Sauna Q&A / Jan Seepter

Hot stones, steam rooms and a ladle-full of etiquette

18 May 2022

Undoubtedly, one of the most embracing procedures in the sauna tradition is pouring water on hot stones. The profound importance of this practice is emphasized by the fact that the Finno-Ugric tribes have preserved the word "leil" in their languages almost in its original form despite the millennia-old divergence of paths. The Udmurtian word "lul" ("leil") also carries a meaning of "breathing" and "soul", as does the Mansi word "lil". Handi word "ļiļ" means "life" and "vitality". Thus, steaming the sauna room has been associated with both the world of souls and the force of life.

Throwing water (or an infusion) on the hot stones will circulate the air in the sauna and swiftly increase the humidity of the air. It depends, of course, on the quantity of water thrown. In any case, the action of the water vapour increases the heat sensation, so doing it in moderation is the way. Mind to only throw hot or warm water on the stones to not "frighten" them and build up the experience step by step. A measure of a ladle-full (approx. half a glass of water) to start with should be sufficient to get a quick initial feel of the temperature of the stones and whether "to brace’" or embrace the steam. Then the procedure can be repeated at the desired pace. Always drizzle the stones slowly and distribute the water evenly between them

The water should be warmed up or be hot, to which you could add essential oils for a more aromatic atmosphere in the steam room. You could also use herbal extracts or water infusions for drenching the birch twigs. Avoid any other leaves or herbs of the water bucket landing on the hot stones whilst steaming up the sauna room.

To make herbal infusions, the necessary plants may be left in hot water until the active ingredients of the plant are released. Mint, blackcurrant, juniper and birch are most widely used. However, the tradition and favourites of the use of herbs vary greatly depending on whom you ask – so feel free to find your favourites!

Throwing hot water on the stones, your body will be coated with the condensation from the steam, which will slow down your body’s perspiration – to avoid that, start by first letting your own sweat to be released so that the detox process could be released, continued by some more hot steam and whisking. 

The length of sauna enjoyment is up to each of our own preferences. The entire sauna experience should be enjoyable from A to Z – it’s only then we can achieve the extent of pleasure and relief of stress the sauna experience is what it is destined to be.

Smooth, sublime, and spiritual saunaing!