Sauna Culture

Before coming to Estonia, the word ‘Sauna’ used to give me goosebumps. Sweating profusely in a hot wooden box with naked strangers didn’t exactly scream ‘relaxation’ for me – Now, low and behold I can’t get through the week without sauna-ing at least 2-3 times.

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How exactly did I get from one to the other? Well the gym I signed up for included free access to the sauna, and I took the opportunity to learn how to correctly sauna and also how to enjoy it.

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To avoid any confusion: a sauna is not a steam room. These two are absolutely nothing alike. The steam room is a humid heat, whileas the sauna is a dry heat. Think Arizona, high noon in mid-summer.

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People sauna for a variety of reasons:

  • Get rid of toxins
  • Strengthen immune systems
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Cleanse the skin
  • Reduce stress
  • Relax muscles
  • Feel good!

I never imagined that a hot wooden box could do so much for my health!

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Time to get in your birthday suit!

The best way to sauna is naked. Most places actually forbid wearing clothing, however generally you have two seperate saunas, one for males and one for females (in shared sauans swim suits are generally permitted). Once in the sauna, the temperature can be adjusted by throwing water onto the hot rocks. The more water you throw, the hotter it gets – all you have to do after that is sit back and enjoy.

Here’s a tip – if you want to increase the skin benefits of the experience you can bring an exfoliation brush and take the opportunity to exfoliate and make your skin baby soft!

After heating your body up until you just can’t take it any longer, the next step is cooling it down – quickly. What better thing to do that dump ice cold water all over your body. Now this last part is interchangable with a variety of other things: roll in the snow, step in an ice cold shower, or jump into a frozen lake. Take your pick!

This last part may seem like complete torture, but if you have properly heated up your body then it really isn’t all that bad. Your hot body (pun intented) can actually bear the cold for a certain amount of time without. This also really gets your blood flowing, as you can imagine! After just 30 seconds in the freezing water your heart is beating so fast you’ll think you’ve just ran a 10k.

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For me, going to the Sauna has been very important these past few months. I guess before coming to Estonia I must have had a lot of built of stress, and well the combination of gym+sauna has been a miracle worker for me both mentally and physically. It may sound a bit silly, but it’s been one of the aspects of my stay here that have made me feel just so good and so happy. A certain kind of exhilaration comes with stepping out of a frozen lake (or shower) with your heart racing fiercly…

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Fun fact: If you really aren’t comfortable being completely naked, you can always wear a sauna hat!

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