Photos courtesy Saunatec Inc.
Your backyard oasis should be a refuge, a place where you can escape the stresses of daily life and relax. While pools, hot tubs and other backyard amenities are popular sources of that rest and relaxation, there is another addition that can take your backyard to the next level—your own sauna.
While they have been around for thousands of years, interest in saunas has recently grown by leaps and bounds. Not only can saunas serve as a relaxing retreat after a long, hard day, they can also provide you with numerous health benefits. Both traditional and non-traditional saunas could be the perfect addition to your own personal oasis, whether outdoors or indoors.
Why use a sauna?
The most ancient saunas were simple, underground earthen rooms with hot rocks heated by wood-burning fires. Underground saunas were replaced by smoke saunas (referred to as savu saunas in Finnish), which were simple log structures with massive amounts of rocks, heated with a chimney-free wood-burning fire. Smoke saunas evolved into wood-burning saunas, similar to those seen today at cottages throughout North America and Europe (e.g. free-standing outdoor saunas with modern chimneys and wood-burning stoves).
The links between saunas and general health, particularly the use of traditional models in Scandinavia and Germany, have been the focus of numerous medical research studies over the years. In a special sauna-centric issue of Annals of Clinical Research, results from 18 different sauna studies were published, which showed an increasing number of medical practitioners are using sauna therapy with their patients.1 The most commonly cited benefits of sauna bathing include:
- Muscle relaxation;
- Relief of aches, pains and stress;
- Contribution to deeper, more restful sleeping;
- Detoxification (i.e. the flushing of toxins from the body);
- Improved cardiovascular performance; and
- Relief from common illnesses (e.g. colds and flus).
Picking a sauna type
Many consumers are unaware of the sheer variety of sauna types available on the market today. Under the general category of 'heat bathing,' there are multiple options from which to choose, depending on your budget, available space and features you are looking for.
Traditional Finnish saunas
This style is likely what comes to mind when you hear the word 'sauna.' It comprises a wood-lined room, typically with two bench levels, heated by a wood-burning stove or electric heater containing a mass of stones. The typical temperature range for these systems is 65 to 82 C (149 to 180 F), but can be set higher or lower depending on how much steam you prefer. A traditional Finnish sauna is also the only heat bath in which you can control both temperature and humidity levels.