For many Ontarians, the idea of a sauna might be something they’ve only ever heard about. This might even be the first time you’ve actually considered going to one! In Finland, saunas aren’t just a big deal; they’re an essential part of life, from private home saunas to corporate saunas in the office.
Once you’ve experienced a Finnish sauna, you might not be able to go back to life without one, but taking that first initial step in can be intimidating. It might feel like there’s an ocean of culture and history to cross first. To that, you can relax – the heart of a Finnish sauna is welcome and community, and today, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about your very first sauna.
What’s it like to Experience a Finnish Sauna?
A true Finnish sauna – that is to say, a sauna that you’re invited to visit in Finland – will usually be shared with your local friends or hosts. They’ll likely heat up their home sauna for a before-dinner sweat, and if you’re lucky, there will be a cool lake nearby to jump into afterwards!
Finnish saunas may also be stocked with birch branches. Gently hitting yourself with the leaves of the branches stimulates the skin, but it also releases a lovely, subtle scent from the leaf oils. Finnish saunas are also traditionally enjoyed nude (or with the cover of a towel), but public saunas in Canada, like Vettä Nordic Spa, allow guests to visit in bathing suits.
The Basic Steps to a Finnish Sauna
- Undress and change into your bathing suit. In a Finnish sauna (as in, a sauna located in Finland), you’d either stay naked or grab a towel to wear. At Vettä Nordic Spa, we understand that cultural attitudes around nudity aren’t the same, so instead, change into your favourite clean bathing suit.
- Shower off. The idea of a sauna isn’t to clean you – it’s to open your pores, stimulate your circulation, and soothe your muscles. Leave all the dust, dirt, and oil in the shower room.
- Enter the sauna. It’s time to pick out a seat and settle in. Remember; the higher up your seat is, the hotter it’s going to be. If you’re brand-new to the sauna, or if you want to take your time getting used to it, aim for a seat nearer to the floor. Don’t forget a towel to sit on!
- Throw water on the hot stones when you want more steam. Finnish saunas are supposed to be steamy, so don’t be shy about it. The person sitting closest to the water bucket usually handles this task, so at least once in your sauna rotations, give yourself the treat of being the one with the water ladle.
- After your sauna, cool off with a shower or splash in a cool pool. This is an essential step, so don’t skip it! Cooling off helps bring your body temperature back down, and if you opt for a bracing splash into a cool pool, you’ll also enjoy the reinvigorating, awakening effect.
- Repeat the process. After your final sauna, when you feel fully relaxed and reinvigorated, cool off as usual. However, instead of heading back in for another steam, you’ll want to make your way to the solarium or one of the outdoor relaxation areas to recline in a lounger. Don’t forget to hydrate with some water!
The Social Aspect of Sauna
For Finns, hanging out in a sauna isn’t usually a solemn, solo experience. The atmosphere inside is a bit more like a cafe; you might chat idly with your neighbours, or meet up with a friend to talk about how your week has been so far.
You certainly don’t have to talk if you don’t feel comfortable, or if you just want to enjoy your sauna time alone. However, we highly recommend initiating small talk with other sauna-goers. It can reawaken a deeper community connection that many folks are craving, and it can take your sauna time from just another steam session to a warm, friendly experience.
Authentic Finnish Sauna in Ontario
If you’re interested in visiting an authentic Finnish sauna right here in Ontario, it’s time to put Vettä Nordic Spa on your calendar. Conveniently located just a 20-minute drive away from Barrie in gorgeous Horseshoe Valley, Vettä offers everything from wood-burning saunas to bathing pools, individual and couples’ massages, and an on-site restaurant. Treat yourself to a day off, or make some time to reconnect with friends and family – at Vettä, the time is yours to take.
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