Why you should embrace the sauna

Ella Foote 15 March 2022

Embrace the Löyly with a traditional sauna this spring

Sauna isn’t reserved for health spas and expensive gyms in Finland: it is a way of life. There are estimated to be around 3.3 million saunas across the country and with a population of 5.3 million it is claimed there are more saunas than cars in the country!

Sauna is a regular ritual for Finns, often a daily or weekly practice. “When I was growing up, we would always sauna on Wednesdays and Saturdays,” says Minttu Taajamo Special Advisor at the UK Finnish Embassy. “Every Finish embassy in the world has a sauna.”

As spring arrives in the UK thoughts turn to longer days and more time in the outdoors and while the outdoor swimming trend is thriving, many still don’t feel brave enough to dip their toe in British water. Perhaps a hot sauna could lure you to the coast this spring?

Finnish sauna culture is being embraced across the UK and there are now a variety of waterside saunas to complement a chilly dip. The Saltwater Sauna is a recent addition to the British sauna community and sits on the promenade along the beautiful Sandbanks beach in Dorset. Born in Finland, Founder Arlene Lukkarinen explains that sauna is just a way of life. “I never realised how enthusiastic I was about sauna until I didn’t have access to one,” she says. “In Finland we live and breathe the sauna without even thinking about it.”

"Finnish sauna culture is being embraced across the UK and there are now a variety of waterside saunas to complement a chilly dip"

Unlike sauna in your local gym, which is often a damp, tepid box—traditional saunas are heated from a wood burning stove and hot stones. Often people associate sauna with icy cold water, snow or frozen lakes but saunas can be used year-round and are beneficial for all.

“Sauna improves circulation, relaxes muscles and tension,” says Arlene. “It is also a very social experience; it is very Finnish to come together in sauna and create the Löyly (the envelope of heat and steam that surrounds you in the sauna as water is poured on the hot rocks). Much like outdoor swimming or yoga, it is about getting into a flow state, being in the moment and forgetting all your past and future anxieties. It isn’t about a time of day or season; some prefer to wake up and sauna but if you want a deep sleep I recommend doing it in the evening before bed.”

“We are all equal in the sauna,” says Minttu. “Stripped down we are all the same, it doesn’t matter what you do for work or how your day has been. It is about coming together as a community.” There is nothing similar in the UK, which is perhaps why so many of us embrace wellbeing groups. Movements like Parkrun, outdoor swimming communities like the Bluetits and connections found in yoga are all our attempt to come together. It can be said that humans are best when they are within a community.

How to sauna?

“You are allowed to ‘just be’ in the sauna,” says Terhi Ruutu, Helsinki-based sauna therapist. “You can relax and find deep silence despite all the noise around us. Taking sauna does not impose any requirements, measures, accomplishments, rules or time schedules. The sauna allows you to be freeperson to person, with yourself, in contact with our roots, without any roles.”

Preparation

Preparing for sauna is part of the ritual, slowing down to enjoy the sauna is just as essential as the sauna itself. Hydrate before, during and after. Wash before—sauna steam is best enjoyed when you are clean.

In the sauna, allow to be completely at rest. Listen to your body, stay in for just a moment or longer. You can go in and out as many times as you like. You can step outside to cool down or take a cool plunge in outdoor water.

Throwing steam, aka, creating Löyly

Throwing water on the hot rocks creates steam. You can throw steam as often as you like, as long as you ask the others if they don’t mind first. It creates an intense heat at first. The health effects of sauna begin about 15 minutes after you enter the sauna when your heart rate rises and your cardiovascular system activates.

Where to sauna in the UK

The Saltwater Sauna

Authentic Finnish, wood-fired sauna on Sandbanks Beach, Dorset

Seaside Sauna Haus

Wood-fired, beach-side sauna in Seatown, West Dorset

Secret Sauna

A wood-fired sauna perched on the banks of the River Waveney, near Bungay, Suffolk

Sauna on Wheels

An authentic log-burning Finnish sauna delivered to your front door

Divers Cove

Popular open water venue offering sauna waterside

Warmth

Wood-burning sauna and performance space in a converted horse trailer, Sheffield

Fire, Salt & Sea

Converted horsebox sauna pop-up situated on beautiful Worthing beach

Hotbox

Northern Ireland’s original mobile sea sauna located on the Causeway Coast

Loch Tay Hot Box

The Loch Tay sauna and steam room at Taymouth Loch Tay Marina

Heartwood Saunas Experience

Wood-fired, riverside sauna for up to an hour’s sauna bathing session, Snowdonia

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