It might seem comical to some to hear that there is a ‘proper’ way to sauna bathe. We normally think that it’s as simple as turning on the heater (or lighting the wood burning oven) and then entering once the sauna has warmed up sufficiently. However, if we take a look at Finland, we might find that there are a few more steps that most people miss out on that are considered crucial (and who are we to question the birthplace of the modern sauna?).
Before we get started, we ask that you look at the below instructional with an open mind. Many Finn’s that we have spoken to lament at how saunas are treated in the United States; many are poorly ventilated, lack sauna stones, and some gyms and spas do not even allow you to throw water over the stones even if they have them- which creates the desired löyly (pronounced something, but not entirely like ‘low-le’). At thermaliving we make sure that our saunas include the desired qualities needed for the perfect sauna experience; all that’s left is to follow the following 12-step guide and you’re well on your way.
So let’s get started, with our handy how-to guide for how to use a sauna properly:
1. Prepare Your Sauna With Towels
It might seem strange to use your sauna butt-naked, and you certainly don’t have to, although it is quite common to do so. Whether you embrace the nakedness or shy away from it, we recommend that you lay down some towels as this will protect your backside from the wooden benches which can somehow become as hot as the sun!
2. Turn On Your Heater or Light The Fire
You may have a traditional electric heater, a wood burning oven, an infrared sauna or a hybrid sauna. Whichever you have, get the heat going and allow your sauna to warm up to the appropriate temperature. Depending on your heater and the size of your sauna, this preparation time may vary, so check your particular specifications and be patient. You don’t want to sit there waiting for it to warm up- you’ve got better things to be doing!
3. Enter The Sauna
It may be a solo affair, or an experience you share with friends and/or family. Once it has heated up sufficiently, now is the time to enter and start your session.
4. Pour Water Over The Stones
You may have noticed the word löyly earlier in this article. Don’t worry if that raised some eyebrows! It’s the Finnish name for the evaporating hot steam which rises from the sauna stones after you throw water over them. This elevates the humidity levels in the sauna, intensifying the heat and thus the sauna experience. See if you can outlast your friends!
Tip: This might not be traditional, but a few drops of essential oils in your water will release a pleasant scent when thrown over the sauna stones.
5. Soften Your Birch Leaf Whisk
Birch leaves? Yes, that’s right. It’s quite common in Finland to have a whisk fashioned out of birch leaves which then massage yourself with while in the sauna. Other tree leaves are also used, such as eucalyptus or oak, but birch is the most common. To prepare it, you’ll want to pre-soak it and then soften them on the hot sauna stones.
6. Whisk Yourself
Although, not like you’re making a cake. With your soaked and softened sauna whisk, gently whip/ massage yourself. This is crucial for many people as it is said to have a host of health benefits such as relieving muscle soreness, promoting blood circulation, cleaning the skin and more. Go on, give it a go.
7. Ask Your Friend To Whisk Your Back (Optional)
Not much needs to be said here. But if you can get a friend to reach those hard to reach areas, why not?
8. Add More Water To The Sauna Stones
Increase the humidity by adding more water to the sauna stones to get the lovely löyly. The increased humidity levels will make the sauna feel hotter, but the vapor paired with a microsalt ionizer (such as our popular SaltProX) can have some rather noticeable health benefits. We definitely recommend that you check it out!
9. Sit Back And Relax
Whether you are alone or with others, now’s the time to enjoy the heat. We recommend that you keep your sauna sets to a maximum of 15 minutes.
If you’d like to take your experience to the next level, you might also like to consider features such as chromatic therapy, internal reading lights, or built-in music systems as seen in the Medical 7 Ultra Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna.
10. Take A Cold Plunge
Once your 15 minutes is up it’s time to take that cold plunge. If you are near a lake, just jump straight in. You could always of course, take a cold shower. Going straight from the heat into the cold may seem like a shock, but it does have benefits such as reduced inflammation, improved blood circulation and more. You’ll also get a great rush of endorphins which feels amazing. Remember to be mindful of your breathing and to slow down your heart rate. If you are able to control your breathing and thoughts, this can become a meditative practise.
11. Relax Outside
When you are ready to leave the cold (this doesn’t need to be long), step out and relax for a few minutes. You’ll find some of our barrel and pod saunas offer the perfect space to relax with outdoor seating built-in (we highly recommend the Rustic Cedar Barrel Sauna with Panoramic View). You can end your sauna session here, or get ready for the next set in the sauna. Seasoned practitioners can have multiple sets in the sauna, with the entire session lasting up to an hour. That’s entirely up to you though. So, if you’re feeling it…
12. Repeat Steps 3 - 11
Simply rinse and repeat until you’re finished with your session.
And that’s how to properly enjoy your sauna. Trust us, this will definitely elevate your experience and if you are able to engage in a regular practise you’ll almost certainly reap increased benefits.
Who knows, you may even become addicted.