While you’ve likely enjoyed a modern-day sauna at a spa or resort, you may not be familiar with the origins of a sauna. It’s a great story, and we share some of that here, starting at the very beginning.

Where Did Saunas Originate? A Loved Tradition of Many Cultures

Traditionally, saunas were enclosed in a small, heated, wooden room (powered by wood stoves, heaters, and rocks), and “bathers” would relax on benches at varying heights—choosing to sit or lay down—and start sweating profusely to eliminate impurities from the body.

Who invented saunas? And, where were saunas invented? It’s most associated with the Finnish culture. While it’s unknown exactly when were saunas invented, Finnish saunas started as a combination of the Roman bath (that uses hot dry air) and the Russian banya (that uses steam). The traditional Finnish sauna was a smoke sauna “savusauna” where stones were heated with a fire for several hours and bathers would go into the enclosure once much of the smoke had cleared.

This ancient bath was always a big part of the culture—ranging from women having their babies in a sauna to a celebratory-sauna the night before a feast day. Today, it’s still a huge part of the modern-day Finn life, where the sauna remains a much needed (and beloved) daily life ritual.

In addition to the Finnish culture, these cultures embraced this heated bath very early on:

  • Russia: In Russian saunas (banyas), participants use a venik (a small bundle of dried leafy branches of birch, oak, maple, or other plants) to lightly flog their skin. This process helps increase blood flow and increase endorphins.
  • United States: Traditionally, the Native Americans have used sweat lodges for spiritual ceremony. It’s also believed that the American sauna culture gained steam (no pun intended) in the late 1800s and early 1900s from European immigrant influence.
  • Spain: In 1976, National Geographic described how the Cinnabar mine workers were able to “detoxify” mercury accumulation by taking a post-work sweat bath.
  • Other cultures that have heat bathing histories include Lithuania (Pirtis), Sweden (Bastu), and Turkey (Hammam).

A History Mention for Infrared Saunas, too

Infrared sauna therapy has the same principles as a traditional sauna. But, while it’s also referred to as “a bath from the inside out”, the technology is different. This type of sauna relies on infrared technology; an emitter that produces infrared waves to provide heat. The EMR (electromagnetic radiation) and EF (electrical field) on some models that utilize certain types of technology are lower than the ambient electrical fields in your home. In fact, the EMR and EF levels are far below even Sweden’s toughest radiation standards. Infrared saunas heat your body directly. More specifically, the infrared energy penetrates the body and raises the core temperature to activate a more pronounced therapeutic sweating.

The science of infrared is very cool, and one notable fact is out of this world—literally. About 15 years ago, NASA determined that infrared sauna technology was the best for maintaining fitness levels for astronauts in a weightless environment, especially when you consider that a 20-30-minute session in the infrared sauna burns as many calories as a six-mile run with the same beneficial cardiovascular effects.

Modern-Day Saunas

Today, people are lucky enough to have a traditional or an infrared sauna in their own homes—gaining access to a 24/7 heated oasis for the ultimate health and relaxation benefits whenever you want them!  

We pulled together a comprehensive side-by-side comparison table between traditional and infrared saunas here, but we will distill the top-line differences here:

  • If you enjoy steam in the sauna, higher temperatures, and a more social environment, then the traditional sauna (like its historical roots) may be the best sauna for you. These saunas can be indoor or outdoor.
  • If you prefer lower temperatures but with body-penetrating heat, an infrared sauna may be your best sauna choice. These saunas are designed for indoor use only.

Modern-Day Benefits

Since there is so much detail around sauna benefits, we encourage you to check out two of our resource guides:

6 key benefits of having a home sauna: Not only do you have 24/7 access to the ultimate wellness retreat, you can escape from daily stress, gain the best fitness ally, and enjoy a social oasis with friends and family – all at an affordable cost and easy maintenance.

10 amazing health benefits of saunas: Sauna health benefits range from cardiovascular health, mental health, pain management, powerful detoxification, immunity boosting, weight maintenance, better skin, better sleep, and the prevention/management of many health conditions and ailments.

Ready to Get Your Own Sauna?

At Mainely Tubs, we’d love to work with you on the next steps of helping you find the sauna that is exactly right for you! We are here for you throughout the entire process – from initial consideration, to sauna comparisons, to delivery day. When you are ready, give us a call, email us, or stop in one of our showrooms in Scarborough, Maine or Rye, New Hampshire. We’re always happy to help you start your journey into becoming a sauna owner! 

About Mainely Tubs in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts


Mainely Tubs is a 100% Employee Owned premier Hot Spring Spas dealer. We sell and service new hot tubsused hot tubsportable spasswim spassaunashot tub accessorieshot tub water care, and more. Our Brands Include: Hot Spring SpasCaldera SpasFreeflow SpasEndless Pools Swim SpasFinnleo SaunasCovanaLeisure Time, Fresh WaterSilk Balance, and other brands you can trust.

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