Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Finnish Sauna

Wherever I spend my weekends or holidays in Finland, I never fail to go to sauna, and I always swim, if there's just some water nearby. (Usually there is.)

"In the sauna wear your birthday suit. Nakedness is natural. Sweating makes swimsuits uncomfortable.

There are no exact rules of behaviour but the ritual is meant to be relaxing. Hurry and noise are out of the question and so is reckless competition about who stands heat best.

It is a good idea to begin with a wash or shower; a seat towel for the hot room is also useful.

The temperature should be 80-90°C; ten minutes at a time will be enough. Air humidity is regulated by ladling small doses of water onto the stove stones. Warming up and cooling off can be repeated as many times as feels good. Whisking adds to the pleasure."

These pictures are from a summer cottage in the middle of the lake Päijänne.

1. Approach the sauna.

"The basic sauna ritual is the same as it always was: warming up, sweating, taking löyly vapour and whisking, washing and cooling off. Cooling off nowadays often includes swimming. Many people like to cool off in the open air, and there are also brave ones who want to roll in the snow or take a dip in the sea or lake through a hole in the ice."

2. Take your clothes off and get in. (If you feel very dirty you might want to swim at first too, like I usually do.)

3. Go swimming. Then go back to sauna. Then swim again. And go back. And so on.

"Sauna bathing does not only clean the body but also purifies the mind. The bather's frame of mind after a leisurely relaxed sauna ritual could be best described as euphoric. It is like a rebirth; all unpleasant feelings fall away and you feel at peace with the whole world. This is what Finns mean by the care of the soul received in the sauna."

4. Admire the view, as it must be late evening or night when you finish with the bathing.

5. Tomorrow it will be a new day! Start heating the sauna (starting time depending on the type of sauna: sauna with a chimney, smoke sauna, or sauna for continuos heating), so it'll be ready in the evening again.

The quotes with facts are from the site of the Finnish Sauna Society.


Kevin from Sauna Talk said...

Finnish saunas offer many medicinal benefits which are discussed elsewhere on this website, but just keep in mind that the Finns set aside an hour or more a day, or several times a week, to relax and unwind in the precious löyly steam. The Finland sauna is an experience not to be hurried. Just ask the Finns; they’ve been doing it for 7,000 years and the national obsession with saunas shows no signs of disappearing.

Neil Dalby said...

I read an article about Finnish culture and it’s very interesting. One of the most attention-grabbing part is they use the sauna more on for business rather than for leisure. I found it a litte odd, but when I read more, I understand it well. Anyway, it’s really a good habit to free your body from any kind of illness and your mind from stress.

Neil Dalby