Sauna Breathing Techniques: Traditional Sauna Explained

Sauna Breathing Techniques: Traditional Sauna Explained

Sauna Breathing Techniques: Traditional Sauna Explained

The traditional sauna, a cornerstone of many cultures around the world, is not just a place for relaxation and rejuvenation, but also a venue for practicing a variety of breathing techniques. These techniques, deeply rooted in ancient wellness practices, are designed to maximize the health benefits of the sauna experience. This article delves into the depths of these techniques, offering a comprehensive understanding of their origins, benefits, and methods of practice.

From the steamy bathhouses of Rome to the hot rock saunas of Finland, the practice of sauna bathing has been intertwined with human history for thousands of years. Central to this practice are the breathing techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation. These techniques are more than just a way to survive the heat; they are a means of achieving a deeper state of relaxation, detoxification, and overall well-being.

The Origins of Sauna Breathing Techniques

The origins of sauna breathing techniques can be traced back to the ancient cultures that first developed sauna bathing. The Finns, in particular, have a long history of sauna use, with the earliest saunas dating back over 2,000 years. They developed a variety of breathing techniques to enhance the sauna experience, many of which are still in use today.

These techniques were born out of necessity, as the intense heat of the sauna required bathers to control their breathing in order to stay comfortable. Over time, these practical techniques evolved into a form of meditation, with the sauna serving as a quiet space for reflection and relaxation.

The Finnish Sauna Tradition

The Finnish sauna tradition is deeply ingrained in the country's culture. Saunas were not just used for bathing, but also for healing, giving birth, and even preparing the dead for burial. The sauna was considered a sacred place, and the act of bathing in the sauna was a ritualistic practice.

The breathing techniques used in Finnish saunas are a key part of this ritual. They involve deep, slow breaths to help the body adjust to the heat, followed by controlled, rhythmic breathing to maintain a state of relaxation. These techniques are often accompanied by the use of essential oils, such as eucalyptus or pine, to enhance the sensory experience.

The Benefits of Sauna Breathing Techniques

Practicing proper breathing techniques in the sauna can have a profound impact on your health and well-being. These techniques can help to improve lung function, increase oxygen levels in the blood, and promote a sense of calm and relaxation.

By taking deep, controlled breaths, you can help to expand your lungs and increase your oxygen intake. This can be particularly beneficial for those with respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Regular sauna use, combined with proper breathing techniques, can also have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. The heat of the sauna causes the heart to beat faster, which can help to improve circulation and lower blood pressure. In addition, the deep breathing techniques used in the sauna can help to strengthen the heart and lungs, further enhancing cardiovascular health.

Studies have shown that regular sauna use can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. This is thought to be due, in part, to the beneficial effects of sauna bathing on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and arterial health.

Stress Relief and Relaxation

One of the most immediate benefits of sauna breathing techniques is the sense of relaxation and stress relief they can provide. The act of focusing on your breath, combined with the heat of the sauna, can help to quiet the mind and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Many people find that practicing these techniques in the sauna can help to promote a deeper state of relaxation than traditional meditation or relaxation exercises. This is likely due to the combined effects of the heat, the controlled breathing, and the quiet, peaceful environment of the sauna.

How to Practice Sauna Breathing Techniques

Practicing sauna breathing techniques is a simple process that can be easily incorporated into your regular sauna routine. The key is to focus on taking slow, deep breaths, and to maintain a steady rhythm throughout your sauna session.

Begin by taking a deep breath in through your nose, filling your lungs completely. Hold this breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process, maintaining a steady rhythm and focusing on the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body.

Adjusting to the Heat

When you first enter the sauna, it's important to give your body time to adjust to the heat. This is a good time to start practicing your breathing techniques. By taking slow, deep breaths, you can help your body to adjust to the heat more quickly, reducing the risk of overheating or feeling uncomfortable.

As your body adjusts to the heat, you may find that your breathing becomes more shallow. This is normal, and is a sign that your body is adjusting to the heat. Continue to focus on your breathing, taking slow, deep breaths and maintaining a steady rhythm.

Using Essential Oils

Many people find that using essential oils can enhance the sauna experience and add an extra dimension to their breathing techniques. Essential oils such as eucalyptus, pine, or lavender can be added to the sauna water, creating a fragrant steam that can help to open the airways and enhance the sensory experience.

To use essential oils in the sauna, simply add a few drops to the water that you pour over the sauna stones. As the water evaporates, it will release the scent of the essential oils into the air, creating a fragrant steam that can enhance your breathing techniques and add to the overall relaxation of the sauna experience.


From their ancient origins to their modern-day practice, sauna breathing techniques are a vital part of the sauna experience. They offer a range of health benefits, from improved respiratory function to stress relief, and can enhance the overall enjoyment and relaxation of the sauna.

Whether you're a seasoned sauna-goer or a newcomer to the practice, incorporating these breathing techniques into your sauna routine can help to maximize the benefits of your sauna sessions and take your sauna experience to new heights.

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