Guide to the Finnish Sauna:
Like many Finns, I sauna a few times per week. Depending on the day of the Sauna, the experience is quite different, even if the sauna is the same one. In my case, the little heat box is located at the back of the house, next to the shower & laundry room, with a rock-loaded stove heated by electricity.
In previous years, I’ve enjoyed an outdoor wood burning sauna in a standalone building made from logs. Even on the coldest days, I’ve enjoyed walking through the candlelit snowy ground to reach the old shack, where I stripped down and bathed like a trooper in the hot, hot heat of up to 100 degrees C. Madness, you might think? Lets try not to knock it before you’ve tried it 🙂
First thing to know is when and why to sauna:
1. On a Friday or Saturday night. Traditionally, groups of friends or family light the sauna, crack open a cold drink (beer or lemon gin drink anyone…?) and spend up to many hours going in and out of the sauna, spending in between in the open air, swimming or rolling in the snow (it’s true, this happens a bit, but not so much). Pop just a drop of beer in the water ladle along with plenty of water and douse the stones for a great smell of fresh baking bread…Ideal for Gluten-Free dieters! This is usually a more social time, even among families. Children join their parents in the sauna, normally until around puberty when men/boys and women/girls take separate sauna sessions. Light the outdoor fire and enjoy the atmosphere!
2. Mid-week. The mid-week sauna (Tuesday-Thursday, or Monday if you’ve had a high stress day!) is great for enforcing some relaxation and semi-meditation into your week. It s a great place to do some thinking, be quiet and leave the distractions of work and daily grind elsewhere. Whether you accompany with a beverage or not is up to you. Sparkling water and juice makes a nice well behaved option. The sauna ritual is an important part of Finnish culture, considered a place to clean your body and mind. You can feel this during a mid-week sauna. Spritz some watered down Juniper, eucalyptus or spruce scent lightly in the air for ultimate aroma therapy.
3. Hazy morning Sauna. Had a tough week, or stayed out a bit too late in the night? Feeling hazy and tired? Sauna in the morning is surprisingly refreshing. It wakes and calms at the same time, leaving you invigorated for the new day. Stick to water or juice for this option! Lemon spritz or a citrus oil mixed with water in a stone burner in the sauna works really nicely & makes a great way to wake up!
4. The Post-labour Sauna. And I don’t mean giving birth, although in years gone by, women would give birth in the sauna, as it may have been the cleanest and warmest place in the house, pre-central heating. What I mean here is Manual labour – Done a full day in the garden, hiking, digging, building or anything that makes you fingernails grubby? Instead of jumping directly in the shower, a sauna is a great way to clean up every grubby pore.
These are my ways to sauna – Have you tried a sauna?
I have some of my best ideas in the sauna, even though some Finn’s frown upon heavy thinking in the sauna. A little like meditation, the sauna space is meant to be clear of work or home related stresses. I find the lack of distraction very focusing, but you’ll have to try yourself to see how and when is the best way for you.
More on saunas to follow, you might like to know more about our Finnish Experiences: