Sauna, an essential part of the Finnish lifestyle, has many health benefits which affect both body and mind.
An old Finnish proverb “Sauna is a poor man’s pharmacy” captures the benefits and health effects of sauna. Sauna bathing has been found to positively affect multiple health problems: for example, it prevents high blood pressure which is the cause of cardiovascular diseases. Body relaxation also often improves quality of sleep.
In the sauna your heart rate increases while sweating, so your body is sort of exercising a little bit. At the same time, the feeling of relaxation can be very strong, says executive director of Sauna from Finland, Carita Harju.
Your mind gets released from stress and many things seem brighter after sauna.
Sauna is a strong part of the Finnish cultural heritage, and according to Harju, Finnish people learn the tradition of sauna bathing from the early childhood. One can find his or her own way to sauna bathe by trying different kinds of sauna experiences.
You can stay in sauna for as long as you want in a temperature you like – no need to take time. In addition, one of the essentials in Finnish sauna is throwing water on the heated stones (löyly). This is a unique habit since in other parts of the world you might not even be allowed to pour water on the sauna stove.
Sauna feeds all your senses
Sauna and the memories involving it are an essential part in the lifestyle of many Finns. Sensations and sounds relating to sauna leave deep and lasting memory traces – memories of sauna sessions from up to decades ago can be easily brought back.
Sauna environment is very multisensorial and often you bathe in a sauna with all senses. You can feel the wooden bench and the shape of the water scoop, listen to the sounds of a lake and hiss of the sauna stove while smelling the birch whisk and the clean linen bench cover, Harju describes.
Harju emphasizes that sauna is also a meditative space where one can pause and enjoy a moment without a stream of external stimuli. Sauna is the perfect place to sit quietly with your own thoughts and listen to your body.
Nowadays sauna is one of the only places you go to without your mobile phone. Afterwards it might be a good idea to reflect on what calming down feels like. Finns should utilize sauna more as a place for taking a break. Now that’s true mindfulness.
5 Tips for a Perfect Sauna Experience
- Enjoy the peaceful moment – it is alright to calm down in sauna.
- Listen, smell and feel. Sauna wakes up multiple senses.
- Dim the lighting if possible since the atmosphere and relaxation increase in semidarkness.
- Birch sap, honey exfoliant, peat mask… there are many skincare products suitable for sauna. Find your own and try out new ones once in a while.
- Sauna is more than just a physical space. You can complete your sauna experience by calming down and drinking lemon and cucumber flavored water before the sauna. Afterwards wrap yourself in a bathrobe and just enjoy the relaxed feeling.
Published 10.5.2019 originally in Finnish: https://www.pihajamokki.fi/mokilla/ihana-tervehdyttava-sauna/
Writer: Mikaela Katro/Mediaplanet
Translation: Vilma Torppala
Photo: Hanna Palosaari