There's no doubt saunas are great. According to history and thanks to the Finns, we've been doing this for over 10 thousand years. There's just something about heat that soothes the bones and psychologically eases the mind.

Know what's better than a sauna? Applied heat. (Ha, bet you thought I was gonna say a sauna from home. I'll get to that). When the heat is not just in the air—we get enough of that here in eternal summer city—but in direct contact with whatever ailing body part needs it.

This is not just an old person thing, though sauna's marketing could afford to do better. Apart from natural pain relief, heat therapy encourages cardio-like effects, a metabolism boost, and even anti-aging. I recall using salonpas (another one that could do with a better rep) patches for muscle relief as a teen due to high intensity training and injuries.

That's kinda what the HeatPod Sauna Blanket 2 reminded me of. A warm embrace, enveloping the entire body. It's convenient enough that a spa experience can now be brought into your home, but setting up is quite nearly plug and play.


What we liked

You unroll the double-side zippered bad boy, scooch in and turn on the magic. It's really commendable how quickly the Blanket can get to the temperature set. The second generation being an enhanced version of the previous year's, it currently achieves a maximum temperature that's higher than major competitors at 85°C.

Another meaningful improvement (don't you just love a company that takes feedback seriously) is on the user experience. Not only are controls simpler and sleeker, preferred settings can be saved on a "remember last mode", since we are such creatures of comfort. Precise adjustments can be made easily, but swiftly too, with long presses to bump every 5°C in either direction.

One huge benefit is its design. The quality of its construct looks and feels premium, and more crucially, is easy to clean. The evenly-distributed zero-EMF carbon fiber infrared heating coils are wrapped in SGS-certified vegan leather, which is a breeze to wipe down.

The accompanying pillow and footrest are equally sweat-proof, but honestly, the most useful accessory would be the towel insert. The breathable 100% waffled cotton is custom to the parameters of the HeatPod, like an inner glove that feels more comfortable on the skin.

Essentially, it's a heated sleeping bag. Inside its roomy 180x190cm, you are practically expected to fall asleep. More so after sitting in a cold office the entire day, which is why the end of session alerts are great to safely take that snooze. Plus, given how it folds up nicely in a carrier, you can literally bring this hot nap with you anywhere. Heck, bring it to said cold office.


What could be better

The zip runs along three sides—top, right, and bottom; which allows it even more varied possibilities. A heated mat should you want to splay out completely, or share the space atop the bed as a heated mattress.

Still, it would be great if it could extend halfway down the left too, just so the arms have the option to stick out naturally rather than overhead. Especially when the port is wired to the bottom left (something I keep forgetting is on the underside as well when flinging the HeatPod open).

Apart from that personal preference, it is tough to find fault with the device. The portability and privacy is truly something you can't get from conventional saunas. Now if only our climate could be perpetually much colder, this would be perfect to enjoy regularly.

The HeatPod Sauna Blanket 2 retails from SGD799.

How many men seek therapy with me because of issues about toxic masculinity? Too many, in numbers that may surprise you. It seems almost archaic to mislabel harmful behaviours and traits as “masculine”, and then glorify them and treat them as the norm—or, worse, inculcate them in boys (and men).

But here we are. I’ve seen toxic masculinity leading to harassment, excessive aggression and even violence. In less dramatic ways, it has caused simmering resentment, dead bedrooms, workplace hostility and more. Divorces, too. What’s perhaps worse is how these behaviours are often dismissed. “Men should be manly”, the apologists go, “and boys will be boys.” These sayings do not just shut the conversation down, they also perpetuate the cycle while, ironically, disempowering men.

The archetypal features of toxic masculinity include overt displays of aggression, often unnecessarily, as well as a tendency to seek dominance over women—sexually or otherwise. These red flags are easy to spot and handle accordingly. When that “alpha” steps over the line, after all, HR is just a call away.

In more subtle ways, however, I’ve observed the reluctance/inability to show one’s emotions, as well as an unhealthy fixation with displaying physical and mental “toughness”. These manifest as high-risk behaviours that aren’t necessarily easy to spot, let alone manage. Imagine giving therapy to a couple teetering on divorce because the husband is recklessly pursuing extreme sports, almost as if to prove himself the same man as he was two decades ago. Or the mandated sessions with an employee who was referred by his HR because he has been suppressing his mental health issues and refusing to seek help, lest he is seen as weak. The Micheal Corleones and Charles Kanes have leapt from the silver screens and are in our midst. I would know—I work with many of them.

Masculinity in itself is not toxic. Only a subset of it is. Toxic masculinity advocates having a “tough” and “stoic” front, which limits the development of emotional awareness and sensitivity. It also discourages the healthy expression of emotions, which can create and perpetuate mental health issues and harmful behaviour. Such a mindset isolates and keeps men locked up in an emotional jail cell. They are too stunted to identify and understand the causes of pain, while too reluctant to seek help. The result? Men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. And the rates of suicides have been increasing across the globe.

Men, know that you have worth, inherently, regardless of your status, money or power over others. Know and understand, too, that the human experience is complex and dynamic. All feelings such as hurt, disappointment, fear and anxiety are just as important and normal to feel as anger and pride. Every emotion deserves a stage to be heard and processed. Just because we deny it is there, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

Beyond just affirmations, we can do so much more to tackle toxic masculinity. I will admit that the odds can be stacked against you. Toxic masculinity can be deeply embedded within a culture, which makes it difficult to detect since it is already considered the norm. After all, how does one question the beliefs and behaviours that are prevalent in their community and widely accepted as the norm?

Exposure to different perspectives can be helpful. Having a diverse social circle can provide invaluable insights, of course, as is having self-awareness. The latter is a tool we can use, not just to combat toxic masculinity but for personal growth. Has societal pressure to be “a real man” affected you negatively? How so? Are there traits you might be uncomfortable having but display anyway? Whether due to the pressure to conform, or out of fear of ridicule from others? Reflect, reflect, reflect. Take your first steps towards building greater self-awareness.

Only if you’re manly enough, of course.