People have known the benefits of heat therapy for ages. Sauna bathing is a very old tradition in several cultures, but there are differences in what “sauna” actually means.
In this article, we’ll take a look at different types of saunas from different cultures across the world.
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When speaking about sauna, the first thing that usually comes to our minds is a Finnish sauna – a wooden room heated by a stove containing hot stones. The air inside the traditional Finnish sauna is mostly dry and the temperature can reach up to 212 ºF.
An inseparable part of the traditional sauna ritual is whisking. A whisk is usually made of fresh birch, oak, or eucalyptus twigs. Warmed up in hot water, it releases a pleasant aroma.
Whipping the whisk gently all over the body will help you improve blood circulation, relieve muscle tension, and clean the skin.
The relaxing effects and health benefits of heat have been well-known to other cultures as well, and that is why different types of saunas can be found across the world.
Japan is home to some of the oldest spa rituals in the world and even today, these rituals are an inseparable part of Japanese culture.
Ganbanyoku is a traditional hot stone sauna, sometimes referred to as bedrock bathing. No water is involved in this spa treatment, just the heat radiating from the far infrared stone beds.
Guests of these saunas lie on slabs of black silica, granite, and other stones believed to have numerous healing qualities, that are heated to between 100 and 120 ºF. After 15 minutes, it is recommended to take a break and spend some time in a cold room before going back to repeat the cycle. In one session, people usually do 3 to 5 cycles.
If you do not have money or time to travel to Japan and there is no traditional Japanese sauna in your area, a good alternative would be an infrared sauna. It offers very similar benefits as it operates on the same kind of infrared heat.
The literal translation of the word hammam is the bathroom. Hammams can be found across the whole Middle East. In the past, when it was not common to have a bathroom at home, people used to go to wash in public hammams.
Nowadays, the hammam is a symbol of a luxurious spa experience, but in the countries of its origin, you can still find typical simple public bathrooms for locals.
The temperature in the Turkish sauna is lower than in the Finnish one – it ranges between 120 ºF and 140 ºF. The air in the hammam is steamy, with the humidity around 60 – 70%.
The sauna bathing in a hammam starts in a hot room where you sweat and relax. After about 15 minutes, the masseur puts you on the marble floor and scrubs your body, removing the layers of dead skin. Once done, you enter a hotter room where you get washed and massaged with a foam-filled cloth.
Only when you return to the colder section to join your friends and continue with the relaxation, traditionally with a glass of an Ottoman-style juice called sherbet, a cup of tea, or some cold beverage.
The hammam ritual offers a truly relaxing and rejuvenating journey. Also, it is very pleasant to the eye, as inside the Turkish spa you can admire the fascinating and magical oriental architecture.
“The day you spend in the banya is the day you do not age.” Russian proverb
Russian sauna banya is one of the oldest Russian traditions. Thanks to its geographical proximity as well as its common history with Finland, it shares many features of the Finnish sauna.
The main difference is that the air inside the wooden room with the benches along the walls is not dry, but very steamy.
Inside the room, there is a person (called Banschik) who is responsible for a special whisk formed from leafy branches bound together and dipped into cold water. Banschik (or one of your fellow sauna bathers) will smack the whisk gently all over your body.
In order to cool down after the hot session, you can jump into a pool of cold water or directly into the snow.
Ganbanyoku, hammam, and banya are only a few examples of the rich variety of saunas in the world.
Luckily, you do not have to travel to distant Japan, Russia, or the Middle East to try them out. There are many great local spas you can try anytime you feel like you want to do something good for your body.
No matter which type you decide to go for, all of them offer a great relaxing and rejuvenating journey that is worth trying.
About The Author:
Ben Pavlik is a fitness freak, mountain lover, and sauna enthusiast. He is the author of Your Home Sauna, where he reviews the best-infrared saunas and provides other useful information, helping others to discover the benefits of sauna treatment.