More and more people are installing saunas in their homes, but very few people actually know how to use them properly. They believe that, with a good sauna kit and sauna heater, they should just sit there until they feel relaxed and get out again. In reality, however, to get the most benefits out of a sauna, you have to do it properly. So how do the Finns do it?
8 Steps to the Traditional Finnish Sauna Experience
- You have to be completely naked, free from any jewelry. Also take out your contacts, glasses, dental plates, and so on.
- Hikoilu. This is the first stage where you choose you spot (top bench is hotter, lower one is cooler) and spend between 10 and 20 minutes relaxing. This is meditative and should be done in complete silence.
- Vilvoittelu. At this stage, you will be sweating to an extent that it falls on the floor. That is when you can leave the sauna and you should enter a place for a cool swim, such as a lake, snow pile, or even an ice cold shower. Just stepping out in cold air can feel good as well. You then return to the hot room once your heartbeat is back to normal. If you feel faint, drink some water with electrolytes or a bit of fresh fruit juice before returning.
- Vihtominen loylyssa. This is your second go inside the hot room. You should heat some birch twigs if you can and beat the front and back with your body with the leaves in order to open your pores. Most saunas today use dry skin brushes for this, which is definitely a lot less painful. You do this for about 10 minutes, and then you cool off again.
- Peseytyminen. Here, you get a buck of cold water, as well as some scrubbing brushes and soap and you put them inside the sauna. You then start to scrub your body. Traditionally, people would scrub each other’s backs, since it is hard to reach them alone.
- Huuhtelu. You now go back outside in the cold, in the snow if possible although you can also go for a long natural swim or, if need be, wash with a cold shower or water buckets.
- Jalkilammittely. At this point, you quickly go back inside the sauna to warm back up, and you follow this with yet another shower, dip, or swim. Make sure that, every time you expose your body to heat, you follow up with cold. However, the cold exposure should be brief.
- Jaahdyttely ja kuivattelu. This is the final stage, which is an air bath. It helps you to cool down and relax. With the exception of harsh winters, you will come out of your final jalkilammittely and dry the back of your neck and your hair with a towel, leaving the rest untouched. Instead, you allow your body to dry naturally, enabling it to adjust to outside temperatures as well.