Sauna June 01 2017
The one finnish word which has the exact same significance almost in the whole world. SAUNA. An institution to the finns, can be seen abroad often only as a place to loose weight. Most of the people I've met living here in Italy say they've tried it but don't really like the pungent heat of it. That's because they don't know how to have a sauna as they should.
To the finns it's almost a spiritual place; you enter strip naked of body and soul. It's not a place to speak loud, but it should be a place of silence and meditation. This can envolve conversations and laughter, but the ambience should be respected. Often people share their worries and deepest toughts with friends and family members they enter the sauna with. It's normal for men and women to share the bathing time, even between friends, coworkers and neighbours, but it it doesn't have a sexual aspect. Finns are used to nudity since they are little so a naked body is something very normal.
Sauna helps against stress, it purifies your body from toxins and can be a great pain relief. Actually, women used to give birth in saunas as it was the most hygenic place of the home, heat killing the bacteria and also because it helped to get through the contractions. Also having hot water at hand was helpful.
In summertime it's custom to make vihta or vasta from birchleaves which you can use to lightly (some more than others) whip the skin inside sauna to improve blood circulation.
We have three types of sauna. The traditional wooden sauna which is heated with burning wood inside kiuas (stove specially made for sauna). This is always the preferred solution to finns, as the heat is softer and the sound of burning wood adds to the experience an element you couldn't experience in an electric sauna. The electric saunas are easier to use: just set the timer and wait for until it's ready. The perfect solution to city apartments and gyms. The last but not the least is the smoke sauna. They are rare, but still built, although it takes a lot of time and expertice to heat one correctly. They say you'll learn to heat them well when you have done it hundreds of times. The smoke sauna doesn't have a chimney, and when heated the smoke remains within the sauna. The whole space will, in time, get completely black of the smoke. You need to warm them up for at least three hours, and you should enter only when the stove has ceased burning. The smoke has to be let out. The large stove will remain hot for hours and it produces the softest and kindest heat immaginable. There's nothing better than a dip to a lake from it. If you're anywhere close to get to try it once, I highly recommend you to do so!
Finns use sauna at least once a week, but some almost every day. Often we have the eletrcic one in the house and another wood burning one in the garden or at summer cottages. Rarely people do not have a sauna: even the large city condominiums have a sauna for all the apartment owners (the bathing times are booked in advance).
There are a few rules if you want to do it the 'right' way. Have a shower before entering the already hot sauna. Make sure you have wet hair too, or if not, cover your head with a moist towel (I always shower my hair too). When needed or wanted, throw some water to the hot stones to increase the humidity inside. When you start to feel like it, exit the sauna and shower again (or preferibly go swimming - we often build our saunas close to lakes and we swim in them both in the summer and in the winter time) and drink a lot of water. Make sure you're wet, cooled down and hydrated when you enter the sauna again. Do this for as long as you feel like.
After repeated times of hot and cool you should feel your skin completely clean and your body totally relaxed. Some of the worries of the day have surely melted away.