Yesterday, in Part I of our look at sauna style, we briefly explored the history and evolution of saunas in Finland, and today we’re going to wrap up with a) how they arrived in America and b) what kind of saunas are popular now.
To recap, we credit the Finns (and Scandinavians in general) for developing the sauna culture that eventually made its way to the U.S. But, it wasn’t the Finns who brought it here, despite having a prime seat in the sweat lodge of American sauna history.
Swedish Saunas in America
According to author Michael Nordskog, it was the Swedes who first introduced saunas to the U.S. in the mid-1600s. In fact, historical records recount a fight that broke out over the construction of the first Swedish bathhouse on Tinicum Island for the governor of Pennsylvania in 1654.
The fight didn’t last, but the saunas did – and they spread along with the westward migration of Scandinavians to the “sauna country” that surrounds the Great Lakes regions. The Swedes, Finns and Dutch planted roots there that still grow strong to this day, but sauna culture continued to spread.
Now, saunas can be found in homes, sports clubs and bathhouses all over the country, though what was once a communal ritual has now taken on the mantel of luxury for most.
So Many Sauna Options
The good news, though, is that it’s a luxury that remains largely accessible for those who like to sweat. Thanks to technology (which we touched upon yesterday) there are many sauna options, even for the home.
Infrared Sauna: Infrared saunas emit radiation on the infrared part of the spectrum, which warms the body without warming the air around it. Studies show the effects are comparable to traditional saunas.
Wet Sauna: A wet sauna, or steam room/shower, uses heated water to create steam and a wet heat. This increases skin hydration and can also help open airways.
Dry Sauna: Dry saunas created a dry heat with little to no humidity. Many enjoy a higher temperature in a dry sauna because they don’t feel as hot as they might in a wet sauna.
If you’re in the market for a home sauna, spend time experimenting with all three at your local banya or sports club to find the perfect fit.