Venik and venik massage / platza techniques
What is venik?
An essential part of Russian bath is venik - leafy, fragrant bundle of leafy birch or oak tree twigs. Venik in Russian bath plays a great role as regards warming up of the body and its massage. It improves blood circulation, intensifies skins capillary activities and metabolism. Venik leaves release phytoncides - biologically active substance that kills or depresses the growth and development of pathogens. Essential oils released by venik improve metabolism and prevent premature aging of the skin. more on health...
Venik massage / platza techniques
"Platza" or "Platka" or "Plaitza" - (Yiddish for shoulders or back) is a word not known in Russia, but it is "de facto" American term for venik massage.
There are several venik massage techniques: waggling, compress, stroking, lashing, rubbing and stretching. The best approach would be to carry out these techniques one after another.
With waggling you lightly flutter venik just above the body, maybe gently touching the skin with the tips of leaves. This creates an air flow that worms up the body preparing it for more intense procedures.
With stroking you gently press venik against the body an in one long wavy move draw venik from neck to toes and back. Venik's handle should always go first in the direction of the move.
With compress you raise venik up where the temperature is higher, shake it for a second to gather the heat and then firmly press the venik against the waist, shoulders, feet or knees for 2-3 seconds. While pressing, you may cover venik with a second hand to make the contact tighter. This is particularly helpful against muscle and joint pains.
Then you can alternate stroking with lashing - light sliding hits with venik.
After that you can start to combine compress and lashing - raise venik up to get some heat, hit the body two three times and then press it against the body for 2-3 seconds.
After second round in the steam room after short lashing you can start rubbing. Take a venik by the handle in one hand and press it against the body with a palm of your other hand. Then rub the body making stroking or circular movements while keeping the venik tightly pressed.
To finish up you place two veniks on the waist and while pressing them into the body, move veniks apart (to the head and feet), stretching the waist.
The most common types of venik are made from birch or oak.
Birch venik helps with muscle and joint pains. It perfectly cleans the skin, accelerate healing of wounds and scratches, not to mention that it smells great. Its special virtue is that it widens small bronchi. This helps with removal of phlegm and ventilation of lungs. That's why after such venik it is so easy to breath. Birch leaves have essential oils, tanning substances, vitamins C and A. It is a great idea to wash one's head with the infusion of venik, since it strengthens hair and destroys dandruff.
Oak venik suits best for people with oily skin. It makes the skin smooth and resilient; makes strong anti-inflammatory impact. The smell of oak venik creates a sedative effect and removes stress. Its leaves have a lot of tanning substances. Oak extract is used as a therapeutic agent with some skin problems and excessive sweating of feet.
Other types of venik are made from eucalyptus, lime tree, fir and even nettle.
Venik has to be properly prepared before use. It has to be soaked for 20 minutes in a warm water, then for about 10 in hot untill the leaves become soft. Good venik could last you several times, but if it lost a lot of leaves and has a lot of bare ends, it is time to throw it away.
How to make a venik yourself?
Venik twigs must be carefully selected to have only thin twigs with plenty of leaves. Only certain time is good for making veniks - usually in June-July when leaves are fully grown, but have not started fading yet. Only dry days are good.
There are many ways to make a venik. Below are the detailed instructions on how to make a simple small birch venik. Click on the images for details.
Where to buy venik in US?
This is the question that I am constantly being asked in e-mails. And unfortunately I can not be very helpful. Some bring venik's from Russia, where they are sold in every banya for a couple of dollars. Banya's in US are selling venik's as well, but the prices usually start from $17. There are people on Brighton who sell them quite cheap, but you'd have to ask where to find them. As for me - I prefer making them myself. In Central Park. (Just kidding).