Few countries are as strongly associated with sauna bathing as Finland. So how do you enjoy a sauna, the Finnish way? We’ve made a list of five things that will give you a sense of how the Fins like to sweat it out in the sauna.
Finland has a population of 5.3 million, and there are two million saunas in the country. Big companies and state institutions often have their own saunas, and even the president sports an official sauna, as does the prime minister. The traditional Finnish sauna dates almost two thousand years back, and is deeply rooted in the soul of the country. Here are 5 steps to follow if you want to recreate the Finnish sauna experience in your own sauna.
#1 Make time for a long sauna session
In Finland, a sauna session means several rounds of alternating between hot and cold. First you sweat it out in the heat, then you go out to cool off - either by just standing in the cool air, or by showering, bathing or even rolling in the snow. And once you’ve cooled down, you go back into the sauna! There really is no limit to how many times this routine can be repeated, so make sure to reserve at least an hour and a half, for your sauna bath.
#2 Turn up the heat
Finland is known for hot saunas, and the temperature of a Finnish sauna usually varies between 70 and 100 °C. The temperature depends on the tastes and preferences of the bathers, but being seasoned sauna lovers, many Finns prefer temperatures at the hotter range of the spectrum. Still, there is a general consensus that responsible sauna bathers never would compete to see who can stand the most heat, since doing so is outright dangerous.
#3 Bring a bucket of water
A typical trait of Finnish saunas is the steam, coming from water being regularly ladled on to the sauna stones, or kiuas. The resulting vapour that rises from the stones is called löyly, and makes up an important part of an authentic Finnish sauna experience. Just keep in mind to use fresh water, since salt water can damage the heater and cause it to corrode.
#4 Use a sauna whisk
Finnish sauna bathers typically use whisks made from birch twigs, to gently whip the skin. The whisk, also called ‘vasta’ or ‘vihta’ (depending on the region) is a bundle of tender birch twigs tied together. The whipping serves to soften the skin and help circulation, with the added benefit of a wonderful smell being released in the heat. Thanks to the birch whisks, a Finnish sauna leaves your skin baby smooth and deliciously scented.
#5 Take it easy and relax
A Finnish sauna is all about relaxing, being present in the moment and releasing all feelings of stress. Make sure to leave devices like smartphones and Ipads far away, so that you can fully enjoy the sauna and avoid all the distractions that so often cause us stress during our daily lives. Just close your eyes, inhale, exhale and enjoy - that’s the essence of Finnish sauna.