The history of spas and saunas extends from the Greek and Roman baths up to the modern spas. They might have looked different back in those days and people might have used them for other purposes than just the soothing heat they provided. Even though things were a little bit distinctive many years ago, it seems that sauna and spa rituals have become a tradition for many countries. To satisfy your curiosity and ours as well, we’ve spent some time searching for the most interesting spa traditions from around the world. We’ve found many curious things and it seems that each country had its own habits in what regards the saunas and spas. So, here are some bare facts about the traditional sauna culture in several countries.
We’ll start with the Finish sauna as Finland is the country that first introduced us to the saunas. When you go in this country, you will find a sauna in almost every home, this being a proof that there was always an interest for sweat baths. At first, the saunas were made by digging a hole into the ground and covering it with a tarp to keep the heat inside. The heat came from the fire made at the base of the hole. In order to use the sauna, people had to wait until there was no fire left. Then appeared the smoke sauna which became the traditional Finish sauna. Little by little, things have evolved and the fire was replaced by electric heaters for more convenience and easier cleaning.
The Turkish baths are known as hamams and it seems that people have been using them ever since the Ottoman Empire. In time, they have become a place where Turkish gathered to discuss various aspects of their life, including politics, religion, and so on. What is interesting in these baths is that they were more complex than any other baths. There were provided all sorts of services, such as massages or shaves and haircuts. Therefore, besides the sweat baths, you could also enjoy a relaxing massage, scrub, or bath performed by another person, either a man or women. Later, people have started to drink tea or juice for more entertaining gatherings.
The tradition of Russian baths is quite interesting and it seems that at the beginnings there were various bath styles. The Russian term for the sauna is banya and what’s different about it is that it uses oak twigs or aromatic birch that helps improve body circulation and skin exfoliation. According to some recordings, the rituals were somehow violent as people used to lash each other using all sorts of leaves. The pain was a common ritual that was quite spread at a certain period of time. Additionally, another thing that distinguishes Russian baths rituals from the other ones is the fact that people went from extremely high temperatures to extremely low temperatures. Therefore, after sitting in the sauna they simply run into snow or a cold river, and then they returned back into the sauna. The main purpose of this ritual is still preserved for increasing the blood flow and detoxifying the body.
Mexican Sweat Lodges
The Mexican saunas are known as temazcal in this country and it seems that they first appeared when there was the Mesoamerica region. Back then, the main purpose of the temazcal was to purify the body after major events. At the same time, the sweat lodges were also used for helping women to give birth and to improve the overall health. Nowadays, it seems that people continue the tradition in some way as they perform rituals for cleaning not only their body but also their spirit and mind.
Also called hammam, this sauna is one of the most interesting ones. Before entering the sauna, you have to pay for a bucket and an olive oil soap in order to wash yourself. People are completely naked when using the sauna and for this reason, women and men use them separately. This is a place where you can meet your friends and talk intimate things, away from the world outside. In general, there are separated rooms for opening pores, cleaning the body, exfoliating, and so on. The last room is the cold room where you can take a shower.
When it comes to saunas and spas, there are many rituals around the world and it seems that some countries still continue them in one way or another. Besides the main purpose of a sauna – to clean the body through perspiration- people used the sauna to simply relax and socialize or to purify their mind and spirit. Maybe now we don’t see it as a ritual to keep our body clean, inside and outside, but we are most certainly aware of the healing properties a sauna comes with.