How to use a Sauna
Taking a sauna is a simple affair without many rules.
It's simply a matter of getting in the sauna and enjoying the
That said, there are a few established procedures that are
wise to follow - especially in a public sauna. Respecting
your fellow bathers is always important, and there are basic
things you must observe to get the most out of your sauna
If you are using a public sauna you must abide by their
regulations. Some prohibit the use of bathing suits while
others require them. If bathing suits are not allowed and
you don't feel comfortable being nude, you can wrap a towel
around yourself. In any case, you should bring a towel
into the sauna to sit on.
You can't control the temperature of a public sauna, but if
you are using a private sauna and are not used to the
experience, you should start with a lower heat to see how it
feels. Some sauna aficionados will heat the sauna up to
100 degrees Celsius, but for the first couple of times you
could set it around 70 or 80. That's still plenty
Take a shower before entering the sauna but don't use soap
or shampoo. The perfumes used in soap will evaporate in
the sauna and will be unpleasant for other bathers.
On entering the sauna you can sit on the upper or lower
benches. The upper benches are hotter, so you may wish to
move from upper to lower if you find it too hot. After a
short time (5 or 10 minutes) pour some water on the rocks to
create a cloud of steam. This has the effect of raising
the temperature and will cause you to sweat even more.
Don't stay too long in the sauna especially if you are new
to it. 10 or 15 minutes is good for one session – you can
go back for more. After each session take a cold shower
or quick swim and relax for a while before going back in.
Relaxation is central to sauna taking. Saunas can
clear your mind, refresh the body, and leave you feeling
rejuvenated. With this in mind, don't use the sauna to
talk about business or controversial subjects. It's a
place to get away from the world so keep conversation light and
In Finland many people use leafy branches from birch trees
to gently beat the skin. This produces a tingling
sensation and is quite invigorating. Your local swimming
pool isn't likely to have a supply of birch branches in the
sauna but if you can take a sauna in the countryside you can
try this old tradition.
Another Finnish tradition is rolling in the snow after a
sauna. Those crazy Finns! (you might think) but this also
can be very revitalizing after a sauna session. Whether
you take a shower, a swim, or a roll in the snow the effect is
the same – quickly cooling off after the hot sauna to feel
refreshed and relaxed.
The cycle of sauna and cooling off can be repeated as many
times as you like. Most sauna sessions last about 30
minutes to 1 hour with about 2 or 3 cycles of heating up and
cooling off, but if you have the time and the inclination you
can continue it for hours.
Saunas are a time-proven method of bathing and are safe for
just about everybody. The general rule, though, is that
if you feel uncomfortable at any time, leave the sauna right
away. Taking a sauna is not a contest, and there can be
dangers if you stay in too long.