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Straight from the Source: Interview with Katariina Styrman of the Finnish Sauna Society

Choosing to sit and sweat in a hot, hot room isn’t an everyday occurrence for a lot of Americans, so the day they make that choice is probably one they would remember.  But Katariina Styrman isn’t an American, and she doesn’t remember.   Do you remember anything from when you were about two weeks old?

K. StyrmanThat’s about how old she was when her mother first took her to the sauna.

“In Finland,” Styrman explained, “its normal to go to sauna even with newborn babies.  Of course babies and young children don’t stay in the sauna very long, and they stay in the lower benches so they won’t be too hot.  So sauna has been part of my life always.”

You probably know that things like vitamins, regular fitness, a healthy diet, oral hygiene, and washing your hands after using the restroom are good for you, but did you also know that sitting and sweating in a room heated to temperatures of 150-190°F is also good for you?

Saunas are still something of a novelty here in North America, but they’ve been at the very center of Finnish culture for centuries.  Styrman has been the CEO (the Toiminnanjohtaja) of the Finnish Sauna Society (the Suomen Saunaseura) based in the capital city of Helsinki (Helsinki) since May 2014, and although it’s a relatively new position for her, understanding the impact and importance of saunas is not.

Not too long ago, Styrman took the opportunity to answer some questions for Almost Heaven Saunas about the Finnish sauna culture.

Q: Can you explain the Fins’ fascination with the sauna?  What makes it such a powerful aspect of your national heritage?

“The sauna is very deep in the Finnish culture: we are [literally] brought up in saunas.  Sauna is part of everyday culture in Finland.  We have a long saunatradition that is still going strong.  It would be hard to find a Finnish person who has never been in a sauna.  The secret of sauna is that it is not only a physical thing, but a mental place too.  Having a sauna bath is very relaxing and you’ll feel good after it.”

Where might you find a sauna in Finland that you might not find in other countries?

“Saunas are found everywhere in Finland, so it would be easier to tell where you don’t usually find saunas (eg. public libraries often don’t have saunas..:).”

What is one thing North Americans might be surprised to know about saunas?

“Sauna was used in the old times as the place of giving birth: it’s warm, comfortable and clean place.”

How has your sauna culture changed over the years?

“Sauna has a very long history, thousands of years, so of course the culture has changed a lot.  Sauna used to [be] a place of everyday life, and it was used for making food, laundry etc.  Nowadays the sauna is more of a place of relaxation and getting clean more in the spiritual meaning than in the physical.”

The Finnish Sauna Society promotes public sauna bathing instead of just private.  Why is that?

“Sauna as a shared experience can be double as fun as a private sauna.  Public saunas are important part of life and offer a sauna experience also to those, who don’t have a sauna of their own.”

Can you explain what lӧyly means?

“Lӧyly is the experience you have when putting water on the hot sauna stove rocks.  It is [hot, moist] air that spreads around the room and feels very nice on your body.”

If you only had one word to describe the value of the sauna, what word would you use?

“Peace.”

A big thank you to Katariina Styrman for telling us more about her nation’s sauna culture.  Did it spark any interest in adding some Finish culture to your own experiences?  Here are some suggestions for how to do so:

  • Try using the word lӧyly in a conversation today. Comment on our Facebook page and tell us how it went.
  • If you own a sauna, have you considered making it a shared experience? If you’ve ever held a sauna party, we’d love to hear about it.
  • If you love saunas, what one word would you use to describe the value they have added to your life?  We’re interested to know.
  • If you don’t own a sauna or have never experienced an authentic sauna bath in the Finnish tradition but are interested in knowing what it’s all about, we can help.  Give us a call at 888-355-3050 or send us a message at sales@almostheaven.com.
March 11, 2015 •