Sauna, a transformational tradition

Suana, a time honored tradition reaching back to the earliest memories of man. The first saunas were caves, draped closed by animal skins and cleansed by the smoke of a fire pit- whose coals would smolder through the night. Water poured on the rocks would emit steam and aid life for the early peoples who gathered together to survive. Here is where life was sustained- food cooked, babies born, and life passed….all by the sauna.

In Northern Europe the sauna caves became wooden dwellings, centers of communities and important places of ritual and renewal. Mysteriously, with the rise of Kings and The Church, saunas disappeared for some time- it is thought that the sauna was considered “part of the old order of things” and were somewhat superstitious in nature.

With the industrial revolution, Sauna’s made their return- impart thanks to the addition of chimneys into the wooden dwelling which allowed for an easier upkeep of a burning fire. The sauna has evolved even still, using state of the heart heaters in a variety of wooden structures.

My 36th Birthday Sauna Transformation

I had the life changing experience of visiting a “pop up” sauna for my 36th Birthday. The Gather Sauna House in partnership with Tumalo Coyote Den hosted my husband and I for a transformative awakening of heart and spirit in steam.

I arrived at the Coyote Den (an adorable boutique home rental) in late winter (February 25th) to a crisp and bright scene. The Sauna is made out of a vintage horse trailer and has a magical “outhouse” style front door. We were greeted by our kind host, Halina, and offered tea and shown inside The Coyote Den to change. Halina made sure we were comfortable and knew how to use everything. Then she left us to discover the magic of wildcrafted sauna.

We began with some giggles and uncertainty, laying our towels down and waiting to heat up. I had been to many saunas before- I am of Viking decent after all, but I had not been to one in a horse trailer. I didn’t know what to expect. Then the sweat started to drip and the first wave of euphoria hit me. Stress melts, aches release, and emotions come center as my breathe deepens.

We wait until we can no longer stand the heat and then step out into the morning sun. Its time dump cold water on our heads. Sometimes referred to as “The Nordic Cycle” this method of a 20 minute heat up followed by a plunge in icy waters (or in this case a bucket over the head) has a multitude of health benefits. The cold causes the blood vessels to contract rapidly, elevating blood pressure. This in turn brings improved blood flood, adrenaline, and an instant mood elevation. The hot/cold therapy also stimulates the lymph system to flush out toxins and rejuvenate the body.

We scrub our faces with a local made salt and herb scrub and step back into the sauna, with bowl of herbal infused piping hot water and a sauna whisk. The bowl of herbal delight is a respiratory therapy; we lean our heads over the bowl with a bowl draped over us and inhale the savory elixir of health. We then begin to “beat” each other with the whisk, a bundle of young twigs and eucalyptus. Although the practice seems somewhat barbaric, hitting each other with branches half naked while we sniff boiling herbs- it ignites a deep healing in our bodies. The whisk massages our tired limbs (I had just hiked 200 miles in two months) and boosts our metabolism while brightening our skin. The rhythmic tapping of the whisk lulls my mind into a relaxed and peaceful state of meditation. It is time for more cold water on the head.

We step out, check in with our gracious host and gulp big breaths of cool morning air. It is time for more round of heat and then our time will come to an end. We step in again, this time no giggles- just silent, mindful awareness of the now. We have transcended into the bliss, become the tradition, wellness is ours.

I just can’t express how GOOD this experience feels. Just writing about it brings me back to that magical day- my birthday- a moment in time where I could literally slough away the stresses of a year if lockdowns and health scares and just be. I really do feel I have transformed since that day, I feel lighter, centered, inspired. I know I will be back again soon, and encourage anyone to visit The Gather House Sauna and have their own journey into the steam.

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