Sitting alongside naked people in an overheated (wooden) room with a stove in the middle doesn’t sound exciting if you put it like that. If you add the fact that you are sweating balls, it will probably even get worse. However, after doing an exchange program in Finland for four months I fell in love with saunas. I went from being totally insecure when being naked to feeling completely freed when being naked in a sauna. Find out what the benefits are of going into a sauna, how I fell in love with the sauna culture and why I think everyone should give it a try!
Finland is well known for it sauna culture. According to the most reliable source Wikipedia, Finland counts over three million saunas with a population of five million people; one sauna per household on average. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me. Going to a sauna is a proper family activity for the average Fin. I think most Dutch people would get nightmares, thinking about spending time with their naked parents inside a sauna. A Fin doesn’t seem to have troubles with that.
But how did I transition from being the guy who would go into the showers last after a sport match to the guy who enjoys being naked in the sauna? Well, first of all, it started by doing. Before I went to Finland I think I might have visited a sauna once or twice in my life. I did not have a vivid memory of what a sauna was like; the only thing I could remember was that it was hot. Very hot. Nonetheless, I made a decision when I went to Finland; I wanted to experience why Finnish people love the sauna so much and why it’s so inherent in their culture. I decided to give it a try.
Before I continue my 'little' story about my experience with a sauna, I want to talk about the benefits of going to a sauna. Even though some people still doubt if going to a sauna is good for your health, I believe it’s good for you. And many other studies agree with me. According to E-Hydrate going to the sauna is good for:
There are more reasons to be found why a sauna is good for your health, I just wanted to highlights these. Moreover, let’s get back to the story.
After being in Finland for a few weeks my buddy Hidde and I found a new sauna called Allas Sea Pool. This sauna is amazing, since it’s located in the dock of Helsinki. The facilities are brand new and besides a big sauna, it also offers three swimming pools outside. The whole outside area is build as a wooden deck, floating on the water. Alongside two heated pools is one pool named the ‘Sea Pool’. As you might have guessed, it’s a pool that is filled with seawater. It also has the same temperature as seawater. In other words: it’s freezing.
After going there for a few times, and starting to get a feel for saunas, I decided to go there after a workout. That sauna session was one of the best ones. Prior to that session Hidde and I would always go into the Sea Pool after the sauna for like 10 maybe 15 seconds. We would nearly hyperventilated and get back into the sauna as quickly as possible, to make sure we wouldn't die. But when I went there on my own, I started to talk to a Finnish guy, Tom was his name. After we spoke for a few minutes he told me how he stayed in that same pool, roughly 2 degrees Celsius at that point, for two to three minutes (!!!). I looked at him, thinking he was messing with me. But he wasn’t. After a few more minutes in the sauna he asked me if I wanted to join him in the pool. Confident as I was, I couldn’t refuse.
There we went, walking on the wooden deck that was frozen towards the freezing Sea Pool. Tom gave me some tips and told me it was all about breathing. He explained that once you try to control your breathing and let go of fighting it, the cold will kind of disappear. Trying to prove my worthiness and my strength I managed to stay in that pool for two minutes, something I thought wasn’t even possible without dying ten minutes earlier. An accomplishment I was proud of.
And that moment made me fall in love saunas. Why? Because I started to appreciate the blow your body gets when going from extreme warmth to extreme cold. You feel your heart pumping and your blood flowing through your whole body. Your whole body gets cleaned and not a toxin is left after visiting the sauna.
So to conclude, it isn’t all about the challenge of staying in a cold bath for as long as you can or the blow your body gets; the sauna is very relaxing. Going to the sauna allows you to detach from the busy (Social Media) world we live in nowadays and gives you some time to think. Your body will get tired from working constantly and when going home you will feel reborn. Moreover, you’ll sleep like a baby and you’ll wake up refreshed; trust me on that one.
Are you a fan of saunas? Or do you think it’s too hot? Have you tried it recently? Or do you still hang on to that one vague memory you have when you visited the sauna as a kid? No matter how you think about saunas, I hope this blog made you a little more excited about going to a sauna. And if not, why should you? At the end of the day it is still the same overheated, wooden, sweaty, naked, old men/women’s thing.
This picture was taken in Lapland at an ice hole we swam in after the sauna. It was an incredible experience!