Wood Fire Sauna Traditions: How to Cool Down When You Heat Up
Using a wood fire sauna is a time-honored tradition in Scandinavian countries. For thousands of years, people have been using them as part of their daily routine and associate this with a myriad of health benefits. However, most traditions involve a bit more than simply climbing in a heated room. There’s a full process and cool down periods too. If you’d like to use your wood fire sauna the traditional Finnish way, here’s how to go about it.
Step 1: Heat
It takes a little while for a wood fire sauna to heat up. The ideal temperature is 176-194°F. Depending on the size and conditions, you’ll want to get it going 30-60 minutes before you plan to use it. While you’re waiting for it to heat up, you can do a little prep work, like preparing clean clothes to wear after and grabbing a towel to sit on while you’re in.
Step 2: Disrobe
Traditions call for nude sauna bathing. Swimsuits are generally uncomfortable when you sweat, plus they often have pool chemicals on them, which can cause breathing problems or allergic reactions. So, those are a no-go. It’s also worth noting that the Finns typically partake in family groups and children are raised to respect the time as sacred. This in mind, families partake together, but public saunas are generally split by gender (and, yes, they’re still nude). However, if you happen to be visiting a mixed-gender sauna with non-family, wearing a towel or a clean swimsuit may be acceptable. Eyeglasses, watches, and other accessories are typically removed too, simply because they can become damaged or diminish comfort.
Step 3: Rinse
Give yourself a quick rinse to remove any odors or debris before you go in.
Step 4: Warm Up
During your first trip into the wood fire sauna, you won’t add any water to the stones using the traditional method. Instead, you’ll sit and simply enjoy the warmth. There’s no predetermined time to sit. Some people use vihta or vasta while they warm up. These are whisks made of birch twigs. Patting yourself with them is supposed to help perspiration, but it can also stimulate the skin and increase circulation too. Plus, doing so releases a pleasant earthy scent.
Step 5: Cool Down
Early Finns built their wood fire saunas by bodies of water and would dive in during the cool down period, even if the water was frigid. Today, most facilities have showers or pools to cool off in or you can simply step outside if the day is crisp. Try to make your cool down as long as your warm up, so your body has time to return to normal between cycles. You can use this little break to rehydrate too, but stick to water.
Step 6: Warm Up and Create Löyly
Once back inside the wood fire sauna, give yourself a few minutes to warm back up. Then, you can create löyly, which is the Finnish name for the steam created by dropping water on the heated rocks, called kiuas stones. If you’re with a group, it’s up to the person closest to the rocks to add water. Vihta may be used at this point too.
Step 7: Repeat Steps 5 and 6 Until You’re Satisfied
Most people go through two cycles, but you can do more or less. It’s purely a matter of what feels right for you and your body.
Step 8: Rinse and Relax
Once finished with the wood burning sauna, most people bathe or take a dip in the pool. It’s also quite common for people to lounge about for a while. Snacks and drinks are usually present too. Once you’ve finished enjoying the sauna experience, change into clean clothes and go about your day or, better yet, have a nap!
Step 9: Sauna Often
About 99% of the Finnish population uses a sauna at least once per week, but the greatest health benefits are seen when people use them four or more times per week. However, if you have easy access to one, chances are you’ll be counting down the hours until you get to partake rather than worrying about working enough sessions in.
Get Your Own Wood Fire Sauna
Whether you enjoy using a wood fire sauna the traditional way or have your own preferences, no doubt you’ll want to enjoy the experience again and again. Our collection offers a wealth of choices; from cozy spaces with room for two through models large enough for your friends or family. Explore our selection of wood fire saunas now.