In Finland, saunas offer opportunity for soul-searching and mindfulness in the stunning wilderness.
Since ancient times throughout Finland, steamy natural saunas have helped troubled souls shed impurities of the mind through sweat and contemplation. The flickering of candlelight refocuses the mind away from everyday problems, and the secluded wilderness ensures that there are no distractions from the journey of stress relief.
The Finns, who rank fifth on the 2016 World Happiness Report, take their saunas seriously and focus on three different types of relaxation.
Slow and silent
In the Pyhäpiilo Sacred Hide Sauna, located on Lake Pyhäjärvi, as you return from the freezing temperatures outside, you lie back in steaming water as a gentle drumming sound echoes in the background of darkness. The bubbling waters tap against your skin and the toxins are flushed away. Sauna bathing in Finnish folklore borders on the religious, where the mind is allowed to roam free, conjuring up mystical visions of happy memories with no distractions. Slowing the mind, as smoke fills the air, you enter an almost trancelike state.
Wild and free
The Sauna of Old Time Stories brings little-known Finnish folklore to life in an old cattle shed. Occupying the mind is a great way to empty your head of unwanted thoughts. As your feet soak in a soothing warm bath and birch branches lightly brush against your back and shoulders, the voice of a local from the pitch darkness tells tales of how Kuusamo village was founded, conjuring images of bearded men chopping trees in the forests and women boiling food in a pot over the fire.
Alive and strong
Invigoration of the mind and body is an important factor of Finnish saunas. In the Iivaara Wilderness Sauna, freshly cut tree branches burn over a sole candle in the center of the room, filling the air of the wooden hut with a fresh scent as the skies outside flash with the aurora borealis. Legend suggests that natural scents strengthen the soul and the shadows created by a flickering candle flame bring the imagination alive with wild imagery of natural forests and flowing streams.
The combination of cleanliness from pure stream water and the serenity of the secluded surroundings creates a unique relaxing atmosphere unlike anywhere on Earth. The owners of Pyhäpiilo sum up the Finnish sauna experience best, “At Pyhäpiilo…it feels that all your worries disappear up the chimney to the sky, and you are cleansed from the dust of everyday woes by the cool waters of Lake Pyhäjärvi.”
Joseph Worthington is a travel writer and editor based in the United Kingdom.