The History of Steam and Saunas


Spending some time in the sauna is fantastic for the mind and body. This type of treatment has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years, but they have seen a recent resurgence in popularity. There are many benefits to saunas, and to truly understand this, you need to learn a little bit about saunas themselves, which were first used, it is believed, in Finland, some 2,000 years ago. Please check My Sauna World if you want to learn more.

At first, saunas were small holes that were dug straight into the earth, providing people with shelter from the cold. A fireplace was installed onto which stones would be heated up, essentially a rudimentary sauna stove. As the temperature would start to rise, people would take their clothes off and enjoy the feeling of steam on their bodies. A sauna, as such, was more of a winter dwelling, which then evolved into something to bathe in.

During the 19th century, more state of the art saunas started to exist. While still mainly found outside, they were fitted with roofs supported by logs and beams, walls and a door. To this day there are some who prefer this type of ground built saunas.

The original ‘savusauna’ (smoke sauna) is still popular in Finland today. These have stoves with rocks on them, which then escapes through vents and cracks in the door. This blackens the room and leaves a pleasant, wood-burning aroma. These types don’t really exist anymore as it would take a very long time for them to heat up, they would often catch fire and we now know that breathing in smoke is very bad for us.

Towards the end of the 19th century, stoners were covered in a type of chimney, which allowed for ventilation. This was a much more efficient and safe method. It was also during this time that people suddenly became obsessed with the healing powers of water, and usage boomed right the way through until WWII.

In the meantime, people invented yet another type of sauna, which is very much like the one today, with isolated fires. This reduced heating up time to just 30 minutes, but the fire did need constant attention. However, this is still the type of sauna that is most popular today, as it uses stones instead of wood. This has also prevented deforestation of Finland and other Scandinavian countries.

While we now know that smoke saunas are not as good for our health due to smoke inhalation, if this can be avoided, there is little to no difference between the way you heat up the room. This is particularly true for dry saunas, in which you actually don’t sweat much. More and more people are also becoming interested in infrared saunas, as they heat up very rapidly and don’t require the constant attention that wood or rocks do. However, if you prefer the traditional, then infrared saunas probably aren’t right for you. However, the only difference truly is in the way it looks and is used, as the health benefits are exactly the same.