Your Sauna Experience Depends on Sauna Type
For many, the idea of “sauna” is fairly vague, especially since there are so many different heated rooms marketed under the general name "sauna." Specific factors define the different types of saunas.
There are four types of saunas:
Traditional Finnish sauna
Steam bath/ steam sauna/ Turkish bath
Infrared room/heath therapy room/ infrared sauna
The experience one gets in each of them varies dramatically.
Our breakdown below explains what to expect from each type of sauna. However, it is impossible to put in words an experience like this, so the best way to get an understanding would be to try them all!
Not only sauna experiences vary, but (and we find this disturbing) often saunas are not built to given standards, thus prohibiting your opportunity to enjoy sauna to the fullest. Before you buy, do the research to find out what type of sauna would be best suited for you. Also, if you are having a sauna specially built for you, make sure a knowledgeable party draws the plans and the sauna is built accordingly - no exceptions!
Traditional Finnish Sauna
The traditional wood-lined Finnish sauna is the standard to which other sauna types are compared. Your sauna experience in a Finnish type sauna is a combination of two factors: minimum heat level and humidity control.
In order to guarantee the relaxing effects of a sauna, the temperature must be at least 150ºF (65.5ºC), measured where sauna bathers sit. Saunas below this temperature do not offer a beneficial, traditional sauna experience.
Also essential for the traditional sauna experience is the use of water to control humidity inside the sauna. A bucket and a ladle belong to a sauna and are "the icing of the cake" for an enjoyable sauna experience.
Traditional Finnish sauna bathers control humidity levels according to the amount of water ladled onto heated rocks. A typical humidity level runs anywhere between 20% to 40% (the amount of steam/humidity that feels comfortable varies from person to person) and also depends on the temperature of the sauna. Higher temperatures = less steam and vice versa. Sauna bathing trends worldwide lean towards lower temperatures and higher humidity.
And, though not a necessity, ideal saunas will have a floor drain for bathing and cleaning purposes.
A dry sauna is basically a Traditional Finnish Sauna, but without any water ladled onto rocks. With no water added to heated rocks, the sauna will have very low humidity levels - often below 10%.
There is a persistent misconception (especially in the U.S.) that you shouldn't put water on the hot rocks of a sauna heater. This is not true!
(How much water you use in your sauna is a personal choice. Some use lots of water to maintain high humidity, while others don’t use water at all.
In a public sauna, it’s another story because you have to be courteous to other sauna bathers. Increased humidity brings a feeling of vastly increased heat, something that not everyone prefers.
Sometimes, due to a lack of knowledge or less than optimal equipment, public facilities have policies that ban water use in a sauna. Regardless, rules of the facilities should always be honored).
Steam Bath/ Steam Sauna/ Turkish Bath
A steam bath is a humidity-sealed space, built of tiles, glass or acrylic. This is the opposite of a dry sauna with a relative humidity of 100%. Quite often the benches are on one level. There is no humidity control, but because of the high humidity, the space feels warmer than the actual temperature. Temperature is controlled by a thermostat and is typically less than 120ºF (49ºC).
Infrared Room/ Heat Therapy Room/ Infrared Sauna
An infrared/heat therapy room or sauna doesn’t give a traditional sauna experience, because there is no humidity control (i.e. no rocks, no steam) and the typical temperature range is between 120-140ºF (49-60ºC).
An infrared heating system is designed to heat the user's body rather than the air; it is less of an "enveloping heat.” Infrared rooms are suitable for relaxing in a heated space, often with options to listen to music and read magazines and newspapers.
A Personal Description About a Traditional Sauna Bathing Experience by A Finn Who Now Lives in the U.S.
Any Finn would argue that enjoying the blissful body and soul-warming heat in the privacy of your home sauna is an essential and much needed part of everyday life. No mystery, nothing newsworthy... with the exception of your realization of now thriving on a heightened level. You will be smiling when exposed to your new comfort zone.
A sauna in a Finnish home is more than a source of patriotic pride. It is an absolute must, the heart of calm, without which a house would definitely be lacking. Be it magazine-cover fancy, or a simple place to kick back your heels and let the mind-altering feelings of relaxation and wellbeing suffuse your world, sauna is the calm heart of the house to which everyone is drawn.
Envision a solitary cabin bordering on a peaceful lake, with views to sunsets and wonders of nature. While in town, a Finn recreates those tranquil feelings in a custom-made room in his house, town house, or an apartment. It is always there, the original, traditional Finnish Sauna. Celebrate the sweetness of life. Fill yourself with wellness.
Why sauna? To enjoy the numerous health benefits sauna bathing provides, trim excess weight, or sooth the muscles after an exercise? No, a Finn is aware of all those things and more, but goes to sauna to relax. There it is, after stressful office hours or farming the field. This is Quality Time, often alone. To meditate, to think about something else than the daily matters and issues. Hear the sizzle of the water turning into steam when sprinkled on the rocks in the heater or stove, feel the smooth heat getting more intense and humid after each sprinkle. The sweat, the toxins removed and body purified with that moisture.
Leave the sauna room to cool down for a while, enjoy some invigorating water, taking it easy. Go back inside to do it again, and maybe still once more. Enjoy the feeling. Admire the view from your sauna window, feel the happiness with yourself as a part of the natural environment. Not rushing to anywhere. Ready for new Real Life Adventures or a trip to Dreamland, he or she comes out from the sauna as a renewed and happy* person. A Finn is reborn.
According to an international comparison study, the Finns are the third happiest people on the face of the Earth. The Danes are the happiest… but they have the beer. the Finns have the sauna.
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