What could be more Nordic than the sauna and the ice plunge? The oldest known saunas were found in Finland. They were simple pits dug into the slope of ground and used as a dwelling in winter. Brrrrrrr……. They added a little fireplace with stones….and by throwing water on the stones produced steam, which gave the sensation of increased heat. As time marched on little metal stoves, called kionas, were placed in the home-made saunas and temperatures could reach over 100 degrees! To get the ultimate benefit of the sauna, combine an icy dip into a hole that has been cut into the ice!
Saunas are part of the Norwegian culture. Traditionally, they are found in the home or holiday cottages. These high-heat, wood-lined rooms are designed to make you sweat, flush out built-up toxins, improve circulation and aid muscle recovery after intense exercise. This can include the hot-cold sauna, which is the intense heat followed by the icy-cold shower or dunk in the lake or fjord or a roll in the snow! Oslo, Norway has seen an increase in public saunas located at convenient downtown locations, where visitors and locals can sweat it out year round!
I thought I might list the do’s and dont’s for using a sauna in Norway……You don’t want to be the talk of the town!
- Go to the Right Sauna: Most often, public saunas, are separated by gender, with corresponding change rooms and a shared resting area.
- To Go Naked or Not: Many saunas have a strict “no swimsuit” rule to limit bacteria brought in by wet bathing suits; guests are asked to use clean towels to cover up instead. Good to know before you go!
- Clean Before You Heat: Before entering the sauna, ALWAYS take a THOROUGH (naked) shower with soap and shampoo and rinse off well. A short rinse isn’t going to get it here…..Norwegians take hygiene seriously and if you don’t shower properly, the dirty looks will come your way!
- Toweling Off: The one important rule to follow is: Never Let Your Skin Touch the Wooden Benches! Sauna seats are porous wood planks (they don’t retain heat, so they don’t burn your bottom, but they do soak up moisture) SIT ON A TOWEL! This prevents sweat from seeping into the wood and keeps things CLEAN!
- To Talk or Not to Talk: When you are sitting inside the sauna, silence is golden…….If you have to talk to a friend or neighbor, hushed voices are appreciated. WHISPER! If you HAVE to talk, talk talk, go outside!
- Hot and Steamy: The one time it is OK to talk, while sitting in the sauna, is when it comes to adding water to the stove to create more steam. Always ask those sharing, before ladling out a single drop of water. Everyone should be in agreement if the temp needs to be higher…..
- Cold as Ice!: While the sauna is nice, you will never gain the respect of the locals without throwing yourself in the freezing cold waters…..This may include a cold water pool or just a shower! Taking the leap is expected and the benefits are a serious full-body experience!
- Floating saunas can be found in Oslo: Which makes it easier to jump in the icy water! There is the SALT Village, ( for the hipsters) right on the fjord, which features multiple saunas, an outdoor theater with concerts at Christmas, cafes, art exhibits and a bedouin inspired market! For the more luxurious experience, head to The Thief Spa, which includes essential oils and a special heating system.
- The Cost: Entrance to Oslo’s city saunas start at $11 per person, but can go as high as $55 per person in the fancier spots…..You must book ahead and you can buy or rent a towel. Be sure to check for the No-Suit policy, some places allow them in the water, but may require you purchase their suit! Flip-flops are a good idea too, as the sauna floors can get very hot!
- Have a good time, but be prepared!
What are the benefits of a Sauna or Soak you ask?
*Deep muscle repair
*Builds Immune System
*Aids in Stress Reduction
*Increases Meditative Mindfulness
If you can’t do a Sauna, Oslo also offers the Hot Tubs!
You can reduce Pain and Discomfort even in a Tub of Hot Water: The combination of warm water and the level of buoyancy in your limbs, allows the muscles and joints to heal from injury. Symptoms of arthritis, and fibromyalgia are relieved and the soaking can reduce soreness overall.
It Allows Relaxation: Soaking in hot water allows for relaxation with a psychological and physical impact. Time spent in a tub unwinding allows you to relax for a better night’s sleep.
You can Detoxify the Body: Hot water increases your body temperature, which allows for immune cell and tissue repair. Sweating allows your body to pull toxins out of your body, creating energy and peace of mind!
What are the benefits of Cold Water Plunging, you ask?
*Speeds Injury Recovery
*Builds the Immune System
*Increases Energy and Well-Being
*Decreases Seasonal Anxiety and Depression
*Keeps Hair and Skin Healthy
Cold Water Plunging reduces sore muscles: Lactic acid builds up in your muscles after a workout. Cold water plunging reduces the level of acid in your muscles, which means less swelling, less pain and faster recovery. That’s why athletes, coaches and sports medicine doctors use cold therapy as a means for athletes to recover from overworked muscles and injuries. Cold water plunging lowers the temperature of damaged tissues and constricts blood vessels. This also reduces swelling and inflammation. It numbs the nerve endings to bring relief to injured muscles and joints!
It is also noted that the folks from the Scandinavian countries are some of the happiest people in the world and some of this attribution is due to their traditions of the sauna and the ice plunge!
Well, I hope my post today, makes you want to go right out and take the plunge (either hot or cold or both) It might be the BEST WAY to start off the NEW YEAR!