By Teke O’Reilly
There are at least two lenses to view the Art of Sauna through: Experience and Practice. The Experience of Sauna is singular, and personal. For those who have mastered the Practice of Sauna, the Experience has core elements that passionate enthusiasts insist upon every time.
The most essential, of course, is the heat source. A traditional, authentic Sauna experience demands a wood-fired stove and carefully selected rocks upon which ladles of water are thrown, creating a luscious and balanced envelope of steam. The Finns call this Loyly, and the Estonians call it Leil — both words indicating a deep respect for the mystic “Spirit” of the steam, our friend and teacher.
Entering the hot room pulls you inward, your breathing slows down, the heat quietly overwhelms your internal and external senses, the mind calms, the body’s immune and cleansing systems activate. When the body says enough, you steal away outside, letting the much cooler air spring your senses into vitality. If a cold plunge is available (and it really must be for the complete Experience), the exhilaration and joy of the Sauna Experience multiplies ad infinitum.
One cycle, one session of Experience. Repeat.
As the Sauna Experience is re-created and refined in different contexts over the years, so begins the Practice of Sauna. These singular joys, and our subjective tastes, tested and shaped over time, yield increased health benefits and, most importantly, accrued wisdom about the nature of our health. Testing the body’s limits, and training the mind and body to endure and activate, opens a galaxy of new and deeper understanding of ourselves, and a connection to deep, lasting everyday health. A weekly Sauna Practice has been scientifically proven to give enthusiasts the highest marks in physical and mental health. The more Sauna is woven into your lifestyle, the more your health and happiness organically follow, leaving you and your loved ones with a persistent satisfaction and contented spirit.
Perhaps the most practical result of the Practice of Sauna is what we call recalibrating your internal thermostat. Sensations that usually bring discomfort like high humidity and extreme cold gradually become welcome co-conspirators. Through Practice, our bodies flip the script on the seasonal extremes, turning what was once a nuisance into a visit with an old friend.
It’s an exciting time for Sauna in the North Lake Country. Saunas are experiencing an international boom, with Minnesota, Wisconsin, Canada and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan leading the revolution. Sauna solutions are becoming more available, with new mobile units coming online every month, and big plans moving forward on brick-and-mortar facilities. Share the experience of Sauna with a seasoned practitioner, and turn the tables on the seasons.
Artist Bio: Freelance writer Teke O'Reilly has been a driving force of the urban and mobile Sauna Revolution for nearly a decade. Teke is also building SaunaShare.com, a peer-to-peer sharing platform bringing Sauna enthusiasts and hosts together to share bench time — anywhere in the world.
Read more of our stories in Issue 19 of Lake and Company.