The sauna, the secret of well-being for the Finns

Relaxation and purification. These are the two great health benefits of sauna, but in those steamy wooden cabins of very hot air there may be much more to gain in order to feel better. They believe so, and practice it, in Finlandthe ‘happiest country in the world’, where the sauna is deeply rooted in its customs and its oldest traditions, to the point that they are the great world experts in it and the most convinced users: there are 5.5 million in a country with 3.3 million saunas.

For the Finns, the periodic appointment with this steam bath is sacred, inescapable, and is fulfilled throughout the year without exception. As a general rule, it is weekly and usually takes place on Friday afternoons, as the closing of the days of activity and the beginning of those of rest and social life.

And it is that within this room or cubicle, a body and mental ritual takes place for them, but also a communal one. In the Scandinavian country, it is common to stay in the sauna and share the experience with others in a swimsuit (the nude thing is a bit of a myth, it is only done at home if you feel like it) and with sweat, but without any modesty.

Within reach everywhere

In Finland many houses, both houses and flats, have their own sauna. If this is not the case, it is because they have one for community use in the building or in the urbanization, generally in the basement or on the roof. They also tend to go to the many public or private saunas that exist in cities and towns.

There it is common to run into someone who does it even every day throughout the year, like going to the gym, and many of them complement it with an ice-cold contrast bath (read details of this practice at the end of the article).

They make this habit almost a religion, without gods, but with their rituals and even with some faith. And it is that, for the Finns, everything is fixed with or in the sauna. In fact, they have a popular saying that goes: “If the sauna, vodka (aguardant or liqueurs, according to different versions) and pitch do not cure it, the disease is fatal.”

The Finnish sauna, which has been exported to the world, is a source of belonging and pride. And with the current boom in self care and the search for holistic treatments, the idea gains even more strength. For a foreigner, going there to one of these places is quite an experience, seeing how the locals live in such a natural way sharing the cabins and verifying, in addition, that they are everywhere: there are saunas in the snow or water, even on boats or floating platforms, on ‘rooftops’, in restaurants or cafeterias, in museums and, the most extravagant, in a cable car at a ski resort and in a Ferris wheel. And there are old and traditional, modern and functional or designer and luxury.

an old tradition

Formerly in Finland births and deaths they were also lived in the sauna. This is understandable if you think that this was the most hygienic place in the house, therefore the babies were born there and the bodies were washed in the final farewell. So men and women did not share this steam bath either.

Today this no longer happens, and the sauna is generally unisex, but it is common to have important conversations there with family and friends, and even work or business, and find out what is happening in the community. “For us this is like a pub in the United Kingdom, the meeting point, where you find out the news but also the gossip, is a really important place in our lives,” explains the guide. Heidi Johansonfrom Helsinki Partners.

The Löyly designer sauna, on the outskirts of Helsinki.
The Löyly designer sauna, on the outskirts of Helsinki.

Precisely in the capital the government is carrying out a pilot test to establish saunas by neighborhoods or zones. The search for the sustainability, together now with the increase in the price of electricity, has led to this experiment. They coexist, in the capital of the country, with some of the most beautiful designer saunas in the world, such as Löyly, an installation made of pine wood treated to resist heat and large glazed terraces located on the shores of the Baltic Sea -to combine the heat of the booths with the ice cream dip, if you like-, where there is also a cafeteria and a lot of atmosphere.

The Allas Sea Pool sauna, in the center of Helsinki.
The Allas Sea Pool sauna, in the center of Helsinki. – Allas Sea Pool

Also in the city, right in the center, next to the Market and next to the water, is the well-known Allas Sea Pool, where it is possible to swim in its outdoor pools or sweat in its floating cabins, and where many Helsinki residents go before starting your working day. And right there, next door, is also the only Ferris wheel in the world with a cabin converted into a sauna, SkyWheel, to give yourself the treatment by circling from the heights.

the healers

The oldest, however, is in Tampere, a city located north of the capital, in an area of ​​lakes. There is an installation from 1906, Rajaportti, which is still heated with firewood, in the traditional way. In that town, known precisely as ‘the capital of the sauna’ due to the number of public places it has, they work Matti Kemi Y Juha Kumara, known as the new ‘sauna healers’ or healers (they lean more towards shamans) of the sauna.

After a long journey through the country collecting traditions and stories, together with ancient folk songs and beliefs, the two young people have developed a purification ceremony that they carry out for two hours inside the sauna, in Saunakonkeli, in a large house located next to to a lake. There they offer visitors a ritual to experience the sauna in the most spiritual way, with mantras, water baths and soft blows with birch branches to ‘clean’ body and mind through the deep meditative and relaxed state to which they guide.


And it is that the sauna has a marked relaxing effect. The temperature in it is very high -between 80 and 90 ºC- and the relative humidity is below 20 percent (there is always a bucket and water to pour over the stones, which generates more value… and more heat). With these conditions, the muscles loosen up, and the dim light in the booths, the smell of birch and tar -the two essentials in these rooms- also contribute to this, and something fundamental: during this time the mobile phone is not used, with which reduces stress and there is a certain technological ‘detox’. There is usually no music or noise either. Experience thus forces introspection or low-voice conversation.

With the heat and steam, the skin removes toxins along with sweat. Hobbyists often shower before and after, to complete the cleanse. You can be in the wooden cabin between a few seconds and half an hour or more, depending on your taste, condition and training. Finns tend to go in and out a few times, and drink water during breaks to rehydrate.

The sauna also promotes better circulation and stimulates the release of endorphins, with which the sense of well-being after a bath it is immediate. Various medical studies also suggest that it has effects on sleep, aids in the immune response, contributes to sports recovery, reduces colds and improves cardiovascular health and blood pressure control, although it is recommended to consult your doctor. doctor if there are diseases before undergoing this ancient practice.

The Finns, from whose language the word ‘sauna’ comes from, have no doubts about it: there the opinion is unequivocal. They say that the sauna is, precisely, the main source of what they call ‘sisu‘. The word means strength and perseverance in a complicated task.

For the journalist and writer Katja Pantzar, dedicated to studying the Finnish way of life since she settled in Santa’s country after leaving Canada, she is rather the key to your mind. It is this way of facing things, affirms the author of books such as ‘Sisu: the Finnish secret for a happy lifestyle’, precisely what allows them to be the happiest beings even with the long and dark winters, the loneliness and the difficult moments.

As Pantzar assures, this is the true Nordic trend more ‘cool’ of the moment, which goes beyond the famous ‘hygge’, as it incorporates exercise, the sauna and ice baths and healthy eating to that very minimalist, practical and functional way of doing things.

See them

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button