Anna Evans

The Art Of Heat: A Guide To Sauna And Banya Use

Follow best practices to ensure that you stay safe and comfortable while enjoying the benefits of heat therapy.


Heat therapy has a plethora of benefits for your health including strengthening your cardiovascular system, pain relief, and improving your mental state. Saunas and banyas are two traditional forms of heat exposure; however, there are some key differences between the two. To get optimum results for your body, certain steps must be taken that we will share with you today.

Sauna sessions: best practice

Saunas have a long history in Finland and other parts of Europe, and they are quite widespread globally. The air in saunas is typically dry and heated by a stove or electric heater. The temperature in a sauna is significantly higher than in a banya. It does not mean better as they provide largely the same outcomes but in different ways.

1Don’t overheat

The optimal sauna temperature should be between 80-100 ℃; 176-212 ℉, according to Dr. Andrew Huberman. But you should always make sure that heat levels are comfortable and not too intense – while it might be tempting to turn up the heat to maximum intensity, doing so can put unnecessary strain on your body and lead to heatstroke.

2Do it regularly

According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, a well-respected longevity expert, the best frequency for heat exposure is 1 hour per week split into 2 to 3 sessions. If you are using the sauna to specifically improve your cardiovascular health, try to stay in the sauna for 5-20 minutes per session and repeat the procedure from 2 to 3x per week, or as often as 7x per week.

3Aim for a 20 minutes session

More significant health benefits were seen in those whose duration spent in the sauna was around 20 minutes. For example, men whose sauna sessions were 11 minutes or less saw only a 7% reduction in sudden cardiac death rates, but this effect skyrocketed to a 52% death rate reduction for sessions lasting 19 minutes or more.

Regular 19-minute sauna reduces sudden cardiac death rate by -52% Source: ScienceDirect

4Take breaks

It is wise to take pauses from the heat to cool down and avoid overheating. It is also wise to change your seat from time to time because different levels are exposed to different temperatures – the top is always the hottest.

5Drink water

It is important to stay hydrated and ensure that you drink plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session. Drink two to four glasses of cool water after each session.

6Keep calm and relax

One of the biggest differences between a sauna and a banya is that the former is meant for a tranquil experience. Refrain from talking loudly and engage in calm behavior befitting a sauna. Forget about your problems and try to sweat away all the negativity.

7Keep your head protected

The head is the most prone part of your body to heat exhaustion. Due to sitting on a sauna bench instead of lying down, it is continuously exposed to extreme temperatures at the top. Always use a special hat made from wool or felt when you are in a sauna. It seems counterintuitive because we use hats to protect ourselves when it is cold. But when your headwear protects you from cold it works by preserving your body temperature around your head. The same way it works in the sauna. It preserves temperature around your head only now it works against overheating.

Banya therapy: tips and practices

In contrast to saunas, banyas use wet heat, which is generated by steam. The temperature should be lower than in a sauna, but do not think it is less efficient. Higher humidity compensates for the effect of lower temperature but does not overdry your skin as can happen in the sauna. In a banya, all of your internal organs have to work harder than they would if you were, say, jogging.

1Follow the 60&60 rule

Authentic banya specialists use the 60-60 rule. This means that the temperature should be at 60°C (140°F) and humidity should be kept at a minimum of 60%. This ensures that the banya experience is authentically hot and steamy while being not too stressful for your body and especially your skin. The steaming process of the banya is said to help people relax, while it is also thought they may improve circulation and help with muscle and joint pain.

2Take breaks and cool off

Just like with the sauna, spending too much time in the heat can be dangerous, so make sure to take breaks and cool off in between rounds in the banya. You can do this by sitting in a cooler room or by splashing cold water on your skin. Time inside could be longer than in a sauna because of less temperature stress and you can absorb even more heat than in a sauna.

3Use facilities for plunging

Banyas often have facilities such as pools, ice baths, or buckets with cold water. In addition to enjoying the steam room, you can also take a refreshing dip in the cold water buckets or an invigorating plunge in the icy cold pool. The right way to boost any banya effect is by shocking the body – it kickstarts your immune system while making you feel incredibly energized.

4Try flogging

Flogging, also known as venik beating, is a traditional banya procedure that involves using a bundle of birch or oak branches to lightly whip the skin. The leaves act as amplifiers, trapping heat before it is applied to the skin, resulting in an intense and direct temperature attack and massaging at the same time. This is thought to increase circulation, stimulate the immune system, and improve muscle tone. It’s could be one of the best experiences in your life but it requires professional service from a Steam Master.

5Hydrate… and hydrate again

It’s important to stay hydrated before and after a banya session as the heat causes you to sweat and lose fluids. Make sure to drink plenty of water before and after your visit.

6Socialize and have fun

Socializing is just as important in a banya as the steam itself. In between sweating and cooling off, people will hang out in the changing area – drinking water and chatting. Even though it’s very hot, there’s usually a pleasant vibe. Plus, every authentic bath experience starts and ends with greetings and wishes to enjoy your bath.

7Keep your head protected

This is the same recommendation as for the sauna. Here it’s not so crucial as in the sauna but we strongly recommend using it.

Fun and curious facts about saunas and banyas

  • Many people believe the popular saying that Finland has more saunas than cars, but this is false. In reality, there are 1.2 million more cars in the country than saunas.

  • Saunas are not just found in cold climates; they are also popular in countries with hot climates, such as Thailand and India.

  • In Japan, saunas are often found in hotels and are known as onsen. The onsen experience often includes soaking in hot springs and enjoying the natural surroundings.

  • The average person sweats out approximately 1 liter (33 oz) of liquid during a 15-minute session in a sauna.

  • Banya visitors wear a variety of felt hats that resemble floppy helmets. These accessories are designed to protect the head and ears from heat.

Let’s sum up the best heat exposure practices

The most common ways of experiencing heat therapy are sauna and banya sessions. These procedures differ in temperature, humidity levels, and overall philosophy. When visiting a sauna or banya it is important to stay hydrated, take breaks and control the timing of your session. Sauna is known for a more tranquil way of relaxation, while banya is a social experience equipped with additional procedures like flogging or plunging. Take advantage of these to fully relax and rejuvenate. Regarding the heat exposure type, pay attention to your body’s signals and stop if you start to feel dizzy or lightheaded.

Hungry for knowledge?

If you never tried banya before watch this fun and informative video to find out how it feels to experience centuries-old traditions for the first time. The journalist Isabella Rapp tries the famous flogging and steaming and falls in love with the feeling of cleansing and relaxation.

Healthypedia FAQ

A sauna is a small room or house designed for relaxation and enjoyment, typically featuring a heated bench or floor for sitting or lying down. Saunas are popular in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe, and are often associated with the culture of Finland, where they originated.

A banya is a type of steam bath or sauna that is popular in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe. Banyas typically have a high humidity level and are heated using a stove or oven, which heats rocks that are placed in the room.

To use a sauna or banya, you should start by taking a shower to clean your body and remove excess sweat and oils. Then, enter the sauna or banya and sit or lie down on the heated bench or floor. You can use a towel or sheet to cover your body if you wish. Stay in the sauna or banya for as long as you feel comfortable, and then take another shower to cleanse yourself of sweat.

Saunas and banyas are believed to have a number of health benefits, including improving circulation, relieving stress and muscle tension, and aiding in the relief of colds and respiratory problems. They may also help to improve the appearance of the skin and promote overall relaxation.

You should avoid staying in the sauna or banya for too long, as this can lead to dehydration or overheating. If you have any medical conditions or are pregnant, you should consult with a healthcare provider before using a sauna or banya.

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