The Real Finnish Sauna Culture

Updated February 9, 2018
"Happiness is summer and a lakefront sauna"
"Onnea on kesä ja rantasauna."

The Authenic Finnish sauna.

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Social status is left behind by custom, when people come together to enjoy the Finnish Sauna tradition. Sex is not even a consideration in our tradition as men and women used to bathe together and it is still acceptable in some places. It is the sacred ancient custom of Finns and we treat it accordingly, with reverence.

What is a Finnish Sauna?

The sauna is a specially built insulated room or cabin which is heated to 71 - 100 degrees Celsius (160 - 212 Fahrenheit) by means of rocks heated by preferably wood, but also by electricity and gas. It is used for bathing nude in the hot air, and periodic wafts of steam from water thrown on the rocks, which stimulates circulation and deep cleans the skin by opening the pores, resulting in mental and physical relaxation and well-being. It is a place to purify the body and soul. But there is more to it than that.

When is a Sauna not a Sauna?
What is a Finnish Sauna? A "sauna" by definition is a Finnish Sauna because the word sauna is from Finland. What kind of saunas then are from Finland? There are two kinds of saunas: 1)the smoke sauna, 2)and the regular kind. So anything different is something else. Just because a room is built to look like a Finnish Sauna, it does not automatically make it so. Excluded from being a Finnish Sauna under this definition, are such rooms as infra-red "saunas." They are called "saunas" because nobody has coined another word for them, yet.

Not all infra-red saunas were created equal - and the cheap Chinese made ones are the worst, spewing out hundreds of times the "allowable" electromagnetic radiation. Now, there may be a place for these "saunas" and even steam rooms, in the market, but they should not be confused with the proper Finnish Sauna. If you prefer either of these other types of rooms, you are welcome to them, but we would like to inform you about the difference. Finnish saunas try to limit all forms of radiation, especially direct, including electromagnetic, light and infra-red. Infra-red (heat) in the traditional Finnish sauna is soft, more diffuse, emanating from all sources including the walls, ceiling, stove, and especially the air itself. A direct source of unshielded electric heat is also a direct source of electromagnetic pollution, which we must avoid at all cost as pointed out by Dr. Robert O. Becker in his book Perils of Electropollution. "We are literally living in an electromagnetic stew, which is all the more insidious because it is invisible. We can't see it, but it is everywhere, and by no means altogether benign." It is potentially responsible for many medical conditions such as Atrial Fibrillation, which is no wonder because our bodies are electro-mechanical devices. And as you know, even the navigation and other systems aboard aircraft are also interrupted by cell phones - a major cause along with their towers, of this pollution. President Bush and Clinton both moved to protect cell phone companies from litigation by making it impossible to sue them for damages. Both of these men are the enemy. Probably the most frightening and appalling part of Becker's story is the ongoing pattern of deceit and cover-up on the part of the industrial, governmental and military entities which produce, traffic in, or regulate electromagnetic products and services. It is very important that electric heaters must be designed, through proper shielding of the heating elements and wiring, to avoid electromagnetic radiation.EMF (not connected to company, but they have some good info) To the right is a video clip of the oldest public sauna in Finland.

Why do we have to go to this trouble to define a real sauna? That is because anyone using a type of "health" heat apparatus (usually electrical) is using the term. There are hundreds of products using the Finnish word "sauna," all of them misnomers, diluting the true meaning. Finnish saunas use the old system that has kept the Finnish people going in the frozen north for millennia.

Saunagoing is a form of escapism as well. We escape everything our modern environment does to us with the knowledge that we are undoing certain effects in the sanctity of the sauna room. Therefore there is no point in bringing those things in with you. There is a good possibility that some or all radiation can be mitigated by updating the construction standards of saunas. Already they are surrounded by three layers of the vapor barrier: paper, polyethylene and foil. This is very effective in preventing moisture from escaping into the walls, but also in keeping unwanted wave forms from penetrating into the sauna. Improvements could include ensuring that the foil is of sufficient thickness and that the foil is connected together electrically at the joints as electromagnetic signals concentrate at any gaps and flood into the room. Slit holes are much worse than pin-holes. This is a good starting point but you will find more tips here in the future. Bookmark this page and come back soon for updates to improving sauna isolation from electropollution. If this interests you because you know you are surrounded by it, then the next step is to protect your house, office and your entire habitat with electropollution mitigating systems such as paint and other shielding systems. We will post links here soon.

Sauna is a secret known to every Finnish hockey player, by which they achieve the edge against their competition. Just ask the Ruutu brothers. A thin edge of the wedge of endurance, stamina, health, that makes all the difference. And then there were the Finns who climbed Mount Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe - and had a sauna there! What'll we Finns think of next? Stick around and find out.

Sauna is not something that can be monopolized as a trademark either, such as sauna heater etc. since the word belongs to us all.

A hot sauna is entirely safe and the properly designed and built sauna is a very pleasant experience. Those people who complain that the sauna is uncomfortable and they prefer a hot tub are missing out on a great health benefit and experience. This site will explain why some saunas, except those in Finland, give a bad first impression. In fact some wonder why people would put themselves through such punishment in a hot room that leaves you gasping for air.

Some form of sauna exists in other cultures as well, for example the Russian banya, the native American sweat lodge or inipi, the Turkish hamam, and the Japanese onsen. The Finns have enjoyed the sauna since at least the ice ages in one form or other though traces of ancient saunas are very rare.

According to 2002 statistics, there were 1,212,000 saunas in private apartments in Finland and of course the Finns must have their summer cottages, where together with public swimming pools, you will find another 800,000. A country with 2 million saunas for 5.2 million people? What kind of country is that? A clean, happy one! I didn't leave on my own accord either, I was kidnapped (by my parents). If you are thinking of building a sauna of your own, you will find some ideas and guidelines here.

Page 2: Finnish Sauna Tradition

© 1998 - 2018 Osmo Joronen

Lähteet - Bibliography

Virtanen, John, O, The Finnish Sauna, Peace of Mind, Body and Soul, Continental Publishing House, Portland, Oregon 1974
Tommila, Pekka, Rakennan Saunan, Suomalainen Sauna Opas, Rakentajain Kustannus Oy, 1986