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March 27, 2020

“Sauna on köyhän apteekki.” – “The sauna is a poor man’s pharmacy.”

 

Joy N. Hussain, Ronda F. Greaves, Marc M. Cohen,
“A hot topic for health: Results of the Global Sauna Survey”,
Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Volume 44, 2019,
Pages 223-234,
ISSN 0965-2299,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2019.03.012.
(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965229919300998)

Traditional Finnish Sauna

 

The sauna is an ancient tradition: the first historical evidence dates back to 12th century Finland, but the use of heat baths can be traced back to customs that have even deeper roots.

Since the Stone Age, man learned that he could use hot stones and pebbles to warm up the environments in which he lived. Many cultures all over the world developed this knowledge, setting up rooms used for cleaning, relaxation and health, often also linked to purification rites.

For example, the construction of sweat huts was common practice for many pre-Columbian populations in North and Central America: the Inipi of the Sioux and the Temescal of Maya and Aztec are an example. The ancient Romans developed and spread a real spa culture, in which the alternation of diving in the hot (Calidarium) and cold (Frigidarium) pools reminds us of the sauna experience in many ways.

In the Middle East, the Turkish bath originated, which involves the use of steam. The first traces go back to ancient Egypt and the Greeks, but the tradition was taken up and spread by the Arabs under the name of Hammam.

In Asia, similar customs were common in Russia (Banja) and Japan (Mushiboro). In all probability it was from these territories that the Finns imported the custom of the heat bath, developing it in what today, all over the world, is known as the Finnish sauna.

Originally it was a simple hole in the ground, around which a hut was built, then covered with earth. Inside, a pile of stones was set up, a sort of rough fireplace under which the fire was lit.

These primitive and rudimentary saunas were used as real homes during the colder months. The presence of heat in fact allowed them to perform all the typical functions of a home. Thanks to the fireplace it was possible to cook and smoke meat and fish. By pouring the snow on the incandescent stones it was possible to generate steam, with which it was possible to heat the environment and clean the body even in the absence of water. The steam made the environment not only warm, but also sterile, creating an excellent environment for childbirth.

The structure underwent constant evolution over time: the Savusauna chimney (or “smoke sauna”) became more sophisticated taking on the shape of an oven, the stones were covered with a metal cone, used as a smoke hood. Even the external structure became less rudimentary and, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Finns began to build real wooden huts, equipped with a stove with a fireplace and, later, an electric stove.

It was in the first post-war period that the Finnish sauna became internationally famous. During the 1936 Berlin Olympics, athletes from Finland stunned the whole world with their physical prowess. The other nations could not help but notice the strange houses that had been set up by the Finns in the Olympic village, thinking that this was the secret of the extraordinary successes achieved. From then on, the culture of the sauna spread all over the world, depopulating in wellness centers, spas and gyms and then extending to private homes with home saunas.

The Finns have always been used to dive, after a sauna, in the freezing waters of the sea or a lake, or to throw themselves into the snow. The sudden transition from heat to cold generates numerous benefits. Currently, in saunas around the world, special showers are used to replicate the effect.

In recent times, the sauna has also undergone several variations, combining its benefits with those of aromatherapy and chromotherapy, up to the use of infrared rays as a source of heat.

Mind and body relax and regain energy, while the whole body eliminates toxins with beneficial effects on organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. The sauna, however, is also much more and much more because it purifies the skin and helps to eliminate skin blemishes and the signs of cellulite.

Today modern saunas can be introduced in small domestic spaces and give the possibility of creating a “spa” in the attic of the house or in a small room cleverly exploited thanks to a customized design. Experts in woodworking, we have been making professional and home saunas for decades, taking care of the design and choosing only high quality materials.

 

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