– THE TRADITIONAL SAUNA –
ITS ORIGINS and TRADITIONS
A visit to the Nordic Traditions
– The traditional sauna –
1 – The traditional Sauna : its origins and traditions
– Down the ages –
Since prehistoric times, humans have practiced sweating.
Traces can be found in Siberia, among North American Indians, among the Mayas and also
> Originally they used tree branches to make sweating huts
They lit wood fires which they used to heat stones which then gave off heat.
> Later, for better thermic isolation and to prolong the heating effect, the hut was buried.
A hole of a few square metres was dug and covered with joined up tree trunks on which
pieces of birch bark were spread and then covered with clods of earth.
It was completed with a rudimentary door.
Facing it in a corner was a construction of large stones
with an earthen bench covered with plants.
> More than 2000 years ago the Finns improved on the sweat cabin concept.
Thus the sauna concept was established and then developed down the ages.
The first cabins consisted just of tree trunks with a chimney
for smoke evacuation.
In Europe these wooden houses or log cabins became the smoke saunas called more specifically, « steam rooms », in France.
> From the 17th century the traditional sauna took the form of a small chalet which
became very common in the Scandinavian countries.
Since then the sauna hasn’t changed much.
Only the stone house has evolved.
This was replaced with a wood burning stove.
Nowadays there are also electric stoves to be found
But this is only a practical question, because the effect is not really identical.
>> The Traditional Sauna
This « dry heat cabin » called a « Sauna » means :
– « sweat » in Finnish
– « Bath cabin » in Sweden, called « Bastu »
a contraction of « Badstuga »
– « Badstue » in Norway.
2 – The traditional Sauna : its origins and traditions
– How it Works –
> The stove is the heat source
In the traditional sauna the heat comes from a stove placed in a corner of the sauna.
When the cabin reaches the hottest point, the ceiling :
– the walls are hot
– the air is at the ideal temperature
– the stones are quite hot.
Once the temperature suits you, you just need to control it by appropriately wetting the stones and keeping an eye on the internal temperature.
The internal temperature of the traditional sauna ranges from 75°C to 100°C to produce a good sweat.
> The stones are the source of the steam
In the traditional sauna perspiration takes place when the cabin is sufficiently hot.
To optimise perspiration, just create more steam by pouring water on the stones
or on the volcanic rocks, such as steatite.
The stones used must absolutely be resistant to heat so as not to explode.
The advantage of pouring water on the stones is that it increases humidity.
This makes the cabin :
– more comfortable
– it humidifies the nasal passages
– and it allows aromatherapy use by mixing the essential oils with the water.
The traditional sauna has its traditions, and pouring water is a good Nordic tradition.
For this a wooden ladle is used so as to spread the water lightly over all the stones.
The stream of water in contact with the hot stones is transformed
into invisible and very hot steam.
The more stones there are, the longer the sauna will function, even for a few hours.
3 – The traditional Sauna : its origins and traditions
– A good session –
> Make the best use of the traditional sauna
After a harassing day or a hard sports session, put yourself in position
to profit the maximum from a good session :
– Fire up the stove and wait until the temperature is sufficiently high
before installing yourself.
– Place a towel on the sauna’s wooden bench.
The higher up the bench, the higher the temperature.
– To augment the temperature and the level of humidity, pour small amounts of water
on the stones.
– In the pure Nordic tradition, lash your body with birch branches so as to increase
– When sweating starts, refresh with a cold shower or roll in the snow !
– Stretch out on a resting bench to relax and allow your heart rate to decrease.
– Drink to rehydrate.
Repeat several times this procedure :
– alternate between the sauna, the shower and the rest period as often as you want
– So as to finally finish the evening calmed
– and relaxed with your body profoundly cleansed.
4 – What to wear
> For both men and women nudity is the norm in the traditional sauna.
> A towel is placed on the bench where you sit or lie down so as to absorb the sweat
and protect your skin from the heat of the wood.
> Wearing a swimsuit is not advised as it is unhygienic.
The heat and humidity favour the growth and spread of microbes and germs
such as gonococcus, chlamydia and trichomonas.
> On the contrary, the hot dry air helps to get rid of microbes and germs.
For these reasons it is better to dispense with a swimsuit in the sauna.
> The sauna is a very hygienic place.
For this reason, in the past Finnish women used to give birth there.
The Traditional Sauna is a place of :
– healthy living
– meetings of friends and family
– privileged by some political personalities
Go and partake of this unforgettable experience !
Here are other relevant articles for you Ladies and Gentlemen
Do not hesitate to consult them :
==> The steam sauna
– The traditional sauna –