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Autumn 2008 issue #15

Some Like it Hot by Cornelis van Dalen

Sauna and health – a short history and useful therapy

From history of bathing in Russia:
“Going to the banya was an old Russian custom. From medieval times it was popularly seen as a national institution, and not to bathe in one as least three times a week was practically taken as proof of foreign origins. Every noble household had its own steam house. In towns and villages there was invariably a communal bath, where men and women sat steaming themselves, beating one another, according to the custom, with young birch leaf whips, and cooling themselves down by rolling together in the snow. Because of its reputation as a place for sex and wild behaviour, Peter the Great attempted to stamp out the banya as a relic of medieval Rus’ and encouraged the building of Western bathrooms in the palaces and mansions of St Petersburg. But, despite heavy taxes on it, nobleman continued to prefer the Russian bath and, by the end of the eighteenth century, nearly every palace in St Petersburg had one.”

“The banya was believed to have special healing powers – it was called the ‘people’s first doctor’ (vodka was the second, raw garlic the third.) There were all sorts of magical beliefs associated with it in folklore. To go to the banya was to give your body and your soul a good cleaning, and it was the custom to perform this purging as part of important rituals.”[1]

One could say that the history of the bathhouse is the history of civilisation - that meaning becoming ‘civil’. It is pervasive the notion that cleanliness is civil and not to bathe is uncivil. History shows that there is adequate proof that it is an innate desire for people to want to bathe and to do so regularly. It is only in the places of economic hardship and suppression of civil behaviour, this is not present. In this one can refer to the industrialisation of society. The above quotation on the baths of Russia shows this inherent and prerequisite need. I once wrote an article titled ‘My grandfather never bathed,’ which was not true, but bathrooms were not part of the houses for the everyman. This has only become so in the past 50 years and actually even more recent.

Communal bathing was the norm and in some parts of the varied culture still is the norm. People stripping off their clothes and not being burdened by other’s nakedness is a feature of many European cultures. The joy of a spa bath in Austria cannot be quantified; it is a delicious and inspiring experience. It is as the Russians thought of it one’s doctor – the healing powers infinite, the cleaning power exhilarating.

Today if one uses the word ‘spa’ in the UK, and indeed is so advertised, the notion of the word is a pampering experience of (mostly female) beautification. It is not about steam of the sauna. Spas are luxuries; spas are expensive in this form.

Modern technology and re-application of simple ideas means we all can have a spa in our homes. Boiling water in an electric kettle and a tent. Hundred years ago Dr Louis Kuhne had people construct more complicated things for steam generation. See drawings in ‘Tuberculosis and Romanticism,’ New Physis Newsletter, #13 Summer 2007.

TOTAL Sauna
Here is a delightful opportunity to own a compact and very portable steam bath. With TOTAL SAUNA, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of a sauna in the comfort of your own home. TOTAL SAUNA is specially designed so it can be set up in a just a few minutes with no need for a permanent installation. You can set up and put away your Total Sauna at any time with no trouble at all.

TOTAL SAUNA is an amazing Spa experience in the comfort of your home:  steam heat
- Ideal to lose weight
- Quick results
- Relaxing effect
- Ideal to eliminate toxins and improve skin appearance
- Ease aches and pains
- Essential for any ‘detox’ and revitalising programme
- It takes up very little space - Fully foldable
- Fast and easy to use

Complete offer includes:
- Sauna - Steam Generator - Carrying Bag
- Slimming diet by Total Sauna.
      
Steam baths are pleasurable which make them an even better way to enjoy health and wellbeing. TOTAL Sauna Deluxe model features variable steam settings & electric timer.
Price 135.00 plus 11.95 delivery charge – UK and NI.
Go to www.newphysis.com/sauna.html to buy online.
Email for further information: cvandalen@newphysis.com

Cornelis van Dalen 2008

Endnote:
1. With apologies to the author of this quote - it was sent to me without reference.
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