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    Steam and Sweat: Sauna Traditions From Across the World

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    © REUTERS / Stefano Rellandini
    A person enters a sauna on the peak of Mount Lagazuoi in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, on January 16, 2018.

    Spending some time in a Finnish Sauna, Russian Banya or Turkish Hammam is one of the best ways to escape frigid winter months and boost the immune system at the same time. Check out some sauna and spa rituals from different cultures.

    According to historians, even Ancient Romans had a cult of bathhouse. They not only washed there — the bathhouse was a place to socialize, sing, have feasts, paint and read poetry. There also were special massage rooms, as well as gyms and libraries.

    In a traditional Russian banya (a wooden construction to get a good sweat), temperatures often reach 100 °C (212 °F). To protect the head from this intense heat, people typically wear special felt hats. High temperatures are said to ease aches and pains, support healing and boost the mood, while hitting and massaging the body with bunches of dried birch, oak or eucalyptus leaves improves blood circulation and skin health.

    Saunas, which originated in Finland, were common all over Europe during the Middle Ages. In comparison to banyas, which have wet steam, the air in saunas is dry. For the best experience, after sweating out for some 20 minutes it is also recommended to hop out of the sauna into a fresh snowbank or an icy lake.

    Traditional Mexican steam baths, called temazcals, were designed to facilitate spiritual cleansing. As visitors of these dome-styled sweat lodges rid their bodies of toxins and reconnect with nature, a shaman adds aromatherapy extracts into the water poured over a pile of searing volcanic rocks.

    The Hammam, public bathing places that evolved from Roman bathhouses, requires nudity, so men and women bathe separately.

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