There are no strict rules that apply to all saunas—every sauna has its own house rules. Generally, sauna bathing is divided by gender: women and men each have their own turn in the sauna. An exception to this general rule is immediate families, who may all sauna bathe together.

  1. Mentally prepare yourself for the sauna ahead of time, and reserve plenty of time for bathing. The sauna is no place for hurry.
  2. Drink a few glasses of cool water before you go into the sauna. Put your phone on silent. You won’t need it, and in any case, you wouldn’t be able to use it in the sauna. Give yourself this time to focus on yourself without interruptions.
  3. Take a shower, being sure to rinse your hair. Wash away any make-up and hair products.
  4. You can enter the sauna naked, wrapped in a towel, or dressed in a swimsuit. If you like, you can cover your head with a damp towel to protect it from the heat.
  5. Go into the sauna with an open mind. Lay your sauna bench cover on the highest bench and have a seat.
  6. Breathe evenly and relax. Position yourself comfortably and close your eyes.
  7. Listen to your body and trust the sensations you experience. It’s normal to break a sweat, for your heart rate to increase slightly, and for your skin to redden. Drink water to counteract the sweating.
  8. If the sauna feels too hot, lie down, move to a lower bench, or step out of the sauna to cool off. There are no time restrictions in Finnish saunas. Each person can come and go at their own pace. It isn’t a competition.
  9. When you have become accustomed to the temperature inside the sauna, you can start to throw some water on the heater. Throw the water a little at a time, monitoring how the temperature feels. The more water you add to the heater, the hotter the sauna will be, so pay attention to how the löyly feels on your skin. Let it caress you.
  10. From time to time, cool off outside. Sit for a moment in the fresh, cool air, go swimming, or simply sit and rest. To maintain your fluid levels, it’s important to remember to drink between your turns in the sauna, as well.
  11. Go into the sauna as many times as you wish.
  12. When you’re finished, rinse the sweat from your skin and wash yourself in the shower.
  13. After your sauna, continue to relax, whether alone or with friends.
  14. Enjoy the feeling of being “sauna-clean.”

Text from Carita Harju’s upcoming book.

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