Naked? With strangers? In Europe, this is how you relax at the spa.

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In countries like the United States, he said, there is a “highly sexualized and puritanical culture, where sex is strictly controlled. Attitudes are generally much more conservative regarding what women do and their bodies. In Europe that tends to be less frequent.”

In several studies, Dr. West and his team have found that being naked in front of other people can increase self-confidence and life satisfaction. “If you go to a naturopathic event, you see a lot of normal people, people who aren't airbrushed and aren't Beyoncé, and you realize that you don't look bad compared to the average person,” Dr. West said. “And you spend time naked in their company and nothing bad happens. Nobody says anything bad to you, nobody laughs at you.”

Some Americans have discovered that the discomfort of being naked in the sauna is temporary and has a worthwhile reward.

After moving to Graz, Austria, Amy Feineman, 38, a chair assembler originally from Colorado, made the hour-long trip to Rogner Bad Blumau, a colorful, eye-popping thermal bath and hotel designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian architect who He believed that “the straight line is the curse of our civilization.” At the thermal baths (day visit, €57), this philosophy translates into undulating floors, circular buildings with irregular roofs and bright orange, blue and green mosaics. On her first visit, Feineman and her husband skipped the nude sauna area and instead explored the outdoor pools and gardens partially clothed. But on her second visit they felt brave enough to expose it all in the sauna area.

“It took us most of our first day there to work up the courage to check it out, and then we spent most of our time there,” Ms. Feineman said. “I am a plus size person and in the United States I would never wear a bikini in public. Here I am happily walking through the nude zone.”



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