Social Sweats: What We Can Learn From Europe’s Old and New Ways

As entwined as bathhouse culture has become with many modern day societies, the seemingly omnipresent practice of using heat to release toxins is actually tens of thousands of years old, dating back to the Neolithic Age.

Every culture has its ancient sweat tradition: the Arabic hamman, Japanese onsen, Russian banya, Native American sweat lodge, the Mesoamerican temezcal – and, of course, the most globally ubiquitous…the European sauna.

Here in the U.S., we can learn a lot from bathing/sauna culture.

In countries like Finland (where saunas were born 2,000 years ago), Italy, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, etc., the rituals and facilities are often creative, deeply social and fabulous.

Plus, they have perfected the art of contrast therapy (taking a cold/snow plunge after, and repeating and repeating), recognizing this approach as key to getting the health benefits, and to make those endorphins pump.

The most recent industry surveys predict European saunas will continue to set a high bar for sauna spaces and experiences, with sweating only getting more spectacular and social in years ahead!

The most powerful trend? Sauna as the new social, community-creating “hangout” (a healthy and hot alternative to bars and restaurants).

Another irresistible and fascinating recent trend is taking the tradition of “sauna meisters” to a whole new level. Those trained to administer “aufguss sessions” – where water or ice with essential oils are poured over the hot stones to increase humidity then actively circulated with billowing towels – are now touting unique, themed experiences and participating in competitions to identify the true masters! (see video below)

Sauna is simply a way of life in many communities and cultures. And while the act is taken seriously, it’s also a source of fun, entertainment, connection and communal ritual; we look forward to seeding these possibilities here via Soak Boulder.

 

 

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