For centuries, saunas have been used to relax and rejuvenate the body and mind as well as provide a wide variety of health benefits. In recent years, the use of saunas have increased significantly with new sauna technologies being developed such as the infrared sauna which has provided even more health benefits. To understand how the sauna developed, it is helpful to know its origination and evolution.
Historical documentation shows that around 2000 years ago, the Finnish were avid users of the sauna. They were a primitive sauna that consisted of pits in the ground where people sat during the cold winters for warmth. There was a fireplace where stones were placed and then heated until they were red hot. People would sit naked and relax in the heat. They were also used as a type of bathing method. It was not until the 19th century that more advanced saunas were built in Finland. These advance saunas had wooden log walls, a roof, and a door. Originally known as Savusauna (smoke sauna), they produced smoke which escaped through vents and thereby did not harm sauna users. Although difficult to clean and a potential risk of fire, these ground smoke saunas were the foundation for future saunas. These saunas were also used as a place to give birth and care for the sick. Eventually, sauna users began drizzling water over the stones which caused steamed to be produced.
In late 1800′s, another type of sauna was developed. With this type of sauna, a metal top covered the stones and it was affixed to a chimney where the smoke was dispersed outdoors. The temperature of the sauna was controlled by closing and opening a small door. As well, the amount of rocks used and the intensity of the fire helped control the temperature. The benefits of using this type of sauna became widely known with many being installed on the property of homeowners. By late 1920′s, urban areas began building saunas for the community to use. World War II saw an even bigger increase in the construction of saunas.
As technology advanced, electrical stoves began to be used in saunas in Finland in the mid-20th century. It became popular because it was convenient and fewer trees wasted. Stones were still heated and water was still sprinkled over the stones to produce steam. Over time, as people became more aware of the health benefits of maintaining proper hygiene, saunas were improved. Throughout the years and in different cultures, there were a variety of different types of saunas used. For instance, the Turkish hammam or steam bath, Native American inipi or sweat lodge, Russian banya, and the Roman thermae or public bath, were used.
Today, innovations in technology have resulted in the development of infrared heat therapy saunas. The infrared sauna has had a remarkable positive impact on the sauna industry. People can now find traditional steam saunas and infrared saunas in such places as homes, health clubs, fitness centers, spas, clinics, rehabilitation centers, sports clinics, hotels, and luxury resorts. The price of saunas has decreased significantly in recent years which has resulted people from all walks of life using them instead of just the wealthy. Outdoor saunas in particular have gained in popularity recently. It is now used for relaxation and stress reduction, and improving one’s physical health and well being. People across the globe enjoy the benefits of an ancient tradition.