An introduction to the sauna experience: personal and profound purification

“I sit in an unreal, ubiquitous comfort, disarmed by the natural milieu and nursed by the heat I’ve created. The sun in the horizon saturates the scene before finally fading away. As more wood catches fire, the light presumably lost resumes – and as the water hits the sizzling stones like the tide, the heat rises back like a phoenix.”

Before the sauna: peaceful preparation

Saunas come in all shapes and sizes, but there are some common basics. Sauna is a room heated with the sauna stove, a sort of fireplace inside the sauna that is open from the top. It’s filled with stones that are made hot by either burning wood or using electricity. The stove needs to be lit or turned on well before entering the sauna room, so that it has time to heat up entirely.

As part of the preparation for the sauna, there is often an involvement with the wild such as cutting, gathering and lighting up wood, or simply spending time in the nearby nature for leisure. A sense of anticipation, the arrangement of time and the patient wait before the sauna can be considered a sacred, relaxing and crucial part of the whole sauna experience.

There are countless ways of perceiving and experiencing the act of sauna. Even in its most routine realization, no two sauna experiences are ever truly identical considering how many spatial, situational and temporal details go into it. Sauna is a tradition, but a very flexible one at that, and everyone not only has but also respects personal preferences.

The heat inside the sauna makes the body as a whole acquire a unique sensation, a positive and healthy stress state. Photo: Harri Tarvainen

During the sauna: presence in comfort

While in the sauna room, people sit on a bench, with a piece of cloth underneath them to ensure hygiene and comfort. Facing the sauna stove, they take water from a bucket with a ladle and throw it on the burning hot stones at the top of the stove. This makes the water evaporate, creating a wave of heat that increases the feel of the temperature already established. The desired amount of water thrown on the stove and the ideal temperature before entering the sauna room are factors that particularly depend on the wishes of each individual, as well as the attributes of each sauna.

The heat inside the sauna makes the body as a whole acquire a unique sensation, a positive and healthy stress state. Besides sweat forming across the skin, one will notice a rapid heart rate. This makes staying hydrated very important, with a drink either brought inside the sauna room or prepared to be enjoyed soon after leaving. It is also common to swim or grab some fresh air just outside the actual sauna every once in a while, but then go back into the heat. This back and forth motion may go on for hours, but one can also choose to spend only one short moment inside the sauna.

Nudity in the sauna is usually a matter of practicality due to the heat, but since comfort has the uppermost value in a sauna, wearing a towel or some sort of underwear instead is always an option. Whether the sauna is private or public to use, visited alone or with a group, it is an environment where everyone is meant to feel safe.

Sauna is very much about being in the moment. It is also a way to measure time, through visits that are often regular and highlight spare time and other special occasions. As an environment, it’s one that denies distractions like social media, encouraging the virtue of presence. It’s a way of being with, if not one with nature through its organic materials and atmosphere, providing a profound pause from the urban.

Passing time after the sauna is usually all about enjoying the relaxed state that takes over the body. Photo: Antti Kurola

After the sauna: prolonged pleasure

After exiting the sauna for the last time, it’s time to cool off, a process that only starts with a shower. The washing away of the sweat and the settling of the heartbeat make for a strong physical and psychological sense of purification. It has a long effect that feels much more wholesome than just having a quick shower or a bath, more euphoric than exercising and subtler than sleeping.

Passing time after the sauna is usually all about enjoying the relaxed state that takes over the body. This often means socialization, as well as adoring and absorbing nature. Encompassing all the five senses, sauna offers a multisensory symbiosis with nature, stretching over the entire experience.

Sauna offers prolonged pleasure, and it doesn’t vanish until sleep, which is set to have an unmatched quality. This is only one of the ways in which sauna is a natural prescription that brings and sustains both physical and mental health. Well-being can be pursued by consciously alternating and trying different forms of sauna, including additional activities and aesthetical effects.

An inner warmth fills a person throughout the sauna process. This is not only attributed to the physical heat sensed inside the sauna room, even if it brings blissful sensations to the body. The safety, serenity and organicity of the sauna environment make for a unique and truly appealing atmosphere throughout the sauna process, which serves as an icebreaker for the body and the mind, and a watershed for varying points in time.

For further information

Sauna from Finland is a network that promotes the business of companies within the sauna field. It also assists hotels and spas all around the world to implement an authentic Finnish sauna experience – from beginning to end. The network includes more than 170 companies within the sauna field, so you can find services and all the planning help you can imagine.

Read more about Sauna from Finland

Sauna has many health benefits, including keeping your blood pressure in check

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Satu Freyberg

Satu Freyberg

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