The History of Sweating: Saunas Around The World

Whether you call it a sauna, shvitz, hammam, or steam bath, there’s no denying the benefits of a good sweat! In fact many Indigenous cultures have traditionally used a sweat lodge for purification, cleansing and healing of the mind, body, emotions and spirit. In this latest Brojects episode, brothers Kevin and Andrew set out to put their own unique twist on the ancient art of sweating with their Ultimate Floating Sauna. And like all art, the key is to learn from the past in order to innovate, so here’s a look at saunas around the world!


1. Nordic Bath: In this episode, Andrew refers back to the time he spent in Finland hanging out in that country’s numerous saunas. Clearly the sauna experience had a profound effect on him, because he’s been talking about building his own ever since! So what’s the deal? Finns think of saunas not as a luxury, but as a necessity. With five million inhabitants and over three million saunas, that’s an average of one per household. The Finnish has its roots in the Nordic bath, a contrast between hot and cold that has tremendous health benefits. The heat helps rid the body of toxins through perspiration, while the cold helps stimulate blood circulation and improves cardiac rhythm. We can see why Andrew would be all over this one. Parked at the lake’s edge, it’s the perfect compliment to the Ultimate Outdoor Gym.


2. Turkish Hammam: The Turkish experience differs from other sauna expirences as it involves not just a good sweat but a thorough cleaning and massage too. The source of steam in the hammam is a gigantic tub of water inside the wall. The entire bath is heated by the hot air from the water, which is delivered via a special pipe located under the floor. The bather lies on a heated marble slab called the göbek taşı. When sweating is plentiful, massage starts… If you want to steam in Ottoman opulence the 350-year-old Hammam Cağaloğlu Hamamı in Istanbul is the place for you. Or, you can save the money, and put it towards some lumber and build your own floating sauna!


3. Russian Banya: In this episode, Kevin and Andrew set off on a hike to find branches and plants to beat themselves with in their sauna. Let us explain. Part of the traditional Banya experience involves a venik — a broom made of a bunch of tiny dried branches tied together and used to sweep the floors or in this case, massage! A venik massage is believed to have healing powers too, from making wounds heal faster to curing bronchitis, high blood pressure, and even a runny nose and sore throat! And here we thought Vodka was the ‘cure all’ in Russia? Much like dipping in the lake after a good sweat Nordic-style, Russian saunas also involve an element of hot and cold. In fact, in Siberia it’s common to walk right out of the steam room and jump into the snow!


4. Jimjilbang: The Jimjilbang is a large, gender-segregated public bathhouse in Korea, furnished with hot tubs, showers, traditional kiln saunas and massage tables. The difference between Jimjibangs and other spas around the world is that these guys have added the element of sleep to the equation! That’s right, Jimjilbangs are equipped with common sleep rooms and are usually open 24 hours, so you can bathe, sauna and sleep for as long as you want! Absolutely brilliant. We really think Kevin and Andrew should consider revisiting their floating sauna and add in a murphy bed!


5. Native Sweat Lodge: The sweat lodge is a hut, typically dome-shaped and made with natural materials, used by Indigenous peoples of the Americas for ceremonial steam baths and prayer. It’s a place of spiritual refuge and mental and physical healing, and a place to get answers and guidance by asking spiritual entities for needed wisdom and power. We think Kevin and Andrew should pay close attention to this tradition. Working together sometimes causes them a lot of harmful stress. And what about all the beer? Life up at the cottage can be taxing!

And then of course there’s this…

So happy sweating everyone. And as they say in Antigonish, Nova Scotia: “If you can’t stand the heat… go jump in the lake!”