Saunas have been used for thousands of years in Finland and it is thought that nearly a third of all adults in the country take them regularly. There are health benefits associated with taking either an infrared or traditional Finnish sauna and key sauna studies suggest traditional sauna offers added protection when it comes to pneumonia, dementia, alzheimers and respiratory disease.
Unfortunately, many people miss out on the authentic Finnish sauna experience because most of the saunas set up in conventional leisure clubs or swimming pools simply don’t provide the full benefits of the hot evaporating steam needed for what Finnish people call ‘Löyly‘ (pronounced Low-Lou).
This humidity, which is so crucial to creating a great Finnish sauna experience, happens by pouring water on the sauna stones. Having the correct hard-wearing igneous stones is also vital because they won’t break down or release gas when they are heated.An efficient ventilation system is also crucial, ideally one that exchanges the air 3 to 8 times per hour.
Regardless of whether you are using an electric heater or a wood burning heater a lovely soft heat is key. Try to make sure the heating up process starts early. This would usually be 30-40 mins before you’d like to get in and perhaps be a little longer for a wood burning heater.Importantly it allows the sauna time to reach an ideal temperature of between 70°C to 85°C and once you spot 5-10% humidity on the hygrometer the true health benefits begin to kick in.
Dried birch Sauna whisks (Sauna Vihta in Finnish) are a great way of cleansing and healing the skin because the leaves of birch contain an ideal blend of saponins and tannins to create a healthy natural soap.To prepare a freeze-dried whisk you’ll need to re-hydrate it in some warm fresh water and then it’s a case of gently whipping yourself during the sauna. It’s an ancient hygiene tradition which is highly regarded throughout Finland.
For an endorphin high and to improve blood flow and speed up muscle recovery time it’s recommended to take a cold bath or shower when you leave the sauna. Finnish people often repeat this process over the course of a few hours and replace the cold bath or shower with a dip in the nearest lake or even with a roll in fresh snow!