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What is the definition of sauna? Let’s start with that

light steam graphic

Let’s revisit something significant.

Consider that when:

  • bicycling with a friend in Amsterdam, it is perfectly reasonable to say “hey, you wanna go for a few rounds at Sauna Deco?”
  • walking with a friend outside on a super hot humid day, it is perfectly reasonable to say “man, it feels like a sauna out here, let’s go grab a beer.”
  • sitting on the sauna bench with a friend, it is perfectly reasonable to say “mind if I hit some water on the sauna rocks?”

However when:

  • Sitting with a friend in a Jacuzzi or hot tub it is not correct to say “man, this sauna is bubbly.” Why? because it is not a sauna.
  • Laying on a tanning bed for whatever reason, it’s not correct to turn to whoever may be there and say “these sauna rays are making my skin orange.” Why? because it is not a sauna.
  • Sitting alone in a 4 foot closet lined with wood with red light bulbs, it is definitely not correct to announce “Check out my new infrared sauna!” Why? because it is not a sauna. (note definition above).

Why is this important?

  • The clinical studies that report on the health benefits of sauna are based on participants partaking in sauna. Not hot tubs. Not tanning beds. Not infrared light bulb closets.
  • Sauna is a centuries old tradition that, as an integral part of the practice, involves introducing water onto hot sauna stones to create steam. Without this, it is not a sauna.
  • Other methods of inducing sweat may be awesome, and great, but they are not sauna if they don’t have a decent heater that heat rocks and allow for steam from tossing water on sauna stones. Light bulbs cannot make a sauna, unless they can heat rocks hot enough to make steam.

There are other nuances that are critical for creating a great sauna. (ventilation, bench height, type of heater, etc.). We can get into those later. But what is important right now is that we start with what is a sauna and what is not a sauna.

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3 thoughts on “What is the definition of sauna? Let’s start with that”

  1. Hello,
    I have a chance to influence light wave selection at a large public sauna facility (one for males, one for females). Overhead lighting is being replaced with LED from this company:

    I contacted the company but got no advice w/ regard to a particular wave length for optimum benefit. I want to know which section of the spectrum will offer benefit while minimizing possible downsides.

    Please advise.

    Douglas in Alaska

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