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Sauna Talk: Mikkel Aaland, author of Sweat and the Perfect Sweat documentary, offers us six decades of global insight

light steam graphic

Anyone lucky enough to own a hard copy of the out of print 1978 book Sweat is well familiar with Mikkel Aaland’s experiences of the various sweat bathing practices and traditions from all over the World.

Traveling with Mikkel

Throughout his book, we join Mikkel in a Mayan Temescal, a Russian Banya, a Japanese Mushu-buru, a Native American Sweatlodge, and, of course, a Finnish sauna. Throughout his global journey, Mikkel gained an understanding of the common human experience. The communal experience and the experience of getting clean, and in my words, the ability to feel and say “aaaahhh” when water is tossed on hot rocks to create steam.

As a young world traveler, Mikkel put it all together. He was able to connect the dots of these different “sweat” practices, and has helped us come to the realization that we, as humans, share a special bond of sweat practices, and we aren’t really all that different as a species.

The “Perfect Sweat” Documentary

Fast forward to 2019, and Mikkel was deep into another form of world travel. He and film crew began revisiting these places and sweat traditions around the world for his documentary called Perfect Sweat. The documentary is currently in edit mode and has been halted by corona with a couple episodes still to go.

Back home in Norway

We have the pleasure to visit with Mikkel in his homeland, Norway, at his homestead, outside on his deck, overlooking a majestic river and source of his cold plunges between sauna rounds. Though Mikkel and family live in San Francisco, he has had the good fortune of being able to spend his summers in Norway. During this “crazy year of 2020” he was able to squeeze his way out of the US and over to Norway, once again.

We will hear about how being in lockdown at home during corona was a safety hazard. We’ll hear about Mikkel’s daily routine, which includes healing, hiking and sauna.

Mikkel Aaland, showing us his daily hiking trail from his Norway house deck

Sauna in the time of corona

Only someone of Mikkel’s background and perspective is able to share a very clear picture where we are at relative to the current pandemic and how it relates to gathering and sweating on a sauna bench. There is something in our history that is quite relevant, and I’m pleased to be able to share with you Mikkel’s observations and parallels during this interview.

Mikkel Aaland is our first returning guest to Sauna Talk. We have had “the iceman” Wim Hof on Sauna Talk. We’ve had the seminal sauna researcher Jari Laukkanen on Sauna Talk. We’ve had author Scott Carney and the backyard acrobat Steve Freidricks on Sauna Talk.

And now, for the second time, I am pleased to introduce Mikkel Aaland, our guest for this episode of Sauna Talk.

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