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Sauna Culture

Culture is an elusive term to define and explore - moreso when applied to sauna; both in its historical representation and how it fits in with the modern sauna zeitgeist. The Finns have no need for such an exploration as sauna is so deeply imbued in their ethos that it just is. Americans don't have in-depth analyses of football culture (or do they) as its simple utterance conjures up nostalgic imagery. From Pop Warner to Friday night lights to tailgating and the NFL, it is an institution embedded in the soul of the nation. Sauna holds a similar place in the hearts of Finns. 

In this section we will explore the notion of Sauna Culture from both a historical purview and in its modern incarnation around the world. Check back on the regular as we dive into not just how integrating a regular sauna practice can enhance your life, but how it has shaped the heart and soul of a nation. 

What is culture?

Let’s first define culture. There are myriad complex explanations that delve into the deeper anthropological origins of the word but here is one definition that I like that is simple and straight to the point:

 

Culture is a way of life of a group of people--the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. (Texas A&M University)

 

Sauna culture then, is both obvious and elusive. We can certainly observe and describe the practices of Finnish sauna enthusiasts and we know that these traditions are passed down through the generations (I’m a roughly 10th generation product of this phenomenom). But how can this notion of Sauna Culture be explained to a North American audience in a modern, digitally driven world? What does it mean to live a sauna lifestyle? And given its inherent generational gestation, can it truly be learned by someone who didn’t inherit sauna DNA from their forebears?

 

The answer to the last questions is a resounding YES. I have seen the transformation from Sauna Curious to Sauna Savant in many people’s lives over my four-plus decades of sauna hosting. But to connect with the heat and its largely unspoken culture on a sublime level can be life changing. And I’ve seen it happen. 

 

Articulating it in an appreciable manner though, is exceedingly difficult. Describing the connection - to the heat, to the löyly (steam), to the cold, to nature - is something that after all these years, I still find elusive. That is what this Culture section is about. Exploring this topic. Let’s launch a few trial balloons and see how they land with you.

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