According to Wikepedia, there are over 5 million inhabitants and over 2 million saunas in Finland. That works out to about one sauna per household!
|(Photo from Flickr is not mine.)|
Vacation properties (summer cottages) often have sauna buildings close to the water so that it is easy to take a dip.
|(Photo from www.sauna-talk.com.)|
Apartment dwellers (like us) can schedule a weekly time in the building shared sauna for a small fee.
We have a weekly sauna time too! Only I'm quite sure that our sauna experience doesn't look much like the typical Finnish sauna experience!
We try to make it a relaxing experience, really we do. But our three kids have not been brought up in the sauna tradition and it is a bit difficult for them to sit still and sweat. (In all fairness, it is difficult for ME to sit still and sweat!)
So our sauna experience involves a few Superheros and a lot, I mean A LOT of coming and going.
In Finnish tradition, sauna works something like this...
After taking a shower, you enter the sauna (naked or not--usually naked in Finland--NOT in our co-ed, family situation) and sit on one of the wood benches. The room would be heated to about 170 - 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
We are still sauna rookies, so we keep the room relatively "cool," although we are able to withstand higher temps. each time we go. (My pictures are terrible. There is virtually NO light in our sauna. We've been told our sauna is quite old and dated--but what do we know?)
You pour water on the rocks, as Joey demonstrates here, to fill the room with heat and humidity. You need to repeat this a few times throughout your sauna time to keep things steamy. Our sauna is electric, but there are other kinds such as smoke or wood saunas.
If you need a break, you can leave the room and take a cool shower in the adjacent shower room (or jump in the lake!). For most Finns, this might happen two times during a 60 minutes sauna session. At the beginning, our kids were constantly running back and forth between the sauna and the shower and it was difficult to keep the room hot. That's when the Superheros made their weekly appearance.
Sam and Lily play with the little dudes in a basin of water inside the sauna. This keeps them inside the hot room for longer periods of time and they only leave when they need to take a break from the heat.
There are a lot of health benefits to sauna. For one, it is supposed to be relaxing and lower your blood pressure. I have yet to experience even the briefest moment of relaxation in the sauna. The kids all fight over the chance to pour water over the rocks and where they get to sit. The higher you sit, the hotter it is. Of course we all fight for the bottom bench!
We aren't quite sold on the whole thing yet. I just don't get the whole sitting in a hot room and sweating concept, but I'm really trying to learn to love it. Well love might be too strong of a word.
At one time, women in Finland gave birth in the sauna.
Oh. Dear. God.