Most Finns say a gentle, self-inflicted beating enhances time in the sauna. The practice is called vasta—or vihta, depending on which part of Finland you’re in—and prescribes whipping the skin with a bundle of birch branches. It’s said to increase circulation and soothe sore muscles.
An open mind
“The average Finn goes to church when someone gets married or dies,” claims Pääkkönen. “Instead, the sauna is how we cleanse our mind, body and soul.” He suggests combating stress with a silent, solitary moment in the heat. Most people make it a weekly ritual, but some find more frequent visits beneficial. “You won’t find a Finn who doesn’t have an essential relationship with a sauna,” he concludes. “It has a special place in our lives and in our hearts.”
This story originally appeared on Skandiastyle.com.