Finnish sauna

From ArticleWorld

A Finnish sauna is a steam bath taken to cleanse and relax the body. A large part of Finnish culture for centuries, the Finnish sauna has its own set of procedures.

The process

After undressing, one takes a quick shower, without soap, and enters the sauna. In the sauna, the temperatures range from 80ºC to over 100ºC, but the heat can be regulated by sitting higher, or lower, on the benches. Theare are hot stones on the furnace, and when water is thrown on them a damp cloud of steam fills the room. This makes the sauna feel hotter. One throws water on as often, or seldom, as desired. When the heat starts to become uncomfortable, one leaves and cools down outside, either by having a cold shower, or by going for a swim. The process is repeated at least twice. At the end, a shower is taken with soap and shampoo.

Bathing options

At lakeside cottages, a sauna bath is not normally complete without a refreshing swim. In the winter, sauna veterans may even cut a hole in the ice and take a bath in the icy water, or roll around in the snow. They may also use a strong bundle of birch twigs, that has been immersed in warm water, to strike themselves with. This exfoliates the skin, cleans it, and relaxes the muscles.

A way of life

Saunas are an integral part of the way of life in Finland. They are found everywhere, in private apartments, corporate headquarters and even in the Parliament. Some of the best saunas however, are located on the shores of Finland's 187,888 lakes. Sometimes men and women go to the sauna together, sometimes not. Depending on the group, three basic patterns can emerge: Everyone can go to sauna at the same time, men and women may take sauna separately, or each family can go to sauna separately. Mixed saunas with non-family-members are most common with young people and are quite rare with older people, and on more formal occasions. In the sauna, no clothing is worn in the hot room, although it is acceptable to sit on a small towel. While cooling off, it is quite common to wrap a towel around your body. Though mixed saunas are fairly common, the sauna, for a typical Finn, is a completely non-sexual place. In public saunas one also sees signs prohibiting the wearing of swimming suits in the hot room. If swimwear has been used in pool water and then brought to the hot room, the chlorine will vaporize and cause problems for people with breathing disorders. Foreign visitors in Finland often get invited into a sauna. This may even happen after business negotiations. On such occasions it is possible to refuse, but in a business setting, not recommended. Such an invitation in a business setting may indicate that negotiations have gone well. In private homes or summer residences, the sauna is usually warmed to honor the guest..