A traditional sauna is an enclosed room which pumps dry heat around you to boost your circulation, relax your muscles and soothe your mind. Saunas are generally associated with mountainous regions; think of a small wooden cabin in the middle of the snow. They are now a regular part of a spa experience in the UK, alongside a swimming pool and Jacuzzi. Saunas offer a more extreme, dry heat than steam rooms, and the heat comes from very hot rocks placed in the room.
You can usually regulate the temperature by pouring water over the hot rocks using a big ladle. Traditionally, you would complete your Finnish sauna thermal experience by running out and rolling in snow. But perhaps a plunge pool, cold shower or ice room will do the trick!
Why is a sauna good for you?
All heat treatments offer health and relaxation benefits and a sauna is particularly good for your skin and muscles - increasing blood flow to aid healing and easing rheumatic pain. Once your skin has sweated out dirt from your pores and your muscles have warmed and relaxed, you'll feel much better in yourself, too and a sauna can you give you a good wellness boost.
Many people believe that having a regular sauna helps them to fight off infection, and that the boost in circulation helps to keep your immune system in good order. A sauna can also help clear out your airways so you can breathe more easily - helping to promote well-being.
Before you go
If you're going to a sauna, find out beforehand what you're expected to wear; some spas offer single-sex facilities and you're encouraged or welcome to be naked; in others you're expected to wear a swimming costume; some spas will provide towels for you to wear.
You should not use a sauna if you:
are, or think you might be, pregnant
have a history of heart or respiratory problems
have problems with your circulation
have diabetes or an infection
have any other medical condition, or are receiving treatment of any kind
have had any alcohol
have a fever.
Sauna heat is not good for young children and some older people. If you’re in any doubt, check with you GP.
Remember to drink plenty of water; you'll sweat a lot, and at the same time as you're cleansing your skin, you'll also be losing fluid.
Watch the time! Fifteen minutes is the maximum time advised for some saunas; in others (a laconium, for example) you can stay for as long as an hour. Listen to your body, only stay as long as you are comfortable.