Sauna bathing is an ancient past time although the activity is quite popular in the modern world as well. Let's explore the history of saunas and learn how they work
The purpose of a sauna is to provide wet or dry heat sessions that promote both relaxation and perspiration. This takes place in a small room where bathers remove their clothing and assume a comfortable position while the hot temperature (greater than 80 °C) penetrates their pores. A sauna bath is not only relaxing but also generates profuse sweating. In fact, the sauna’s popularity can be attributed to its many health benefits such as stress reduction, detoxification of the body, an improved immune system and other positive changes.
”Sauna” is world that developed in ancient Finland and means a traditional Finnish bath. The first known saunas were essentially the lowest points dug in a slope in the ground mainly used as dwellings during winters. At the time the sauna included a fireside where stones were heated to very high temperatures. Afterwards, water was thrown on to the hot stones thus producing steam and heat.The heat would be so strong that often people would undress when this was done.
Over time the sauna evolved to include a metal woodstove with a chimney. Although the temperature was generally set somewhere between 70 and 80 °C, a traditional Finnish sauna could sometimes get as hot as 90 °C. Steam vapor was also generated by spraying water onto the heated stones. The steam vapor and high heat caused bathers to sweat a great deal.
Often the Finns would use a 'vihta', a bundle of birch branches with fresh leaves, to gently swat themselves and other bathers to improve the experience. The vihta was used by bathers to gently swipe the skin in order to stimulate the pores, enhance cell production and improve blood circulation. Another benefit of the vihta was that it gave off a very pleasant scent that stimulated relaxation in the same manner that many of today’s aromatherapy products work. In fact, the vihta is still used by some individuals in the sauna.
As previously noted, a sauna is a wonderful and effective way to relieve stress. It accomplishes this in two basic ways. One is the natural relaxation you’d experience when spending time in a dry or wet sauna. The other way in which a sauna relieves stress is by releasing chemicals from the body. When your skin heats up during a bath, large quantities of chemicals that cause stress are expelled from the body. Thus, in addition to reducing the amount of chemicals in the body, the sauna bath also slows the formation of chemicals.
Furthermore, your body releases much of the toxins through the pores of your skin while you perspire. As mentioned earlier, the sauna induces sweating that ultimately cleanses the body.
Finns utilize saunas on a regular basis, and saunas are lauded thoughout Finland as the best, most natural way to cleanse oneself both in body and mind. There was a time in history when members of a Finnish family would bather together in their sauna at home. Another interesting fact about the Finns is that many Finnish women used to give birth in the sauna!
When the Finns migrated to the different parts of the globe they shared their knowledge of sauna designs and customs. They taught other cultures about the sauna’s health benefits which helped the sauna to evolve further. Eventually, this led to the development of electric sauna stoves and far infrared saunas which became quite popular. Since then various cultures around the world have been recognizing, adopting and improvising the sauna.