Bath like a pro
What to take to a Russian Bath?
The swimsuit is really the only thing you can't do without in a Russian Bath. If it is not coed - you won't even need that.
Other things to take
Although almost all baths will give you slippers, you may prefer to take your own. You will probably find soap and shampoo in the showers, but again, you may prefer to take yours instead. A felt hat may come handy to protect your head from overheating - consider buying one from the attendant if you become regular. Some people take their robes to keep them worm between rounds.
What to expect in Russian Bath
When you get inside, you typically see a small office where you can pay for the visit and can order a regular massage or a steam room birch twig massage. Usually you can purchase your bathing accessories here as well. You can leave the valuables with the attendant and receive a key for your locker. The number on the key not only represents your locker, but also serves as identification when you order something in the bar. When leaving, you will be charged for expenses recorded for your number.
The changing rooms are single-sex, and contain showers which bathers use to quickly wash themselves before the actual bath. No need to scrub yourself, just wash off the sweat. Leave your clothes in a locker, slip on a bathing suit and a pair of slippers - and off you go - you are ready for a steam room.
If you have bought a venik - you have to prepare it by soaking it in a bucket of hot water for usually 10 - 20 minutes. Leave the venik in a bucket. Take a towel to sit on it in the steam room. If you don't have a hat, take another towel to wrap around your head and enter to the steam room for the first round. Good manners require that the sauna door is open for only a short amount of time to keep the heat inside. The first round is just a warm-up, so don't push yourself too hard just yet. You may choose a higher bench if you desire a hotter experience or a lower level bench for a more moderate temperature. Comfortably sit or lay on the bench. Leave the steam room when you feel hot enough and cool off by taking a shower or a swim or just by sitting in room temperature or outside. Have a rest for about 10 minutes, order some tea.
Once you feel ready for a second round, go to the steam room again. Now you can take venik with you. You may massage yourself or lie on the wooden bench and ask your companion to massage you. Although the venik technique can become pretty sophisticated, in it's simplest form it is just a rhythmic gentle waggling. more on venik massage techniques... After soaking, the leaves and branches become soft, so it feels like a pleasant massage. For those who won't like to be massaged, it is fine to concentrate on sweating. Push yourself a bit and when you feel it is too hot to tolerate it anymore, go out and dip into a swimming pool with cold water. Ice-cold water comes as a bit of a shock to the body, but endure it to experience the Russian bath to the fullest. Give it between 10 seconds to the minute - in such a short time only your skin will be affected by the cold. If there is no swimming pool, just pour out a bucket of ice-cold water on yourself. Get out of the pool. If you've done it all, you will have a fantastic tingling sensation in your skin. Now find a chair, a friend and some tea.
Relax and then repeat the hot-cold cycle as many times as you feel comfortable with. Russians usually take about 5 cycles, but you have to listen to your body. Do not overdo it! Russians like to relax after the bath with the friends. They usually order beer or some vodka and snacks. They may chat and drink for the whole day.
Before putting on clean clothes allow enough time for cooling off, otherwise the sweating may still continue. Also watch out not to get cold since the body is in a more "sensitive" state after the bath than normally.
Avoid the most common errors
- Do not drink alcohol while bathing. Alcohol and heat have cumulative effect increasing the load on the heart.
- Cold drinks slow down the sweating. Drink hot tea instead.
- Do not get stuffed, since heat makes the blood rush from internal organs to the skin and for proper digestion the opposite is needed.
- Exercise caution if your health is not at its best
- The steam room is not the best place for vigorous exercises
- Do not compete with friends or more experienced bathers while in a steam room. Listen to your body. The same advice applies to the swimming in a cold pool.
- Do not throw too much water on the stones. If stones are not hot enough, the steam becomes heavier and not so enjoyable to breathe.
- Try to lie while in a steam room. If you stay or seat, the difference in temperature between your head and feet can be quite dramatic and you wouldn't want to overheat your head.
- Make sure that you get plenty of rest time between the rounds in steam room.