The use of the sauna is an ancient tradition well known for its relaxation and therapeutic benefits. Below is a brief history of saunas and how they have evolved from their early days in Finland to the household item they are today.
ORIGIN OF SAUNAS
While sweat baths have been present throughout world history in many different cultures, the sauna as we’ve come to know it originated in Finland. It is known that saunas were a part of Finnish culture for at least 2000 years, but it is believed they have been in use for as long as the Finns have been a people. Saunas have been a part of everyday life for the Finns, used for relaxation and warmth at the end of a long work day, as a social activity in preparation for holidays and festivals, and even as a birthing room for mothers. Even today, sauna use is a major part of Finnish culture, and most resorts feature them for tourists.
For various reasons throughout history, sweat baths have gone in and out of vogue, and for a season they were banned in many parts of Europe. Space does not permit in this brief history of saunas to go into detail; but suffice it to say that the Finns have held firmly onto this tradition through the years, and in the end science itself has vindicated them as numerous health benefits have been identified with sauna use—among them, natural detoxification, better skin tone, and improved heart health.
CHANGING METHODS OF HEATING SAUNAS
The earliest saunas were log houses or lodges which were heated by a wood fire set under a pile of stones; due to lack of ventilation, the fire had to be doused and the room aired out before people could enter the sauna—a half-day process. Eventually, wood stoves with chimneys replaced the more primitive method. Nowadays, many modern saunas are heated via electrical heating elements complete with temperature regulators, remote controls, and even speaker systems for music. This development made it easier for people to install saunas in their homes, rather than going to public facilities.
THE FUTURE OF SAUNAS
In recent years, the development of infrared technology has revolutionized the sauna. Infrared saunas (like those sold by Sauna Zen) rely on beneficial infrared rays to warm the skin directly, rather than superheating the air. This provides an even more comfortable and relaxing sauna experience, and infrared rays provide even more health benefits than traditional saunas.
Hopefully, this brief history of saunas provides some perspective on where the sauna came from, what are its benefits, and where it might evolve from here. Enjoy your sauna!