Sauna For Life by

Sauna for Life!

It’s hard to imagine life without a sauna. That’s what true enthusiasts believe, and with good reason. If you’ve ever spent time in an outdoor sauna in Ontario, you know how special that space can be. As the heat rises, beads of sweat fall down like rain, and a gentle sense of relaxation starts to take over. Then there’s the scent, an earthy knotty cedar fragrance that comes alive with steam. If you’re new to saunas, this article is for you. We cover the basics, from typical Ontario sauna design options to heat sources. There’s even a bit of history. By the end, we hope you are as excited about saunas as we are. Perhaps one day, you’ll contact and ask about saunas for sale.

History of saunas

The roots of the Ontario sauna experience probably go back 2000 years or more. The earliest saunas, located in and around what we now call Finland, were little more than mountain-side caves that doubled as dwellings. Heated rocks around a fire pit were splashed with water to intensify the air temperature and sustain life. As a nomadic people, Finns probably used portable sauna structures. When Finns settled down, they built sauna structures with logs and burned wood for heat. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Finns preserved sauna culture in the face of a European backlash against the new trifecta of evil: bathing, soap, and nudity. Christian church leaders at the time declared that a filthy body nurtured a spiritual mind. Nudity of any sort was taboo and bathing was downright Moorish. Smelling foul was a sign of strength, a novel outlook that took hold in France, among other places. 

Thankfully, the sauna survived the Renaissance. Centuries later, the Finns brought sauna culture to North America and other places around the world during the great migration. From the 1860s to the 1930s, about 300,000 Finns settled in America near resource-rich areas like California. About 50,000 others landed elsewhere including Canada. Large logging areas, like Thunder Bay and BC, were popular destinations for Finns at that time. The Finns may have popularized the sauna experience, but they probably didn’t invent the idea. Around 480 BC, Herodoctus wrote about a Scythian tribe (now Siberia) that used hot rocks inside a three-pole structure to create steam. Indigineous people on the North American continent built sweat lodges to improve health and perform rituals.


What is a traditional Finnish sauna? There are many variations, but a traditional sauna is a cabin that sits near a lake. A wood fire heats stones, which create humidity when splashed with water. In modern Finnish society, you’ll find saunas in homes, factories, and even the national parliament building. The sauna, for Finns, is a place to relax and meditate. For some, it’s a place to socialize with friends and family. The sauna is an essential part of life. It’s bred in the bone, like Canadians and hockey, or Americans and football.

How to sauna

The sauna experience is filled with lore, misunderstanding, and on occasion, dangerous misconceptions. Let’s set the record straight on two accounts. First, spending too much time in a hot room is dangerous. Like most good things in life, moderation and deliberation are essential. As a general rule, 10 minutes per sauna session is recommended. A complete sauna experience, the kind that can produce a pleasing sense of relaxation and euphoria, typically involves four steps.

1. Take a shower. The sauna experience, especially when it is a social event, is built around good hygiene. If a shower is not available, find a hose and rinse off. If you wear clothes in the sauna, rinse them off, too.
2. Sit in the sauna room and relax for about 10 minutes or just before the experience becomes uncomfortable.
3. Rest outside the sauna and cool down. Jump into a lake or pool, if available. You can also cool down in the shower or with a hose.
4. Repeat two more times.

If you follow this suggested routine, the sauna experience takes about an hour. Second, clothing is optional. Not everyone is comfortable sitting nude in a closed space with friends, family, or strangers. Here’s a scenario: a friend invites you to a BBQ and sauna in Cambridge, London, or Norwich. Clothes on or off? You decide what makes you feel most comfortable.

Benefits of a sauna

Let’s imagine you’ve got the sauna bug and decide to look at saunas for sale. Before making a purchase, you’re curious about the benefits. We believe the sauna is part of a healthy lifestyle, but it is not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. There is no evidence to prove that saunas promote fitness or prevent illness. A regular sauna experience does promote mild pain relief and a sense of well-being. Short sessions with high temperatures can trigger physical relief by easing aches and loosening stiff joints. In the heat, blood vessels relax and dilate. This allows blood flow to increase which can help reduce joint tension and relieve sore muscles.

Good vibes

A big benefit of saunas is relaxation. Some call it a natural high. Evidence suggests that saunas bring about a sense of tranquility caused by a rise in endorphins in response to hyperthermia. In many cases, the result is a relaxed feeling. Some researchers have suggested these positive feelings can have a profound positive effect on depression.

Can sauna heat treat pain and anger?

A Japanese study of people suffering from chronic pain says heat therapy is a promising approach when used in conjunction with a multidisciplinary treatment regime. The control group (n=24) received a multidisciplinary treatment, which consisted of cognitive behavioral therapy, rehabilitation, and exercise. The experimental group (n=22) received the multidisciplinary treatment plus thermal therapy, which consisted of far infrared dry sauna sessions (60 degrees celsius for 15 minutes) plus a 30-minute rest in a warm room five days a week for four weeks. Compared to patients in the control group, the experimental group reported significantly lower pain and anger scores. In addition, 77% of the patients in the experimental group returned to work two years after their hospital treatment compared to 50% in the control group.

Other possible sauna benefits

The Mayo Clinic, a respected medical center in America, published a paper in 2018 which outlined possible sauna benefits. The benefits are presented as associations and not research-backed cause and effect relationships. But, they do point to some exciting possibilities. Regular exposure to safe sauna sessions could be linked to risk reductions in:

Definitely not for weight loss

If your aim is to shed unwanted pounds, saunas can help you feel good, but they won’t help you achieve your weight-loss objectives. Sure, you’ll burn a few calories in the sauna because the heart rate is up. Any weight loss you do see is mostly due to water loss because of excessive sweating. To avoid complications arising from dehydration, drink water before and after the sauna.

Potential dangers of a sauna

Some groups of people should avoid saunas altogether. According to an article in the British Medical Journal, people who have recently consumed alcohol, exercised strenuously, feel dehydrated, have a fever, or suffer from anhidrosis (can’t sweat normally) should avoid saunas. People with heart conditions, the elderly, and sauna novices are encouraged to limit their heat exposure. Some experts recommend five-minute sessions. People new to the sauna experience are encouraged to go slow and pay attention to their physical comfort levels. Does a sauna increase the risk of arrhythmia (a problem with heartbeat rhythm)? Finnish doctors in one report say no, as long as the sauna time is limited and the bathers use a gentle method to cool down. When drizzling water on a sauna, never use your hands. Hot steam can cause injuries.

Types of saunas

There are four types of saunas, each a bit different according to the heat source. If you are looking at saunas for sale, you need to understand the heat source differences and choose the best option for your situation.

Wet sauna

Wet saunas are the preferred opinion if you want a traditional Finnish experience. Modern wood-burning stoves, ideal for remote locations, create heat inside an air-tight chamber. Wall or floor-mounted electric heaters are a convenient option for home and commercial applications because they can heat a sauna in about 20 minutes (depending on room size and other factors) and avoid the need to hew wood. Both wood and electric options can be fitted with stones that radiate soothing heat. In true Finnish fashion, use a ladle to drizzle a small amount of water onto the stones and fill the sauna with sweat-inducing humidity. Some enthusiasts prefer moderate room temperatures (at least 65 degrees C) and moderate humidity (around 40%).

Dry sauna

Mechanically, a dry sauna works just like a wet sauna. The only difference is that water is not splashed on the stones. Some people might worry about adding water to an electric heater. Most electric heaters are designed to work with or without water. If you are in the market for a sauna heater in Ontario, be sure to confirm with the sales rep that the model you want can be used for a wet and dry sauna.

Infrared room

Unlike traditional sauna systems that use hot stones or humidity to heat the air and then warm the body, infrared saunas use a special light to heat the body. Infrared saunas run at comparatively lower temperatures (48 to 60 C). For that reason, they are preferred by people who can’t tolerate the high temperatures in a traditional wet or dry sauna. Some fans of far infrared saunas say the heating effect is deeper compared to traditional saunas and produces a more intense sweat.

Steam room

Sometimes called a Turkish bath or hammam, a steam room is like a sauna with two differences. A steam bath generally has lower temperatures (37 to 48 C) and higher humidity (around 100%). Large generators boil water to produce steam which is piped into the relaxation rooms.

Types of sauna structures

When looking at Ontario saunas for sale, you need to consider the basic structure. Here are four standard designs suitable for residential, commercial, and remote settings.

Barrel sauna

A delightfully unique design, barrel saunas in Ontario look great at home or the cottage. Because there is relatively less unused interior space than a square design, barrel saunas heat up fast. Another advantage is lower costs. Usually sold as DIY outdoor sauna kits, a barrel sauna can be assembled in a day by a couple of people with basic tools. Depending on the option selected, barrel saunas can comfortably seat four to eight people.

Luna sauna

Architecturally stunning, the Luna design comes with plenty of front windows, making it an ideal choice for a remote setting with picturesque views. Luna saunas have tiered benches, which is a nice feature. The air temperature near the lower bench is a bit cooler than the air around the upper bench.

KOTA sauna

The main advantage of the hexagon shape is that people inside the sauna can look at each other. With upper and lower-tier bench seating, there’s room for lots of people. Choose the 10-foot option to seat eight people comfortably.

Pod sauna

Here’s a unique design that works well in tight spaces. The smallest option, which seats four, has a footprint that’s just 8 feet long and 6 feet wide. It’s compact and cute!

Wood options for saunas

Most Ontario saunas are made from Western red cedar. This softwood lumber is water repellent, does not secrete a resin when heated, and can be used for indoor or outdoor saunas. It has a distinctive red colour and produces a pleasant aroma inside the sauna. If you have the means, clear cedar is a premium option. This wood has no knots, which gives it a uniform look. If you are on a budget, consider knotty cedar for the walls and ceiling and clear cedar for the benches. Cedar knots get hot and can hurt if you sit on them with bare skin.

Top sauna manufacturers
Dundalk Leisure Craft

This Ontario-based company manufactures outdoor wooden products including saunas. The prefab saunas come in various designs, including cubes, pods, and easy-to-recognize barrels, which are part of the Canadian Timber series. Saunas are shipped as kits, which two people can assemble in about six hours.

Radiant Health Saunas

This Vancouver Company specializes in premium far infrared saunas. The stand-alone units, designed for residential and clinical settings, occupy a relatively modest footprint. They even manufacture mini saunas, which are suitable for one person. Because far infrared uses a lower heat, bathers can stay inside the sauna for long stretches compared to traditional saunas. To increase comfort, these units come with stereos and USB ports.

Nootka Saunas

This British Columbia Company manufactures barrel saunas and ships across North America. The barrel width is just under 7 feet and varies in length (up 10 feet), depending on seating capacity. You can choose either an electric heater or the made-in-Finland wood stove.

Wrap up

Now perhaps more than ever, the sauna should be part of a healthy lifestyle. It helps turn on the body’s natural calming powers, tune into ourselves for a few minutes, and temporarily drop out of this 24-7 world (to borrow a phrase from Timothy Leary). The gentle glow of well-being that follows a sauna session lasts only a few hours. But here’s the good news. You can do it all again tomorrow.