Sauna practice goes back many hundreds of years and spans many different countries and cultures. The advantages of the sauna and sweating are documented in the Ayurveda, around 568BC, as being important to health . Here in Finland the Sauna is a national institution.
The physical sauna benefits are derived from the sweating and increased vascular activity. Sweating is an important bodily function, if the body cannot purge toxins it locks them away in fat cells and mucus. Skin is so important as a elimination organ it's known as the third kidney.
Metabolism and pulse rate increase during a sauna which increases circulation. Increased circulation enhances elimination and oxygen delivery. Germs cannot thrive in oxygenated areas.
The traditional wood burning stoves ensure the air doesn't dry out. Steam is produced by pouring water onto rocks on top of the stove. This steam production causes a large amount of negative ions to be released which makes the air cleaner and refreshed thus reversing anxiety, tension and fatigue.
You can super increase circulation by jumping in the lake or rolling in the snow or dipping in an ice hole!
Dipping in the lake gives you a natural high, you come out of the water and stand naked and wet on the pier taking in the view regardless of the surrounding temperature. A unique experience that is highly recommended.
Finns also increase the sauna benefits by using twitches made from birch twigs that they slap themselves with during a sauna. This encourages the release of toxins and tones the skin and muscles.
You can also add aromatic oils to the steam water for additional relaxing and healing effects.
Take a look at Sara Gardner's beautiful article on the holistic
health benefits of the traditional Finnish sauna