Sauna use and culture:
Sauna is a room or a building with wood-panelled walls and wooden benches. Traditional Finnish steam sauna is heated using a sauna stove with preferably igneous rocks (to retain more heat) or rock-filled electric heaters (Hannuksela & Ellahham, 2001), and once the water hits onto the hot rocks, the humidity of the sauna changes. (Crinnion 2011; Karjanoja & Peltonen, 1997). The steam created from the water poured onto the hot igneous rocks is often referred to as the "Löyly", primarily, the Finish term refers to the purity, temperature, moisture content of the air contained inside the sauna (Helamaa, 1988). In sauna use, heat, humidity, and ventilation need to be in perfect harmony with each other. The ideal temperature for sauna use is said to be between 80°- 90° celsius at face level, and 30°celsius at floor level (Hussain & Cohen, 2018).
Humidity changes and increases each time water is thrown onto the sauna stove, creating the löyly. In sauna use, lighting is dim, which has relaxing and calming effects linking the many associated therapeutic longitudinal benefits within a typical sauna environment (Karjanoja & Peltonen, 1997). The longevity effects of the sauna in Finland are often related to the archetypal views of the sauna as a holy place, "participants have to behave in the sauna as they would in the church" (Peräsalo J, 1988). These connotations and perceptions of sauna use are what potentially has many researchers question the health benefits attached to the activity of sauna.
Sauna culture has been a way of life in Finland for over 2000 years. Sauna bathing is a form of whole-body thermotherapy. There are various forms (radiant heat, sweat lodges) for thousands of years in many parts of the world (Hussain and Cohen, 2018). One of the first written descriptions of the Finnish sauna was in 1112 (Mullins, 2012). Finns have used the sauna for centuries to clean themselves, to maintain their health and even to help in treating a variety of illnesses (Peräsalo J, 1988). The main reason for a sauna is the pleasure of sauna bathing, and a craving for the effects felt after the sauna (Peräsalo J, 1988) Sauna is not solely part of Finish culture, the widespread use of sauna throughout America to this day is still evident. After immigration increased within Finland in the nineteenth century, the tradition of Sauna use went with them and became widespread across American soil (P.Mullins, 2012). The correlation of saunas with Finnish settlement in rural America in northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota is a viewing of a Finnish cultural complex within these farmland regions(P.Mullins,2012). This complex was transplanted to America with many of its distinctive elements still intact or only slightly modified (Cotton Mather and Matti Kaups 1963).
The continued use and widespread of sauna use throughout these parts of America may have a strong argument to the many perceived physical and mental health benefits. They may have used it without knowing the specific health benefits, but it is possible to consider that many Native Americans adopted the habit of sauna culture due to the feelings they felt after.
A sauna is more than just a hot room. We want to communicate, educate and inspire to people about the powers of the sauna. A little snapshot of some of it’s history will help you along the journey with us.