Site Contents | Search | All about digital imaging | Favorite Projects | Sweat
The Sword of Heaven | County Fair | Portfolio | Links | Your Comments

Return to main Sweat page


Visiting the modern Hammam in Ankara and lstanbul
Early Greek and Roman Batths
Mass Bathing in the Balnea and Thermae
The Islamic Hammam is Born
The "'Turkish Bath" Visits Europe and
Private Sweat Bathing Cubicles


A Visit in the Dead of Winter
History of the Nordic Bath
Sauna in Europe
Sauna in Japan
Sauna in America


Joining Running Foot in a Navajo Sweat

A Guest at an Oglala Sun Dance Ceremony
History of Sweat Lodges
Hot Rock Sweat Lodge
Direct Fire Sweat Lodge
Sweating Without a Sweat Lodge
Origin of the Temescal
The Temescal Today
The Sweat Lodge Joins the Modern World


A Boisterous Bath in Leningrad
History of the Great Russian Bath
Bannik, the Spirit of the Bania
The Birth Bania
The Wedding Bania
The Death Bania
Health & the Bania

The Bania after the Russian Revolution
The Spreading Influence of the Russian Steam Bath


Sauna & Health
Heating & Cooling the Inner Body
Positive Effects of Negative Ions
Spirits of the Sweat
Social Sweating







Using the Sauna/Sweat Bath

©2011 by Mikkel Aaland All Rights Reserved

A portable trail sweat designed by Mikkel Aaland and Charles Field.
Photo copyright by Mikkel Aaland. All rights reserved.

There are so many ways to use and enjoy a sweat bath. Sauna people like their bath hot and relatively dry, while Islamic hammam bathers enjoy cooler and steamier sweat baths. The early Romans used both climates in their baths. Some cultures like the American Indians chanted, while others basked in quiet meditation in the sweat bath. The Scythians and Russians threw drugs and alcohol on the heated rocks to produce intoxicating vapors–a practice discouraged by other sweat bath cultures.

2011 Update: Build Your Own Sweat

I just released a new eBook titled How to Build Your Own Sauna & Sweat. It's available for instant download ( $9.99) for the Kindle and the Nook (more formats to follow).

Pick and experiment with rituals, techniques, and climates that suit your sweat bathing needs.

Here are some worthy suggestions sauna bathers commonly offer: (Many of these points can apply to any sweat bath.)

•Allow yourself reasonable time for preparation and bathing. Saunas need to "ripen," time for the kiuas to heat the rocks, walls and benches. Remember, comforting heat radiates evenly from all sides, not from a single source. Sauna is best taken in a leisurely fashion so bathers can savor each other's camaraderie. In Finland, an entire Saturday afternoon is traditionally set aside for sauna and related activities.

•Refrain from eating and drinking a few hours before sauna (see precautions.)

•Before undressing, attend to details such as towels, loofas, soap, vihtas and other sauna implements. Fetching a forgotten brush is a nuisance once bathing begins.

Attitudes toward nudity are relaxed in Finland and other Scandinavian countries. To bathe clothed is unheard of. However, bathing is often done in separate shifts for males and females. If inhibitions rule, loosely wrap a towel around your waist and shoulders. Avoid constricting clothing like a swim suit, it will cut off circulation and inhibit sweating.

•To promote cleanliness, bathers can shower or wash before entering the sweat room (if the wash room is separate.) In the sweat room a towel or washable cover may be placed over the bench to keep the seat clean for the next bather. A Finnish doctor said, "Keep your juices to yourself."

•Immediately after entering the sweat room toss water on the heated rocks (loyly). Get those negative ions circulating. But warn fellow bathers of your actions, so they can anticipate the wave of heat by ducking or moving to a lower level.

•After sweating, cool off. (Time in the sweat room is an individual matter–15 to 20 minutes is average.) For the hardy, soft snow and ice water are invigorating pleasures, to put it mildly. Beware sharp, scratchy ice, and wear slippers when walking in the snow. Hoses, buckets and showers provide gentler cooling. or else, simply sit in a cool, quiet place.

•Washing usually occurs between the first and second sessions (during the second session if there is no separate wash room). Heat and sweat purge dirt and pollutants no other bath reaches, including the one you may have taken in the beginning, and must be scrubbed and rinsed off the skin.

•A luxury not to be missed is the back scrub by a friend or a massage given after the body is softened in the heat.

•Another pleasure is whisking with the vihta. On a Saturday afternoon sounds of birch hitting flesh whispers throughout Finland. Finns consider a sauna without a vihta like a meal without salt.

•After two to four sessions in the sweat room, relax, enjoy a state of repose. Remain naked and dry naturally. People with dry skin can rub in lotions or oil. Dress only after sweating has stopped. A loose robe can be used for trips to the toilet or refrigerator for drinks or food.

A general rule, often repeated, is to keep the sauna a quiet retreat where daily rigors are left outside. Enjoy your bath two or three times a week.

Soon after the bath, clean the sweat room, to prevent mold, mildew and body odors from soaking in. Duckboards, head rests and seat boards should be rinsed and tilted away from the floor and benches.

Bathing implements

Buckets can be made of wood, plastic or stainless steel. The more expensive wood buckets are carved from birch burls and don't split or leak when dry. Staved wooden buckets have a limited life and shrink and leak when dry.

Some ladles are carved from wood, while others have a wooden handle and stem and bowl of metal. Metal ladles last longest.