You approach the small structure and place your hand on the door, feeling warmth radiate through the wood into your palm. You open the door and are met with a rush of heat, a cloud of steam, the scent of something spicy and earthy and ancient. Your muscles immediately relax, your whirring thoughts slow, and you step inside. In doing so, you’re not just stepping into a sauna — it is nothing like the nondescript steam rooms you find in hotels or gyms — you’re stepping into a ritual that dates back to 7000 B.C., one that touches the core of what it means to be a human.
Though the roots of the Finnish sauna are difficult to trace, we know that it’s been an integral part of life in Finland for thousands of years. It is, in the most superficial sense, a place to bathe, but the sauna is also a part of the Finnish identity, a common thread in their culture. For centuries, the sauna was where children were born and health restored, the site of purification rituals, a sacred place to soothe muscles as well as the soul.
So important were saunas to the Finns that during the Winter War of 1939, it was a stated priority that Finns build saunas in their camps. Today, Finland boasts over three million saunas for its five million inhabitants: every family has a sauna, and most people “take heat” at least once a week.
Why has this ritual persisted for so many millennia — and why, as we barrel headlong through the fast-paced 21st century, is sauna culture continuing to grow? One answer may be found in the health benefits of taking regular heat baths, which include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Better cardiovascular health
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Better exercise recovery
- Reduced risk of dementia
- Better lung function
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased lifespan
Then there’s the intangible, the spiritual: the quiet calm you feel in the warm darkness, the comforting moment of stillness that can only be found in the heat, the rejuvenation you feel when you step outside into the cool air (even more so if you go full Finn and jump in cold water or roll around in the snow afterward!).
Indeed, saunas may be the secret behind the fact that Finland is the happiest country in the world.
If you’re ready to have the full Finnish sauna experience — and reap all the benefits — here’s what you can expect:
Enter the Sauna and become acclimated to the ambient temperature (a typical sauna is heated to 180-200 degrees F with a relatively low humidity of about 35%). Climb onto the bench and have a seat. Pour some water on the stones to create loyly, or the steam that rises from the sauna stove. You’ll begin to sweat if you haven’t already, and your body may begin to say “Too hot! Escape!” Listen, instead, to your intuition within, which knows you can handle it. Let the heat wash over you. Give into the relaxation.
When you’re ready, step outside and watch the steam rise off your skin. Feel your every nerve tingle with life as your temperature returns to normal. Then, repeat the whole process, usually three rounds total; studies suggest that the variation from heat to cold, and then back again, contributes to the health benefits of the sauna by teaching your systems to deal with discomfort and stimulation.
After the third round, bask in the clean, renewed feeling.
While the essence of the sauna experience remains the same, we can customize our sauna to fit your needs and goals: it can be the centerpiece of a special event with many participants, part of a weekly bathing ritual, or a solo practice. It might involve jumping into a lake or rolling in the snow afterward. It may look like embracing the joy of a rainy day from a different perspective.
Regardless of how you choose to experience our sauna, you’ll leave feeling renewed, purified, and ready to take on the world (….maybe after a nap).