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History of the Sauna

by Mark Cave

History of the Sauna

Spending a session of relaxing moments in a refreshing sauna works wonders for your body and mind. The use of sauna and its principles have confronted the test of the time and have gained immense popularity in the recent years. To understand the magic of sauna, you may need to know about its evolution and history. Though available records show that sauna was used by Finnish about 2000 years back, authentic records show us that sauna was in daily practice about half its time.

The oldest known saunas were mostly small pits dug in a sloppy area of the earth and mainly used for staying there during harsh winters. Stones were heated up in a fireplace and once they were hot, water was used to thrown over them to produce steam and additional heat. Increasing ambient temperature made the people take off their cloths to feel the sensation of steam on their body. A Finnish word in origin, saunas were more considered as a winter dwelling. Later it was also used as a means to bathe. However, more sophisticated sauna houses came into being only in 19th century Finland. Till then saunas were always in a separate structure outside the home. More scientific sauna rooms had a roof supported by beams and logs, with a hinged door and a wall constructed of wooden logs. Some people still vouch for the validity of ground saunas and still prefer them other type of saunas.

The most standard type of sauna is a rectangular log hut that contains an open rock stove and hiked up platform. Originally known as savusauna (smoke sauna), by many Finns, contains many rocks in the stove, which when heated up produce intense smoke which escapes through a vent in the ceiling or through the door. The smoke thus produced will blacken the room with soot and leaves a pleasing aroma in the sauna. Till the advent of 20th century, smoke sauna was the only known method in practice. It had its own share of intrinsic disadvantages like more heating time, difficulty in cleaning and possibility of catching fire.

In late 1800's, another type of sauna was discovered, where the stones were covered with a conical metal top attached to a chimney to get rid of the smoke produced. The sauna temperature was controlled by a small door which could be either opened or closed for manipulation. This smoke sauna was run as cycles of different sessions to run intermittently. However, later in the new century, chimney type of stove sauna unit became famous due to its many benefits and advantages. Almost all house in the country side had a sauna built inside, while many urban centers started constructing community saunas. By late 1920's almost all people became aware of the concept and thus there was a sauna boom right through the years of Second World War.

In the intervening period another sauna was discovered and designed. This sauna had a chimney, but the fire was isolated from the stones and was held in metal casing above the fire and many cast iron elements were inserted between the stones to convey the heat to them. Fire was used although the sauna session and the intensity of the fire regulated the temperature of the stones and the room. Users were made to wait for more than 30 minutes and the fire had to be attended continuously to maintain the steam production. Later, much more convenient electrical stoves came into use in most part of Finland. Being very convenient, it was easy to heat up the stones by electrical energy. This type of electrical heating is still used in many sauna houses of Finland. Its use also curtailed the use precious wood from the forest. The basic principle of a sauna house is throwing water on the hot stones. However, when you have more stones in the burner, you'll need to use more hot water. People still believe that steam produced from the age old sauna, using stone plus hot water combination, is better than the steam produced in an electrical stove. Generally, electrical stoves are still considered unsatisfactory; however an electrical sauna generator is far better than a bad wooden sauna.

In the later years, people were allowed to bathe inside the sauna rooms, as it was almost impossible to bathe outside especially during the cold winter months. Earlier, people were used to bathe outside the sauna either in a lake or by rolling over on snow. With the advent of new technology down the years, hygiene part of the sauna was given more importance and separate washing facilities were added to cater to both men and women. With the available advanced construction technology, modern homes were built either using wood or sophisticated concrete.

Note: Di Vapor is not responsible for the views, opinions or advice represented in the articles on this site. You are advised to seek medical advice before following any such information.



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