The ritual begins with the lighting of the sauna.
For a wood-burning stove without plumbing this
is a pleasurable chore stoking the fire and hauling
water. Once the sauna is hot, anywhere between
60° and 120° Celsius (depending on
your experience, preference, and age),
it's time to get started.
The cleansing process begins with
dry heat opening your pores and pro-
ducing profuse sweating. The vihta,
a leafy birch switch, can be used to
stimulate circulation through gentle
self-flagellation; a true pleasure when
done with a proper vihta. Young birch
branches are collected and held tightly
together by a stripped and softened
stem. The vihta is immersed in warm
water prior to use to keep it supple, and
a wet vihta can be placed momentarily
on the hot rocks to produce a stimulat-
ing aroma that fills the sauna. Throwing
water on the rocks (löyly) creates intense
heat, and a relaxed feeling while driving
away any chill lingering deep inside.
After 10-15 minutes it's time to cool
down. If you're lucky, this is achieved by a
dip in a lake, river, or stream. It is vital to fully
cool down before re-entering the sauna. While
your pores are open and you are sweating there's
nothing more satisfying and cleansing than a full
body scrub with a sauna brush. The dirt and tox-
ins are scrubbed away, leaving you feeling a clean
like no other. Shampoo, some soap and a final dip
in the lake and you're done.
Enjoying a refreshing beer or cooler is a fine re-
ward, but make sure to drink plenty of water as well.
There's nothing quite like a good sauna, as evidenced
by the feeling of euphoria afterward. So whether it's
electric or wood-fired, in-house or at camp, enjoy the
sauna experience whenever and as often as you can.
What You Need in a Sauna
hot and cold water
plenty of cool
a cold beer
for after sauna
Story & Photos By J.P. Marion
Most people in this region
have experienced "sauna",
but often not to full effect.
Sure, it's a lot of fun at par-
ties by the lake but there's
much more to it-the sauna
holds a sacred place in