Americans have become more and more enamored with taking a sauna over the last fifty years. Yet, like many things that migrate from Europe, the sauna session for many is the Americanized version. With the temperatures dropping, it could be a great time to try taking a sauna like a true Finn!
First, you’ll need your sauna room H-O-T. The minimum acceptable temperature would be 160 degrees Fahrenheit. In the U.S., you can’t buy a sauna that will get to the higher range a Finn would find appropriate (212 degrees!!), but you could certainly get it up over a piping 180.
Once in the sauna, you need to create humidity by ladling water onto your sauna rocks (the Finnish term for rocks or stones used in a sauna is kinas). The steam produced is known as löyly, and is absolutely necessary for an authentic Finnish sauna session.
Now that you’ve created löyly, it’s time to get out the birch tree whisks. (Yes, you heard me right—you’ll need branches from a young birch tree fashioned into a whisk, or ”beater” if you will.) Proceed to lightly beat yourself with the birch whisk. Not only does this create an aromatic environment in the sauna, the beating increases circulation and encourages perspiration.
Once you’ve completed your sauna session, it’s time for the cool down. This can be achieved in a variety of ways. For many, it’s attainable through a cold jump in a lake or stream! If this can’t be accomplished, a cool shower is acceptable, as well as retreating outside to cool down in the crisp night air.
Sauna enthusiasts repeat these steps (an inning) several times for a full sauna experience.
Ready to give a sauna session the authentic Finnish way a try? You’ll be quite surprised at how terrific it will make you feel!
OH, and by the way: If you’re going to be a true sauna bather in the Finnish fashion, there will be no talking, no indecent behavior, and bathing only with those of the same sex. (Bathing with someone of the opposite sex is appropriate only within families.) The sauna ritual should be taken in silence and reverence, much like reflection during a church service.