Dissecting the Sauna Experience *Video*

In Finland, sauna is not only a national past time, it’s an art. Almost every family has a sauna in their home and most Finns take sauna every day, at least once a day. After the sauna you can stand in the wood-paneled steam room and bathe yourself, washing with water warmed on the stove.

While visiting my friend Pirijo in Finnish Lapland, she taught me how to take a proper sauna. Since I’m a native North American, she introduced the idea of sauna to me in 3 steps:

1) The Towel: Each person has a small towel which they use to sit on while in the sauna. Because you go into the steam room naked, the towel helps maintain hygiene standards. Makes perfect sense to me.

2) Nudity: The first night we took the sauna in bathing suits. We sat in the steam room for about 5-10 minutes, throwing water on the hot coats to elicit more steam. Once we got a good sweat going, we ran down to the freezing cold lake and jumped it. It was quite a shock to the system.

Because I was a little unsure of the whole process the first night, we waited until the second night to discard our clothes. That way went I ran naked into the water I knew exactly which direction to go.

3) Birch Branches: Birch branches were drying in the sauna the first night, giving off a wonderfully fresh scent in the steam. By the third night though we were ready to put the branches to use. We took a bunch of stems and hit our bodies with the foliage, creating a loud slapping noise. I’m still not entirely sure why we did this, although I think it has something to do with increased circulation.

Below is a guided tour of our sauna:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Sauna Time!

After my 3-day indoctrination, I’ve become quite a fan of the sauna. There’s nothing more relaxing then ending your stressful day (OK, maybe my days in Lapland weren’t so stressful, but I did do a lot of hiking and kayaking), in a warm steamy environment.

As an ardent sauna fan, I’m one step closer to becoming Finnish!

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 and is filed under Europe.

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