The sauna is often associated with Finland, at least in the modern traditional sense. The word sauna is a Finnish word. It means “bathhouse.” Its Finnish roots are also the picture that comes to mind when thinking about the sauna experience, a wooden structure with guests ladling water on hot rocks. This mental picture of the sauna is one of type of saunas with a long history that cuts across cultures and centuries.
The modern wooden box sauna is most associated with today’s experience, however that is not by any means the original concept nor is it the most effective one. In December 2020 the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage recognized the Finnish heritage and sauna culture. In 2014 the same international body recognized Estonia for the smoke sauna. Although both have similar roots the two are unique.
The traditional sauna associated with Finland is a steam sauna experience. Today they are typically lumber frame rooms that can be located indoors or outdoors. They can be heated with a variety of fuels to create a super-heated, temperature-controlled environment.
There are two distinctive Finnish sauna types, the dry sauna and the wet sauna. The wet sauna often pictured with ladles of water being poured on hot rocks has a higher humidity level than the dry. The dry sauna has a natural humidity level around 20% while the wet fluctuates from 20% to 40% because of the water ladling. The similarity between the two is a high heat, the dry sauna may reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit while the wet may fluctuate between 90 to 135 degrees.
The History of Saunas
The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage recognition of the sauna in Finland and the smoke sauna in Estonia have a history to support the designation. As the history is pieced together in Finland and Estonia it is believed that saunas have roots that extent to 7000 BCE.
Excavations and preserved saunas are testament to the structure types over time. It is believed that the primitive saunas were dug into the earth and lined with stones. The history is still being researched and uncovered in Finland. The first mention of a sauna in Finland recorded in history dates to 1112 AD while archeologists date their existence to 7000 BCE.
The bath houses of ancient Rome, Greece, Persia and Turkey can all be seen as seeds of the sauna in the form of steam rooms and caves. They were used to sweat out disease and strengthen endurance. In other cultures spiritualists used sweat lodges, tents and caves as a means to spiritual enlightenment spending days and weeks inside to the point of becoming hallucinogenic.
The idea of sweating for health continues now in the 21st Century with modifications and innovations in the construction of saunas. A major innovation is the infrared sauna where light is used to effectively heat the body. The latest innovation using infrared is the body enveloping sauna by FIT Bodywrap. The FIT Bodywrap Infrared Sauna offers the healthy benefits of toxin expulsion through increased perspiration with a four-zone temperature control for comfort. Its heat source is safe, effective dry infrared light.