The History of the Sauna

SAUNA, correctly pronounced “sow (rhymes with wow) nah,”oldsauna is the only Finnish word in the English dictionary; it means “bath” and “bathhouse.” Sauna has been a way of life in Finland, where it comes from in its present form, for over 2000 years. One of the first written descriptions of the Finnish Sauna was in 1112. The earliest Sauna was dug into an embankment in the ground. Later Saunas were built above ground with wooden logs. The rocks were heated in a stone stove with a wood fire until the rocks were super hot. This room did not have a chimney but a small air vent in the back wall. The smoke allowed to fill the room while it was heating. it was a half-day process to heat this type room. When the Sauna reached temperature, the bathers entered after the smoke cleared. The walls and ceiling would become dark black. This original Sauna was called “savu” (Finnish for smoke). The name Sauna is thought to be a derivative of the word savuna, literally “in smoke”. The Sauna later evolved to the more typical metal woodstove heater with the chimney. Where ever Finns traveled they brought their Sauna culture with them. It was first brought to America by Finns who settled in the current state of Delaware in 1638. Modern day life and electricity evolved the Sauna again. Saunas became more accessible in the U.S. after the electric Sauna stove was developed in the 1950s. Some Americans and Canadians that lived near Scandinavian communities may have been lucky enough to discover Saunas early on. After 360 years in this country, the Sauna has become an established tradition for many Americans and Canadians as it has been for the Finns.



  • Soothes and relaxes tired muscles
  • Helps relieve mental fatiguesavu
  • Relieves tension and stress
  • Provides a cardiovascular workout – Helps condition the heart
  • Increases metabolic rate
  • Improves circulation
  • Provides temporary relief for arthritic pain
  • Promotes healing and releases natural pain killers, Beta Endorphins and Norepinephrines
  • Increases resistance to illness by strengthening the immune system
  • Burns as many as 300 calories during a normal Sauna session
  • Helps maintain clear, healthy skin – and provides an after glow of a rosy complexion
  • Promotes a wonderful feeling of well being and a total body experience that no bath can duplicate
  • Adds luxury and value to your home

SAUNA is the only bath in the world in which both dry and damp air is present at the same time. It is the body’s natural way to cleanse itself through perspiration. The high heat (average of 180-190F) and the low humidity (about 20%) create an environment which promotes over all perspiration and the deep cleansing of pores. The body’s impurities are flushed away (even nicotine from a smoker’s body). This total perspiration helps maintain clear, healthy skin and provides a rosy afterglow. Saunas are first and foremost a place of relaxation. The soft heat and humidity soothes and relaxes tired muscles, relieves stress, and promotes a wonderful after Sauna feeling of satisfaction and well being. The body’s natural painkillers, beta-endorphins and norepinephrines, are released to provide a feeling much like a runner’s high. During a Sauna session, the rate of blood circulation increases, the rate of breathing increases, and the pulse rate quickens. Saunas are like mild exercise, or a cardiovascular workout for your heart. Calories are also burned in a Sauna session. A Sauna should be used in conjunction with a proper diet and exercise program.

Interesting Sauna facts

  • In Finland, the Sauna plays an important part in socializing. Family gatherings and even business meetings take place in the Sauna. Participants are not allowed to leave the Sauna until a deal is made (just kidding).
  • There are more than 1 Sauna for every 3 people in Finland (over two million). That’s more Saunas than cars.
  • Finns behave in a Sauna as one would in a church. It is a very spiritual experience.
  • Many Finns have 2 saunas, one for their residence and one for their summer cabin by a lake.
  • A typical 20-minute Sauna session can extract 1 qt. of water from the body.
  • Finns often use short bundles of birch branches, called “vihtas or vahtas”, to tap against their bodies to stimulate the skin. These same birch branches can be laid on top of the rocks for a few seconds while water is poured through them to create a very pleasant birch aroma in the room.
  • Many Russians like a very hot Sauna (called “Bania”) where temperatures around 300F are not uncommon. They wear a wool cap in the Sauna to protect their ears and mouth from the high heat.
  • High temperature in the Sauna is comfortable because the humidity is very low.
  • Saunas are even used in hot climates like Saudi Arabia because once you use a Sauna, the outside air feels cooler and you sweat less.
  • In the winter time many Finns will roll in the snow or jump in an icy lake after Sauna. This creates a very unusual tingling sensation all over the body.
  • Every year there are contests in Finland to see who can stay in the Sauna the longest (not healthy though – one can seriously de-hydrate).
  • In earlier times the Finns would first build their Sauna; live in it as it also seconded as a guest house, then built the barn for the animals, and only then built the main residence.