ve realized  lot of it is fixable. It’s like taking the trash out of the house. How many people benefit from that? How many days can you stay in your house without taking out the trash. We need to remove what the body doesn’t need to optimize what it does naturally.

TCM: If there is so much healing potential, why doesn’t everybody detox like this?

SC: Our culture has made sweating to be a thing to be avoided at all costs, a thing to be ashamed of; it doesn’t smell good, its unhygienic, its a cultural stigma we have to go against. Shape House is all about doing it more efficiently, and making you comfortable about you own sweat. That’s the highest of my missions: when people come and sweat regularly, they discover a new comfort with themselves. We need more of that in the aging conversation; we need to teach people to embrace themselves wholly, especially in LA. If you gave me the opportunity to return to my 20s and 30s I wouldn’t, because I’ve become a much more interesting person because of the life I’ve lived. I want people to start shifting their conscience and understand that they can feel better by doing simple things like sweating, and can maintain their feeling well while they’re feeling well. You don’t have to be sick to start.

TCM: What do you tell people who think it’s all too good to be true?

SC: I’m protected against those people because they don’t come to me. The ones who come are the ones who are willing to try it and the results speak for themselves. I say try it and tell me how you feel. I can’t help you if you don’t like heat, but other than that you either don’t come at all of you do and realize how good you feel after. It’s just common sense that your body will operate better when it doesn’t have toxins aka poison in it.

TCM: How does not showering after a session boost results?

SC: We offer showers, but recommend avoiding showering for a while after a session. The first reason is that the temperature of the bed (160 degrees) and the temperature of a shower are dramatically different. We worked so hard to get your body to break a sweat and your body is still working for hours after you sweat. It’s a lot of work, and asking your body to stop instantly doesn’t make sense. The second reason is because by letting you sweat this way, we release a lot of collagen and vitamin E. You kind of marinate in this stuff that’s really good for you. The toxins that come out of your body would only affect you if you were breathing it in, so it’s not an issue to leave the sweat on your skin – it’s actually very beneficial. Your skin knows how to protect itself. You won’t see irritation, just glow and nourishment.

TCM: What does your personal wellness routine look like now?

SC: Having lost the amount of wight I’ve lost – well over 150 pounds – my routine is one of emotional balance and physical balance. I like to box – that’s my thing. I was doing yoga for a long time and wanted something more, so now I box 2 to 3 times a week. I sweat 2 to 3 times a week. I dance at least once a week. My diet is very clean and balanced. I don’t do any substance that alters my state of conscious ever: no coffee or alcohol or sugar. Coffee is the most surprising thing to people, but I just don’t need it. When I sweat, I have so much energy, and people ask what I do when I get tired, and I say I rest. I simply respond to what my body needs. I have 50 times more energy than the kids I work with who use coffee to start the day and wine to wind down. I don’t do either, so my body doesn’t ‘need’ it.

TCM: Who inspires you and your wellness mission?

SC: I can’t pin-point any one person… I came into all of this with an interest in bettering myself. I had a complicated upbringing; I felt as though I didn’t matter and I ended up gaining weight because of it. The stuff you do when you don’t care about yourself is very destructive, but when you start caring, you become your own inspiration.

TCM: What are the next steps? Where do you see Shape House in 5 years?

SC: As long as I feel the way I’m feeling right now – which is engaged and fascinated – I will be doing the same thing but more: more stores, more books, more healing. If I become disengaged, I’ll have to re-evaluate, but I am committed to living a life I cant wait to wake up in the morning and go do. I wake up every morning excited to talk to people, to help people. I’m very privileged to participate in a life where I am directly involved in other peoples wellness journey. I don’t ever want to lose sight of being excited to wake up in the morning and make a life better.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program. 

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