A sauna is a small room or building designed for hot air or steam baths. Originating from Finland, saunas have been used in various cultures around the world for centuries for health, relaxation and social purposes. While most people are familiar with traditional saunas that use hot rocks to generate heat, barrel saunas offer a unique and eco-friendly alternative. These saunas are made from wood, designed in the shape of a barrel, and heated with a wood-burning stove.

Barrel saunas have become increasingly popular over the years and have gained attention for their numerous health benefits. However, what many people may not know is that different cultures around the world have their own unique rituals when it comes to using a sauna barrel. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most interesting barrel sauna rituals from around the world.

Finland: Birthplace of Sauna Culture

As mentioned earlier, saunas originated in Finland and are deeply rooted in their culture. For Finns, sauna is not just a means of relaxation but also a way of life. It is believed that sauna use promotes physical and mental well-being, and is an essential part of social gatherings.

The ritual in Finland begins with heating the sauna barrel to a high temperature (usually around 80-100 degrees Celsius). Once inside, Finns will throw water on the hot rocks to create steam, known as “löyly”. This helps increase humidity levels and makes the sauna experience more intense. Since the Finns believe in the cleansing and purifying effects of saunas, they will often beat themselves with birch branches to stimulate blood circulation and exfoliate their skin.

Russia: The Banya Sauna Ritual

In Russia, saunas are known as “banyas” and are an integral part of their culture. Similar to Finnish saunas, the ritual begins with heating the sauna barrel to a high temperature. However, in Russia, it is common for people to use a felt hat to protect their head from the heat.

One unique aspect of Russian sauna rituals is that they involve “venik”, which are bundles of birch or eucalyptus branches used for hitting oneself and others. This ritual, known as “platza”, is believed to improve blood circulation and stimulate the immune system. After the sauna session, Russians will often jump into a cold pool or roll in the snow to cool down their body.

Turkey: The Hammam Sauna Ritual

In Turkey, saunas are called “hammams” and are an important part of their bathing culture. Hammams are often ornately decorated and can be found in public bathhouses or private homes. The ritual typically begins with sitting in a hot steam room, followed by a full-body scrub using an exfoliating mitt known as “kese”. This helps remove dead skin cells and improve circulation.

After the scrub, a soap massage is then given to further cleanse the skin. The final step involves relaxing in a cooler room and drinking tea. Hammams are not just about physical cleanliness, but also have a spiritual element to them as they are seen as a place for purification and rejuvenation.

Native American Sweat Lodge

The sweat lodge, also known as “inishinibaashkiminasigan” in the Anishinaabe language, is a traditional sauna ritual of many Native American cultures. The lodge is typically built using natural materials such as saplings, animal hides, and blankets to create an enclosed space.

The ritual begins with heating rocks in a fire outside the lodge and then bringing them inside using wooden tongs. Once everyone is inside, water is poured over the hot rocks to create steam. Participants will often pray, sing or meditate during the sweat lodge session. It is believed that sweating out toxins not only purifies the body but also has a spiritual cleansing effect.

Japan: The Onsen Sauna Ritual

In Japan, saunas are known as “onsens” and have been an important part of their culture since ancient times. These natural hot springs are believed to have therapeutic benefits due to the mineral-rich water.

The ritual in an onsen typically involves taking a bath before entering the sauna, as cleanliness is highly valued in Japanese culture. Once inside, individuals will sit and relax in the steam coming from hot springs that are often located outside surrounded by nature. Afterward, they may take another bath or drink tea for further relaxation.

Onsens are seen as a way to relieve stress and promote overall well-being.

Whether it’s the Finnish sauna, Russian banya, Turkish hammam, Native American sweat lodge or Japanese onsen, saunas have been an important part of various cultures around the world for centuries. From physical health benefits to spiritual cleansing, sauna rituals offer a unique and enjoyable experience that is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. Next time you step into a sauna barrel, remember that you are also participating in a tradition that has been passed down for generations.  So go ahead, sit back, relax, and enjoy the warmth and rejuvenation that comes with this age-old ritual.  Happy sauna-ing!


In conclusion, barrel saunas have become a popular and eco-friendly alternative to traditional saunas. With their unique design and wood-burning stoves, they provide numerous health benefits and are enjoyed by people all around the world. Each culture has its own sauna rituals that have been passed down for generations, making saunas not just a means of relaxation but also an integral part of their way of life. So, whether you’re looking to improve your physical health or simply unwind and destress, a sauna barrel is the perfect way to achieve both. So go ahead, try out some of these rituals and experience the magic of saunas for yourself!  Remember, it’s not just about sweating; it’s about taking care of your mind, body, and soul.  Happy sauna-ing!

By Grace