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Saturday, July 29, 2006

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Saunas In Finland

When someone who is not European hears the words sauna Finlandese, they usually don’t know exactly what that means. Yet it simply refers to saunas in Finland, the birthplace of the steam bath as we know it today.

Sauna Finlandese is not pronounced the way you may think. It is correctly pronounced like sow-nah in its native land. It is the only Finnish word that is the same in nearly every language in which it is spoken, including English. The practice began over 2,000 years ago and the units were originally built underground or in ditches. Once they came to the surface, they quickly took on a look very similar to modern-day units.

The biggest difference is in the way they were heated. Modern-day saunas generally use rock heaters or infrared heat. But two thousand years ago, saunas in Finland took half a day to heat. They would use a log heater and place stones on it until they were scorching hot. Then they would pour water over the heated stones to produce steam. There was generally one tiny vent, whereas today you would get anywhere from 2-4 bigger vents to ensure proper breathing.

So as you see, the term sauna Finlandese has been used in the past for many variations of saunas throughout history, although the only really significant change has been the source of heat, and occasionally how hot. Saunas in Finland today generally average between 180 degrees and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature with 20% humidity, one can get all the benefits of sauna including toxin elimination, skin rejuvenation, muscle and tissue relaxation and more. Today, the Finns have nearly two million saunas in a country of only five million - meaning that saunas outnumber cars.

One thing that many Finns can’t agree on is if the new infrared saunas can be considered a part of the all-encompassing sauna Findlandese term. Though the general layout and premise of an infrared sauna is the same as a traditional sauna in Finland, it is still not the same. An infrared sauna does not use steam or humidity. This makes for easier breathing while inside the sauna and more direct contact with skin to promote the healing properties that a traditional sauna Finlandese would. But since water and therefore humidity is not used, many don’t consider it the same. It really is a matter of opinion and comfort as to which you prefer though.

Sauna Findlandese has been around since the early 1100s and though it is age-old is very beneficial for health. Whether you prefer a traditional sauna like the saunas in Finland or the newer, hi-tech infrared cabins you can always count on a sauna to give you bright glowing skin, help you lose weight and promote general health and well-being.


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