The traditional Finnish sauna has evolved from an essential tool to personal hygiene and relaxation to a luxury item and a spa treatment.
In Finland a sauna is common place, with over 2 million saunas for a population of 5.4 million inhabitants. That’s an average one per household. (1) Most homes, apartments and cottages have a sauna. Some homeowners will own an outdoor sauna, an indoor sauna and possibly a cottage sauna. It is ingrained into their culture and it is used almost daily as the primary method of personal hygiene, for everyone from babies to the elderly.
WHAT IS THE SECRET AND WHY WERE PEOPLE DRAWN TO THIS METHOD?
Historically, it was a warm place to wash thoroughly, relax aching muscles after a long strenuous day of working in the fields or forests. It was a time of social gathering with the family. It was known that the sweating released toxins and dirt and softened dead skin that was easily sloughed off with a stiff bristle brush. One came out of the evening sauna squeaky clean, relaxed and refreshed and ready for a good night’s sleep.
The sauna phenomenon has spread around the world, wherever there have been a Finnish or Russian influence. There are pockets of heavily populated sauna areas in North America, with the largest US areas in Michigan, Minnesota and Canadian areas in Ontario and BC.(2).These people have influenced their neighbours and friends, who have then influenced their neighbors and friends, to bring the sauna culture to where it is today.
THE SAUNA TODAY
Now as anything that is passed down as a tradition, the origins get slightly modified. Today, the sauna is not an essential to personal hygiene as most houses have running water and a warm shower. The sauna has become more of a luxury, for those that can afford it in their home or cottage, or as a destination at a spa centre.
So what can be added to your sauna, to add that spa feeling at home beyond the basic utilitarian use? Some of the Finnish trends include using facial and body clays of various sorts to help draw out further toxins and to soften your skin. You’ll look like a strange zombie whilst in the sauna, so be careful whom you invite in with you. After you rinse off your clays, use a salt scrub to to further cleanse on soften your skin. Try foot baths, with concoctions of epsom salt and essential oils to soak tired sore feet, and then do a pedicure, removing dry skin from your heels with a natural pumice stone, pushing back your cuticles etc. You’ll be amazed at the results and you don’t need to pay the price of those fancy spas.
After your sauna/spa experience it is always recommended to rehydrate and replace the salts you lost in the sweating process, so according to Finnish culture, this is the time you would enjoy a nice after sauna snack. Tradition would have as open faced sandwiches, like those known from fancy tea party sandwiches, ones with swirls of salted salmon, or smoked reindeer meat, and a drink of Sima (a fermented lemon & raisin drink) or Kotikalja (a home brew). But your snack could include anything that is slightly salty and a refreshing cold drink, like lemonade, iced tea or a cold beer.
So take your sauna experience to the next level, and give yourself a special treat.
Your skin will thank you and the afterglow of your skin will impress you. Any wonder why the Finnish look so youthful. They have a well kept secret to aging. Isn’t it worth a try?
If you’re looking to introduce a sauna to your home in Sudbury, contact us now to explore your options!
1 North American FinnFacts by Veli M. J. Niinimaa copyright 2010, ISBN 978-0-9865989-0-6