What is the benefit of a sauna?

I’ve gone in to saunas at hotels and sat in them but honestly, I just cant see how they benefited me. Of course I didnt know about the whole regiment about how your supposed to shower first, then sauna, then cold shower, then back into the sauna and so forth.

So for those of you who have done saunas, how have they benefited you?

Gives you an excuse to ask random people to pick splinters out of your ass.

You get to make small talk with random Finns.

The sauna benefits me because it is hot. I like hot. Global warming can’t happen fast enough for me, and meanwhile, there are saunas.

Is this you?

My mother’s husband (they got married when I was an adult, so I can’t call him my ‘stepfather’) was from Finland. I learned that the correct pronunciation of sauna is ‘SOW-na’.

“In here.”

In Finnish. In English. it’s SAW-na. In Spanish and Italian it’s SAH-un-a. In German it’s ZOW-na. And oddly enough in Swedish it’s pronounced BAH-stu.

Yes. Blue skies, hot, and plenty of MEAT.


Only in places in the US with no sauna culture. Anyplace where folks actually have & use saunas in the US, it’s pronounced sow-na.

So back to the OP:

It’s interesting to note that most saunas you find in the US are not actually saunas, at least not in the “Scandanavian Sauna” sense. If the sauna is dry, it’s not a sauna. So I’m not going to really comment on the benefits of the sauna experience as it relates to the dry wooden boxes you see in hotels and such throughout the US.

So on to actual saunas. First, a description: a traditional Finnish/Scandanavian sauna is made of wood, with thick wood (preferably cedar) siding on the walls, and wooden benches. There’s a sauna stove, filled with rocks, and a source of water and a drain on the floor.

You turn the stove on, get it hot, and go in and sit on the benches. You fill a bucket with water, and use a ladle with water and dump it on the rocks to produce löyly - the heat and steam that surrounds you in the sauna. Really great traditional saunas have wood-fired stoves, but there’s more than a few electric sauna stoves that do a good job. The key, of course, is that they must be made to hold rocks & allow water to be thrown on them.

On to the benefits: there’s really nothing like a sauna that produces the deep relaxation that a sauna gives you. Indeed, I refrain from using mine (yes, we have one in the house) at times because it tends to mellow me to the point of sleepiness. Your pores open up, making your skin incredibly soft. Your muscles relax from the steam, and (if you stay in there long enough) you walk out feeling like you are a noodle, as good as a massage.

If you’re lucky enough to have a sauna where you can go in and out of the sauna into cool or cold air - or even better, into a snowbank - the hot/cold rush does something to your head. It’s an experience.

We have a traditional wood-fired sauna at our family’s cabin, 50+ years old. My home sauna is lined with cedar and has an electric stove made by a local-ish manufacturer who knows how to build traditional sauna stoves. I’d say a good 50-75% of the homes in my area have saunas; I rented student hovels that had saunas when I was in college. It’s a culture thing as much as a bathing thing.

For more sauna info, this is an excellent documentary.

Benefit? They’re one of the most relaxing things in the world for me. It’s just that simple.

Combine a genuine wood-burning sauna with a cold lake for dunking in and you have total bliss.

We have a small, 3 person sauna, in my bathroom. We use it once or twice a year, usually after working outside in extreme cold weather.

How great you feel to get out of the thing. That’s my sum total.

Whether or not the utter torture of being a super hot / super humid room is worth the refreshing outdoor “coolness” of even a normal summer day is debatable.

Huh? I’ve never heard of a dry sauna. :confused: But then, I don’t stay in a lot of hotels.

Yeah, weird, huh? I’ve been to tons of hotels / gyms / etc who have this bone-dry sad room with a stove in one corner with a big sign saying “Do Not Pour Water On Stove” above it. It’s more or less like sitting in an oven.

Hmm…that’s odd. I still think of Finnish sauna as being “dry” compared with something like a steamroom. In Hungary, there are a number of public baths (some Turkish, some modern) and many have saunas and/or steam rooms in addition to them. The saunas operated at a much hotter temp (like 70-100C) but were dry except for the bursts of humidity you would get when somebody poured water on the rocks. The steam rooms were probably around 50C, though probably closer to 60C in parts, because they were just absolutely scorching compared to the saunas because of the 100% humidity. I could only spend maybe 3-5 minutes in a steam room, whereas a sauna 20 minutes or more at a time were fine for me.

Yeah, the wording is odd. Compared to a steam room, yes, a sauna produces “dry” heat since it’s heat from a stove, not steam. But an integral part of a sauna is the water poured on the rocks, which produces steam. The distinction we’re making in this thread is not “steam room versus sauna” but “sauna where you pour water on the rocks versus things-that-are-called-saunas-but-there’s-no-water-on-the-rocks.”

Clear as mud, right? :smiley:

Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sauna-with-no-water. Weird stuff. That’s part of the fun!

I’ve just remembered that my dad was living in a hotel before he got an apartment, when he was stationed to a new facility. The hotel had a proper sauna, with cedar and rocks and water.