The Heat is On


For many Finns the sauna is the holiest room in the house and the one most closely associated with wellbeing. Jake Newport of Finnmark explains what the fascination is with this hot and steamy pastime

Northern European countries including Norway, Finland and Sweden rank in the top 10 of the world’s happiest countries according the World Happiness Report, which is put out by some influential economists. The UK? We languish in 23rd place. So, what are our gleeful Nordic neighbours doing so differently to have such zest for life?

The answer isn’t entirely clear cut, but one startling difference is the emphasis placed on specific health practices in the respective societies – in the case of Northern Europe – it’s the combination of an active, outdoor lifestyle and the wellbeing benefits derived from age-old traditions such as Sauna. According to scientists and health nutritionists, the Sauna has been found irrevocably beneficial to health, even more appealing: regularly spending time in a sauna may actually help extend life.

British company Finnmark Limited, the sole UK importer of the only Finnish-made and designed sauna heater brands on the market, is a firm advocate of the benefits, as Managing Director, Jake Newport, explains:

“Finns have been the masters of the sauna since its conception several millennia ago. They’re the keepers of the knowledge surrounding what makes the perfect sauna. A nation of 5.5 million people, the country has as many saunas as television sets — around 3.3 million. Most are in people’s homes, although they’re also standard amenities in offices and factories. Because of the unique properties of Finnish saunas, the same health benefits aren’t applicable to steam baths and hot tubs. Finnish saunas are wood-lined rooms, usually heated by a stove topped with stones. The air inside the sauna is very hot and dry, although sauna bathers periodically add water to the stones to produce a vapor known as “loyly.”

For Jake, anyone in the know will agree that the sauna experience is all about creating the perfect löyly. “The term literally means the “sauna steam”, but it’s is also a Finnish word that describes the ambience and atmosphere of the sauna,” he adds. “The perfect löyly would perhaps be in a sauna cabin in a serene location, with high-quality wooden interior and good company. Most importantly a high-end sauna heater likely a Narvi Velvet or Aito Kiuas (AK) 47 with a large amount of stones, producing natural warming heat and a soft steam. A proper sauna heater should have a large stone capacity, not just a handful of stones resting on the top. Finnish-made stoves are better built and the materials tend to be thicker and more robust; this gives longevity.”

Using a birch vihta (whisk) is also highly recommended. Adds Newport : “The whisk (high in tannins and saponins) is slowly softened over the sauna stones, after which you gently hit yourself with it, leaving your skin cooled and deeply cleansed. If done with precision, sauna bathing is something that is enjoyed on a regular basis, and not just something that is occasionally tolerated.”

The Finnmark website has a wide selection of genuine Finnish wood-burning and electric heaters, and regularly posts information on what makes a ‘proper’ Finnish sauna, the benefits of sauna and an active outdoor lifestyle. The positive response received coupled with the company’s ongoing success is a sure sign sauna is back and this time - it’s here to stay.

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