Sauna: A sensory journey through warmth and well-being

What comes to mind when you think of a sauna? Is it the penetrating warmth that envelops your skin, the hissing of the water during an infusion or the deep relaxation that spreads through your body? In this article, we invite you on a journey for the senses - a journey that goes deep into the heart of sauna culture.
The story - Where it all began
© sauna time

The story – where it all began

Far more than just a Finnish national heritage, the sauna is a multi-layered window into a world of tradition and lore. Originating as a smoke sauna in rural Finland, the sauna has evolved over the centuries to become a globally recognized symbol of health and well-being.

Its roots go back to a time when the sauna served not only as a place of purification, but also as a space for spiritual and social gatherings. In the traditional smoke sauna, which had no chimney, the smoke from the burnt wood collected under the roof and eventually escaped when the door was opened. This process left behind an unmistakable aroma and atmosphere that is still considered an essential part of sauna culture today.

Over time, the sauna continued to develop and spread beyond Finland’s borders. Today, saunas can be found in various forms and designs all over the world, from public saunas in cities to luxurious wellness facilities in hotels. Despite this global expansion and modernization, the core of sauna culture remains unchanged: a place of relaxation, physical and mental well-being and connection to nature.

The sauna experience – a feast for the senses

Entering a sauna cabin is like entering another world, a world in which all the senses are stimulated in a unique and enriching way. The first sensation that envelops you is the intense, even warmth that immediately takes hold of your body and relaxes you. This comforting warmth, which penetrates deep into the skin, relieves tension and gives you a feeling of security.

As soon as you sit down in the sauna, you are surrounded by the scent of wood, which permeates the interior walls of the room. This natural scent is often complemented by essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender or pine, which are sprinkled into the water that is poured onto the hot stones. These aromas rise with the steam and fill the air, creating a sensual and therapeutic experience that eases breathing and calms the mind.

The soft crackling of the wood-fired sauna heater adds an acoustic dimension to the experience. This subtle, soothing sound forms the backdrop to the silence that fills the room. It invites you to block out the noise of everyday life and immerse yourself in an almost meditative calm. In this quiet environment, listening becomes meditation, with every crackle and hiss of the heater promoting mindfulness and contributing to inner peace.

Visually, the sauna is often a place of simple, natural beauty. The subdued light, or soft lighting, creates an intimate and calming atmosphere. The wooden surfaces with their unique grains and color tones add to the aesthetic experience and convey a sense of connection with nature.

The sauna experience also appeals to the sense of touch. The feeling of hot wood under your feet, the cooling effect of the water after an infusion, the sensation of your own sweat slowly running over your skin – these are all tactile experiences that heighten your awareness of your own body and contribute to physical relaxation.

Health and well-being – more than just sweating

A visit to the sauna is much more than just sweating; it is a holistic experience that brings numerous health benefits. One of the most important benefits of the sauna is its ability to strengthen the immune system. The high temperature in the sauna simulates a fever, which the body uses as a signal to activate its defenses. This process helps to strengthen the immune system and reduce the incidence of colds and other infections.

The sauna also has a positive effect on blood pressure. The heat causes the blood vessels to dilate, which leads to better blood circulation and oxygen supply to the body. This effect can be particularly beneficial for people with high blood pressure, as it naturally helps to lower blood pressure.

Another important benefit is stress reduction. The relaxing effect of the heat combined with the tranquil environment of the sauna promotes relaxation and helps to free the mind from daily worries. This leads to a reduction in stress levels and an improvement in overall mental health.

The sauna also provides therapeutic benefits for the body. The heat eases muscle tension and relieves pain. This is particularly useful for people who suffer from sore muscles or chronic pain. In addition, sweating helps the body to cleanse the skin, which contributes to better skin health and an overall feeling of cleanliness.

Rituals and traditions – worldwide

Sauna culture is spread around the world, with each country having its own unique way of organizing the sauna experience. Let’s start in Finland, the heart of sauna culture. Here, the sauna is an integral part of daily life. Finnish sauna rituals often include a dip in a cold lake or in the snow after the sauna session, which serves to refresh and stimulate blood circulation. The traditional Finnish sauna is known for its infusions, where water is poured onto hot stones to create steam and more intense heat.

In Russia, however, it’s all about the banya, a type of sauna known for its high temperatures and the use of birch branches. These branches, also known as ‘veniks’, are used to stimulate the skin and improve blood circulation. Russian banya rituals often include social aspects, with friends and family members coming together to relax and socialize.

In Japan, the sauna is closely associated with onsen, or natural hot springs. Onsen experiences are characterized by tranquility and respect for the natural environment. The emphasis here is on bathing, often accompanied by a deep respect for the water and its healing properties. The experience is characterized by silence and inner contemplation.

In Turkey, we experience the hammam, a traditional Turkish steam bath that offers a combination of heat, water and massage. The hammam is a place for social interaction and relaxation, where body scrubs and massages help to cleanse and refresh the body.

In Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Norway, it is common to find saunas with breathtaking views that emphasize the experience of nature. Sauna sessions are often combined with cold outdoor showers or snow baths to intensify the experience.

Modern sauna trends – innovation meets tradition

Sauna culture is in an exciting phase of innovation, merging traditional practices with modern technologies and creative ideas. Luxurious spa experiences are an important trend in the sauna world. These go far beyond the traditional sauna and offer a mix of different wellness treatments. In these spas, we often find customized sauna experiences combined with aromatherapy, colored light for chromotherapy and even meditative sounds. These spas offer not just a sauna, but a whole package of relaxation and wellness services tailored to the individual needs of visitors.

Another trend is portable saunas for the home. With the advent of compact and easy-to-install sauna cabins, it is now possible to enjoy the sauna experience within your own four walls. These portable saunas are often equipped with advanced features such as infrared heating, remote control and individually adjustable temperatures. They allow users to customize their sauna experience and conveniently access the benefits of the sauna at any time.

The integration of technology into the sauna experience is also a growing trend. Modern saunas are increasingly equipped with digital controls that allow precise adjustment of temperature, humidity and lighting. Some saunas even offer a Wi-Fi connection and integrated speaker systems to listen to music or stream podcasts while in the sauna.

Another interesting trend is the combination of saunas with other forms of physical well-being, such as yoga or meditation. There are specially designed sauna rooms where yoga or meditation classes are offered in mild heat to combine the benefits of the sauna with mental relaxation.

Finally, there is also a trend towards environmentally friendly saunas. These saunas use renewable energy sources, such as solar power, and are equipped with energy-efficient heating systems and sustainable building materials. This trend reflects a growing awareness of environmental compatibility and sustainability in the sauna industry.

Tips for your sauna experience

A successful sauna session starts with the right preparation and a few practical tips. In this detailed section you will find valuable advice on how to make the most of your next sauna visit.

Preparation is key
  • Hydration: start with adequate hydration. Drink plenty of water before going to the sauna to avoid dehydration.
  • Light food: Eat a light meal about 2 hours before going to the sauna. Heavy meals can make you feel unwell during your sauna session.
  • Showering: A cleansing shower before a sauna session removes dirt and oils from the skin and improves the sweating experience.
What you should take with you
  • Two towels: One towel to sit or lie on in the sauna and another to dry off after showering.
  • Refreshing drinks: Water or electrolyte-containing drinks to rehydrate after the sauna session.
  • Body care products: Shower gel, shampoo and possibly a light moisturizer for after your sauna session.
Maximize your sauna experience
  • Length of stay: Do not stay in the sauna too long. Start with 5-10 minutes and gradually increase the time.
  • Rest periods: Allow yourself enough time to cool down and relax between sauna sessions.
  • Breathing: Concentrate on deep, relaxed breathing during your sauna session to reduce stress and relax.
  • Infusions: If available, use infusions with essential oils to humidify the air and intensify the experience.
After the sauna session
  • Cool down: After a sauna session, it is advisable to cool down in the fresh air. You can then take a cold shower or use a cold water hose to cool down further.
  • Rest: Allow yourself time to rest in order to bring your body back into balance.
  • Hydration: Keep drinking water or electrolyte-containing drinks to compensate for fluid loss.

 

Conclusion

A visit to the sauna is a journey of renewal for body and mind. May this article pique your curiosity and inspire you to engage in this wonderful tradition. Whether you are a sauna novice or a seasoned enthusiast, there is always something new to discover on this fascinating journey for the senses.

 

Melanie Sommer