Breaking Down Sauna Aufguss

man and woman in sauna
Sauna aufguss describes the steam created when pouring water on the hot stones of a sauna oven.

In Europe, sauna isn’t typically a solo pursuit. Rather, spending time in the dry heat of the Finnish sauna is an opportunity to relax and unwind with family and friends.

“A family that saunas together stays together,” says Lasse Erikson, the enthusiastic, sauna-loving vice president of Aufguss-WM, an organization that oversees annual, global Sauna Aufguss competitions. “It’s an opportunity to connect in a completely different way, not interrupted by screens or other distractions. It’s the perfect detox, both digitally and for the body!”

Admittedly, Europeans have a bit of a jump start on their American cousins when it comes to sauna appreciation. The Finnish invented wood-burning saunas more than 2,000 years ago, and the rest of the continent quickly adopted similar sweat rituals, like Russian banyas and Turkish hammams. All this communal “bathing” was originally created to harness the power of heat and water to clean the masses (without running water, it was all but impossible to bathe at home). Roman bathhouses would include both sweat bathing rooms and cool pools, while a Finnish sauna session was not complete without a roll in the snow—a refreshing way to cleanse the skin of dirt and grime.

Amazingly, the endorphin-filled cycle of hot and cold contrast therapy, an invention based on the humble notion of cleansing, has become one of the most effective and accessible wellness therapies available—just ask any cryotherapy lover or Wim Hof follower you know. The cycle of heat, cold and relaxation provides both mental and physical benefits, and it has been proven that regular use of the sauna leads to better sleep, lower blood pressure, clearer skin and so much more.

Event Saunas on the Rise

In Europe today, you’ll find huge sauna amphitheaters where 50 to 300 people sweat communally, with professional “sauna masters” curating the experience. The popularity of communal sweat bathing is exploding across Europe. This includes “sauna aufguss,” a German term translated as “infusion,” but it describes the steam created when pouring water on the hot stones of a sauna oven.

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Cassandra Cavanah, founder of Cavanah Communications, specializes in spa and wellness PR and marketing. She’s also part of the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) team and authored the Guide to Hydrothermal Spa & Wellness Development Standards. 

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