Sauna History

What does the first impression come to us when we think of sauna sessions? It is about a room with a warm temperature. And a session of warmth and sheer relaxation. And along with these, a truckload of physical and mental health benefits as well. But, there are some that we are not very aware of. And that is about the history of the sauna.

We tend to enjoy the sauna sessions, but there is a large history behind it. It’s about its evolution and initiation. The history is not just huge but also interesting. So, here, we will know about the history of these splendid and soothing warm sessions that we call the sauna. Hence, let us dive straight into the discussion without any more delay. 

About its name ‘Sauna’

Well, we seldom think about the backstory of its name itself- Sauna! This name also has a history of origin and significance. The appropriate pronunciation of the name is- ‘sow’- ‘Nah’. It is a Finnish word, which means bathhouse or bath. And it is inevitable to think about Finland whenever we talk about the origin of the sauna because sauna sessions can be referred to as a way of life in that country. 

There is a huge difference between the saunas that we have now and the saunas that used to be in the initial days in Finland (we are going to talk about it later in this discussion!). And the original saunas had the name of “savu” sauna. The term “savu” is a Finnish term for smoke. So, it is often believed that the modern name of ‘sauna’ has been derived from the initial name of ‘savuna’, which means ‘in smoke’. 

This was about the name of- ‘saunas’. But, there is much more to know about these magical relaxation sessions. So, let us dip into it now!

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How were the saunas when they first started in Finland?

We all know that Finland is the land that started the saunas. And Finland without saunas is a Finland incomplete. But were things in Finland the way they are now? Definitely not. Saunas were very different in the beginning than they are now.

The very first sauna looked and was more like the sweat lodges of the UK at the present time. Initially, the people of Finland were nomadic. Tents were made. And the components used to make the tents were animal skin and hides. Inside that tent, they lit the fire. The fire was the source of heat and warmth. But, another important component of the sauna was also not missed. Yes, it is the löyly that we are talking about. Löyly is the steam or the vapor that is present in the sauna rooms. It emits either by pouring water on hot stones or many other ways in the present times. But, back in the time, when sauna sessions took place inside tents made from animal skin, the löyly was produced with fire and water. This löyly did the same work of cleansing and refreshing one back in the times just as it does now. 

And since the concept of staying warm and clean was unique for that time, saunas gained massive support and popularity. And with the evolution of man, the evolution of saunas also started taking place. The people of Finland started giving up their nomadic livelihood and settling down. And thus, sauna rooms also started gaining a new structure. It started gaining more permanence. 

This yet to become permanent sauna structure was initially a simple pit dug with a lit fire. And it was covered with twigs and branches to prevent the heat from escaping. But, since saunas were gaining more popularity, their structure improved and became permanent over time. 

The next significant structure was a closed cabin with a fire lit inside it, burning some stones. When the fire was out, the heat from those stones kept the cabin warm for several hours. And this was the basic structure that continued for several years. And all the modern and innovative structures and methods of sauna sessions emerged from this particular structure itself. 

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What did the sauna mean to the people in the early times?

As we mentioned earlier, saunas used to take place inside cabins. And with the steam and warmth, it was one of the cleanest and most soothing places. Initially, farmers used to stop by the saunas, relax and sometimes even dry malts or smoke meats. But, the most sensational experience was the relaxation of his body muscles and soul. 

Saunas were so clean and pure that it was where women gave birth, and women performed the ceremony of purification before their marriage. The sauna was also believed to cure diseases. Because there is a Finnish proverb that says if there is a disease that tar, vodka, or sauna can not cure, then it is fatal. Saunas were created and given a position as high as a church. Because another Finnish saying states that one must conduct themselves in a sauna in a manner as they would in a church. 

Thus, it is doubtful that the recognition of the benefits and importance of sauna was quite high since the initial days. 

Now, let us talk about the saunas throughout their evaluation process. First, we will look into the saunas of ancient times and then proceed with the saunas of the middle ages. Let us look into them now! And last, wrap up our discussion with the modern age saunas.

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The saunas of the ancient times

Or, better to be called the first saunas. The very first saunas were actually caves. They were covered with animal skin. And, inside it, there was a fire lit, which was the source of heat and warmth. There were piles of burning stones as well. After the fire went out, the stones produced the heat inside the cave. And the people, or even sometimes, there were animals, spent a warm and relaxed time in these sauna caves.

These sauna caves were sterilized with smoke. And they served several purposes of being the kitchen, hospitals or washroom and many such other needs. Women gave birth in saunas, and therefore, it emerged to be a holy and spiritual place. People believed that the saunas had some mystical powers, which they respected and feared as well. 

The archaeologists find the presence of dunes all over the world. And thus, it can be stated that the use and importance of saunas were quite well spread all across the world, since a long time ago. 

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Saunas of the middle ages

In the middle ages, the sauna caves became sauna dwellings, mainly in northern Europe. The sauna culture was the inspiration of bathhouses. But, all of a sudden, Europe saw the disappearance of the bathhouses. There can be no reason found or stated for such a sudden disappearance. 

But, one reason that may justify this is the enlightenment movement. The bathing technique of saunas or bathhouses was considered superstitious. And the enlightenment movement led the way for science, personal liberty, and reason to dominate over the spiritual powers of the Church and Kings. So, since saunas were considered holy and spiritual, this enlightenment movement didn’t quite favor their existence and use. Thus, this may be a reason for their sudden disappearance.

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Modern Age Saunas

In the modern age, saunas came back into view after the Industrial Revolution. Also, newer innovations and advanced techniques were added, such as the integration of chimneys in the saunas. As a result, there was better and faster healing of the sauna rooms. Also, it didn’t affect the temperature of the sauna rooms if people entered inside it. There were improvements and advancements. 

And now, there are different types of saunas. Such as, wooden saunas are the ones that are considered to be authentic saunas. Also, the way of producing the löyly has found varieties. There are stones, steam, and many other interesting and advanced ways. 

Final words

Thus, we can say that the saunas have come a long way through history to be the way it is now. The evolution of saunas is quite remarkable. It has been one of the signature aspects of Finland. And now it has spread all across the world. Its benefits are uncountable. And the intensity of reaction and calmness that one achieves both physically and mentally from the sauna sessions is absolutely inimitable. 

Issac Maxfield sauna hacks

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Issac Maxfield

I used to be a marketing guy working for technology companies. After 15 years of corporate life, I burnt out. Severely. I turned my focus on my health and made drastic changes in my life. Today I’m the happiest person I know.

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