Sauna for Better Overall Health and Well-being
A sauna that uses steam and operates at 95-100C with a humidity level of 80% is called a banya. The word banya is Greek in origin. It means “cleansing of a body with the help of steam.” Some linguists believe the word originated from the Latin balneum — “something that makes pain and sadness go away.” According to the Ancient Greek philosopher Herodotus in the 5th century BC, he stated the banya appeared in different cultures at about the same time.
In comparison, a Finnish sauna runs at higher tempratures with low humidity levels and is referred to as a “dry sauna”. Whereas, the Turkish sauna operates at 50-55C and 100% humidity and is known as a “wet sauna”.
Multiple stories retell the origin of the banya in Russia. The first recorded mention of it dates back to 1113. The banya was built for personal hygiene and was also a symbol of wealth. Peter the Great was a fan of the banya and when he founded St. Petersburg in 1703, he allowed everyone to build one without having to pay taxes on them. In 1733, authorities gave a special order to build “a healing banya” and warned the owners to keep prices low to make it available to as many people as possible. Later, Slavic settlers to Canada would clear enough land to build a banya. Then, they would live in it, bake bread, give birth, etc. until their regular home was built. Today, all that is needed to enjoy the two-millennium old tradition is a venik (dried leaves bundled together), shapka (woolen hat) and the desire to try something new.
The uniquely-crafted banya at the Notwaste Outdoor Centre is heated using a woodstove. Firewood is sourced and cut on-site using sustainable forest management practices. Further, the stovepipe is lined with granite cobbles for extra steam generation. Experience the tradition and get all the benefits here in Quinte West without the need to board a plane!
Still confused about the banya? Please review the following Youtube videos for more information, including Banya 101.
When you arrive, the banya’s steam room (parnaya) will be operating at ~ 95C. You are expected to add firewood to maintain this optimal temperature. There is a guard around the woodstove for your safety – use caution. The 10L stainless steel watertank attached to it, acts as a heatsink and moderates the internal temperature of the parnaya. It also provides ample hot water for showering afterwards.
Put on a shapka or toque before entering the parnaya. It will help you keep your head cool! Put the hand towel on the bench or stool for sanitary reasons and to protect yourself from the hot cedar planks. Remember, the room will hot, so focus on controlling your breathing and just relax! Use the lanterns (or not) and timer provided. NEVER leave these in the parnaya, as they will melt. Damaged lanterns or the timer are subject to reimbursement.
The ideal heating cycle is 5-7 minutes. Never exceed 10 minutes. When going outside cool yourself by whatever means you wish depending on the season. Brave souls pour a pail of cold water over their heads. Others roll in the snow. Cooling cycles mirror heating cycles in length or can be lengthened to improve your recovery from the heat. Repeat the hot-cold cycles two more times. Then, enjoy a 20-30 minute break to replenish your fluids. Your host will provide you with jams, honey and tea as per tradition.
Afterwards, your group will be provided with a venik to be used during the next 3-4 heating cycles. The host will demonstrate how to use. Follow closely to unlock the secret of the banya. Don’t tell anyone!
After the final cooling cycle, enter the “Dosh” (bathing room) to wash yourself. Take half a pail of cold water from the wine barrel and mix it with the hot water from the woodstove’s watertank. Stir with the spatula. Lather up and rinse in sailor-style. Shampoo, conditioner, soaps and towels are always provided, with the exception of The Econo package.
- boosts the immune system
- detoxifies the body of salts and toxins
- increases blood circulation
- promotes exfoliation and improves the health of the skin (i.e., ideal for teenagers)
- aids in Rheumatism, joint pain and relaxes sore or overworked muscles
- combats depression
- guarantees a good night’s rest
- reduces the desire to travel south