The Finnish sauna is credited with tremendous health benefits such as reducing the release of stress hormones, lowering blood pressure and curing insomnia just to name a few. It is an understatement to say that the sauna in Finland is at the hub of their culture.
For Finns, the sauna is an essential part of life. It is not only for physical cleaning. A real Finnish sauna cleanses your spirit. It is a focal point for meaningful social interaction. Small talk in the sauna is frowned upon. It is a place to bond with others and ponder big decisions.
How does a non-Finn take full advantage of their sauna? Follow these basic steps and keep an open mind and heart in order to enjoy a sauna’s deepest effects. Remember also that the sauna experience is personal. Finns would the last ones to see fault in a variation or a breach of sauna protocol.
CLOTHES ARE OPTIONAL
Some people may perceive an aspect of titillation to the sauna, since it is usual to disrobe before entering and occupants may be of mixed gender. For Finns, nothing erotic is implied by the sauna whatsoever. If you choose to wear a bathing suit or stay wrapped in a towel, no one will think any less of you.
It is considered essential that you shower or bathe your body before entering a sauna. A sauna may be occupied by many people throughout a day, so showering keeps it clean.
WHERE TO SIT
A sauna has high heat and low humidity. When the heated stones are hot, one or two ladles of water are poured over them creates a room full of steam. For the most heat, sit on a high bench, next to the wall far away from the stones. The steam will rise to the ceiling and flow outward toward the walls. If up high feels uncomfortable, try a lower bench.
LET THE HEAT SINK IN
Though the wall of steam may feel uncomfortable to novitiates, the heat soon peaks. Relax, close your eyes and allow the moist heat to flow over you. Your body will perspire profusely and moisture from the steam will condense on your skin. These effects combine to produce the sauna’s amazing cleansing action.
RINSE AND REPEAT
No sauna is complete without cooling cycles. After enjoying the warmth of the sauna for 15 minutes or so, step outside for a few minutes; take a drink and perhaps a brief shower. Re-enter the sauna when you feel comfortable but not chilled.
TAKE THE PLUNGE
Diving into icy water when exiting the sauna is not as crazy as it might seem. Veteran “saunistas,” will tell you that the extreme temperature changes are pleasant, not shocking. If there is a plunge pool available, its water is likely well above freezing temperature. A plunge pool or cool shower is probably best for new sauna enthusiasts.
No Finn would criticize you for not taking advantage of the small bundle of birch leaves they call the vasta. A few slaps on the skin with a vasta is invigorating and imparts a healthy glow. It is best applied by a sauna friend who can slap the hard to reach places.
After your sauna, take a final cleansing shower, dry off and wrap yourself in a dry towel. You might want to apply moisturizing lotion to your skin. Relax with a drink and a book while your body basks in the sauna afterglow. If your sauna host happens to be a Finn, thank them properly by telling them “KEE-toes SOWN-asta.”
WHERE TO START YOUR PERSONAL SAUNA EXPERIENCE
In Sudbury, ON, Nordic Energy Systems, Ltd. supplies homeowners with all styles of saunas, heating systems and accessories. Visit our showroom to consult with experts about the best options for your home sauna.