A Finnish sauna night


In the sauna

people seem to undress not only their clothes, but also the roles that they perform in their daily life. Indeed, “we’re all born naked and all the rest is drag”. The sauna space offers a space for a genuine connection with others. Here we are all equal, each of us with philosophical thoughts about life, current and past troubles, and big and small dreams. Many of these thoughts are shared in deep conversations with others in the hot room – although, importantly, silence doesn’t weigh on people in this place of bliss. It is perfectly accepted, expected, and well understood to not say anything at all, when bathing together. The silence and the stillness allow us to find contentment in the present. Sauna thus offers a unique space for re-connecting with others, with the closest loved ones as well as with new acquaintances.


In this space, people may also feel a connection with the local past.

Many people continue the sauna traditions that they had at home, for example in their childhood, with their own children. Mothers wash their daughter’s hair in the same fashion as their own mothers did, and women utilize the potent powers of local natural plants to take care of their skin, following ancient local traditions. 


I think that sauna is a place where we can truly be our genuine selves

where we can let go of all expectations and roles, and just be. To me, it is a safe space in a society that seems to increasingly expect us to perform excellently at everything in our professional and personal lives, as well as to be constantly available and responsive. Admittedly, even when practicing yoga or meditation, my mind rates myself on my performance. The time in the hot room gives me a precious moment to take a precious break from all demands and expectations, to enjoy something unproductive, to be a human being and not a human doing


The sauna offers an opportunity for a mini-retreat, a meditative-like moment, me-time, or a temporary digital detox.

At a time when most of us spend a record-breaking amount of time in front of screens and digital devices, a moment in this haven gives us a legitimate reason to log off and connect with our own inner self. We can let the silence and the heat dissolve any tensions and allow us to care for ourselves. Sometimes a moment in solitude can recharge better than a nap.


Feeling connected with nature is a seamless part of a sauna experience

as sauna lovers bring nature indoors or integrate the moment in the heat with a deep breath in the fresh air. Bathers can connect with nature in special ways. We can feel the potent powers of the local nature on skin, for example with a peat treatment, which is known to improve hormonal health. While making a sauna whisk from birch has long traditions, a sauna whisk can be made from different plants, such as antiseptic juniper. A sauna scent can be made with pine or spruce tree needles. We know that only twenty minutes in nature can boost well-being tremendously. As sauna enables us to reconnect with others, with ourselves, and with the surrounding nature, it has a proven, and welcomed, therapeutic effect. 


Writer, Meri Frig is a Finnish sustainability scholar and a wellness enthusiast, currently living in Tel Aviv. Her favorite place on the planet is her family’s summer cottage with a smoke sauna, located in Koli, Finland.


Photography Katri Kapanen