Bathing in a banya or a sauna is a widely recognized method of relaxation. The atmosphere in a banya is designed to make you feel comfortable and helps you leave all the routine worries behind. If the procedures are performed correctly, the thermal exposure of banya relieves the strain in muscles and joint stiffness, opens the skin pores and stimulates cardiovascular and respiratory systems thus enriching your body with oxygen. As a result, you feel relaxed, yet toned and full of energy. In addition, banya goers often report that it facilitates sleep at bedtime.
The skin is the largest organ in a human body. It is sometimes called the “third kidney”, since it eliminates about 30% of the body’s waste and toxins. However, its structure is much more complex than that of a kidney: it is composed of blood vessels, nerve endings, lymph-carrying vessels, oil glands, hair follicles, cells that deny entry to bacteria as well as cells that prevent the body from abrorbing too much water, and of course, sweat glands. A banya session triggers profuse sweating and thus eliminates the impurities and toxins that cannot be removed by a regular shower or a bath. In addition, heat exposure mechanisms create an artificial fever that signals the body to increase the production of disease-fighting white blood cells. As a result, banya sessions enhance the detoxifying capacity of skin and boost the immune system.
Banya sessions induce sweating, which results in cleaner pores and therefore cleaner skin and a clearer complexion. It increases blood flow to the skin that brings nutrients to its surface thus rehydrating it – making it look fresh and radiant. In addition, the metabolic effect of Banya can be compared to that of a physical exercise; it reduces fatty tissue and helps fight cellulite.
Regular banya sessions trigger natural anti-aging processes by purifying the skin and its numerous components. Additional nutrients brought to the skin by increased blood flow promote healing and rejuvenation. In addition, if used correctly, regular banya sessions improve cardiovascular performance by training heart muscles.
There is an old Slavic saying, “If there are few banyas, we live in unity; if there are too many, we are lonely because one does not visit the other.”
For centuries sweat bath rituals were communal events. Cherokee Indians went as far as to combine sweat bath and a schoolhouse to pass on the sacred teachings of the tribe. Finns used their saunas as a place to talk that was protected from harsh Nordic winter.
Harold Tier, the President of Finnish Sauna Society, was quoted saying that “the idea is not to have the best sauna on the block” but to get the entire block in the sauna”. The sweat bath is a social event: like a pub or a local coffee-shop, but much healthier, more diverse and suitable for engaging conversations. It is hard to exaggerate the usefulness of banya for your emotional state and relaxation. Banya eliminates the stress and the friendly atmosphere thus created in combination with numerous health benefits can make banya a great tradition to share with friends and loved ones.