Sauna bathing has been enjoyed since ancient times. Nomadic tribesman wandering around Scandinavia would dig pits into slopes, cover them, fill them with rocks, burn large amounts of wood for around 6-8 hours, let the smoke out and then enjoy the residual warmth for possibly another 12 hours, offering respite from the biting cold. This primitive form of sauna not only warmed the body but cleansed the mind and refreshed the spirit. This type of bathing evolved into what became ‘smoke’ saunas, which is a sauna without a chimney. Wood is burnt in large fireplaces over a large period of time, heating the stone of the fireplace directly. Once the room has reached the required temperature the smoke is allowed to escape through a small hole in the roof.
Centuries ago, saunas were originally the only source of clean water in the towns and were considered holy places, where women gave birth and healing rituals could take place. It was a place for worshipping the dead and the bodies of the dead were washed here before burial.
With the advent of the industrial revolution, heating saunas became easier with metal woodstoves which could be housed in wooden structures. The first electric sauna heater prototype was built in 1949 and developed over the years into the high-tec heaters we have now. There has even been a sauna installed by Swedish company Tylö within the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi in Northern Sweden with a full size working sauna heater carved from one block of ice!
Saunas have come a long way since the early slope pits, and can be installed and enjoyed in spas, gyms and private leisure spaces all over the world as awareness of the importance of everyday wellbeing grows.