The word sauna is an ancient Finnish word referring to the traditional Finnish bath and to a bathhouse itself. In other Baltic-Finnic languages, sauna does not necessarily mean a building or space for bathing, it can also mean a small cabin or cottage, such as a cabin for a fisherman. The oldest known saunas were pits dug in an enbankment and primarily used as dwellings in winter. The sauna featured a firepit where stones were heated to a high temperature. Water was then thrown over the hot stones to produce steam and to give a sensation of increased heat. The steam would raise the apparent temperature to the point where the occupants could take off their clothes. Over time the sauna transitioned to a different form.
Saunas became single room structures built above ground with wooden logs. The first Finnish saunas, in this new form, are today called savusaunas, or ‘smoke saunas’. The ‘smoke sauna’ contained a pile of rocks, called kiuas, that were heated by burning large amounts of wood for 6 to 8 hours, and then letting the smoke out before enjoying the lˆyly, or sauna heat. This room did not have a chimney but it did have a small air vent in the back wall. A properly heated “savusauna” gives heat up to 12 hours. The name sauna is thought to be a derivative of the word savuna, literally “in smoke”. The savusauna is still used in Finland by some traditionalists, but usually only on special occasions such as Christmas, New Years, Easter, and juhannus (Midsummer).
During the Industrial Revolution, the sauna evolved to use a metal woodstove, or kiuas, with a chimney. The lˆyly (steam vapor) was created by splashing water on the heated rocks. The Finns also used a bundle of birch twigs with fresh leaves, to gently slap the skin and create further stimulation of the pores and cells. Purists still use the birch twigs with leaves today; check out our Birch Sauna Whisks! The Finns saw the sauna as a place to cleanse the mind, rejuvenate and refresh the spirit, and prepare the dead for burial. The sauna was then, and still is an important part of daily life where families bathe together in the home sauna. In addition, because the sauna was often the cleanest structure and had water readily available, Finnish women also gave birth in the sauna.
Although modern sauna culture is more influenced by the Finnish sauna, one should know that the sauna developed around the same time both in Scandinavian and Baltic regions, with both areas sharing similiar meaning and importance of sauna in daily life. A revered sauna culture thrives in both regions to this day. When the Finns migrated to other areas of the world they brought their sauna designs and traditions with them, introducing other cultures to the enjoyment and health benefits of sauna. The Finns are thought to have brought the sauna to America around 1638, whenever they first settled in current day Deleware.
Modern living along with the development of electricity changed the sauna experience again. Saunas became more accessible in the U.S. after the electric sauna stove was developed in the 1950s. After 360 years in this country, the sauna has become an established tradition for many Americans as it has been for the Finns.
The sauna is known for the general health benefits and mood-enhancing feeling it gives the user. There are many sauna benefits, which can affect to the mind and body of a sauna user. Sauna is an excellent way to make one’s immune system stronger, by introducing a controlled use of hot and cold stimulation. The body’s natural reaction to the heat of a sauna is the expansion of one’s blood vessels in the skin and muscles. Further, through the process of perspiration, acid and waste are removed from the blood, aiding the kidney’s ability to filter out impurities. In the sauna one’s pores open up, allowing the flushing out of impurities and acne-producing bacteria. A hot sauna with an alternating cold shower is an excellent thermo-massage for the pores and blood vessels of one’s skin and muscles. This kind of thermo-therapy helps one build tolerance to weather changes. Scientific data shows that people who regularly use saunas get flu and colds ten times less than the average. Sauna is an excellent way to make our immune systems stronger by the use of hot, cold and humid stimulants.
Check out more sauna benefits below:
Tension and stress relief
With a sauna, one will feel rejuvenated and more energetic. Alleviated stress equals a more restful sleep.
Soothe and relax muscles
After a hard day of work or exercise, the sauna helps improve ones range of motion by loosening tight muscles. After a workout, the sauna is a good way to clear out built-up lactic acids. The sauna relaxes sore muscles as well as relieving stiffness.
Calming of mind
When the body is relaxed ones mind remains calmer. The sauna promotes a wonderful sense of well being.
Condition the heart
Finnish researchers have reported that the regular use of saunas helps condition the blood vessels. Vessels become more elastic and pliable, due to regular dilation and contraction, from the process of heating and cooling the body repeatedly. Ones heart rate increases in the sauna creating a demand for more oxygen that burns calories and provides a mild workout for the heart.
With sauna heat, blood vessels dilate and bring blood closer to the surface of the skin, with blood vessels expanding to accommodate the increased blood flow, circulation in the extremities improves.
Aid arthritic pain
Heat therapy benefits joint and muscle pain and helps with range of motion.
Helps maintain clear, healthy skin
Blood flow to the skin increases, skin pores are opened and the heat stimulates the epidermis, thus increasing circulation. Vasodilation (expansion of blood vessels) brings essential fluids to the surface of the skin, enhancing collagen production that maintain skin elasticity and a wrinkle-free complexion.
Toxins and impurities removed from the body
Perspiration induced by a sauna opens skin pores and naturally expels impurities and toxins from the body. Many detoxification programs use the sauna daily to rid the body of toxins. The sauna is used to sweat out nicotine, radiation, pesticides, and other toxins. Our skin is the largest organ of the body and 30% of body wastes exit through it.
Allergies and sinus congestion relief
Steam inhalation is excellent for relieving throat irritations and helping the inflammation of upper respiratory mucous membranes. Sauna steam loosens secretions and can stimulate discharge of mucous from the lungs and throat.
Aid kidney function
Sauna bathing can augment proper kidney function. Perspiration through skin pores excretes a good amount of the body’s wastes and reduces the load put on the kidneys. Sweating is such an effective detoxifier that some doctors recommend sauna usage to help aid persons on kidney dialysis.
Sauna is the only bath in the world in which both dry and damp air is present at the same time. The high heat (average of 180∞ F) and the low humidity (about 25%) create an environment that promotes total body perspiration with deep cleansing of pores. This total perspiration helps maintain clear, healthy skin and provides a ‘glowing’ appearance. Saunas are wonderful place of relaxation. The soft heat and humidity soothes and relaxes tired muscles, relieving stress, and promoting a feeling of contentment and well being. During a sauna, blood circulation increases, breathing increases, and the pulse rate quickens acting as mild exercise and conditioner to your heart. A sauna is more beneficial whenever used in addition to a proper diet and exercise program. To avails maximum sauna benefits you need to follow some rules & regulations while taking sauna. Always keep yourself properly hydrated before, during and after sauna.