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The Complete Guide to Veniks

The Complete Guide to Veniks

The venik can induce feelings of confusion, curiosity, and horror in the average newcomer to the South-Western Bathhouse. We don't blame them. It is easy to see how whipping oneself and others with a bundle of tree branches can seem a little barbaric, but anyone who has been brave enough to surrender themselves to the leafy lashes of a venik massage will tell you of the incredible relaxation it brings. But the venik is much more than just a tool for massage; it comes with its own set of health benefits and in many ways it has become the symbol of the Russian bathhouse, as it is such a unique aspect of our culture. So if you wish to become a true "баншик" (banya pro) you must master the ways of the venik.

What is a Venik?

A venik is a bundle of leafy tree twigs that is used to draw the maximum amount of heat and steam to a person's body during the final stages of steaming in the sauna. Veniks can either be dried or fresh and are most commonly made out of birch or oak, though other species of tree are also used. Each type of venik has its own set of health benefits and is used accordingly.

How to use a venik?

Step #1 – Find a Source 

The South-Western Bathhouse sells a variety of veniks. We always have oak veniks available, and depending on the time we may also offer birch, eucalyptus, juniper, and linden. We offer both dried and frozen veniks, though we recommend the latter because the maximum amount of freshness is achieved when a venik is frozen. Veniks can also be found in most Eastern European supermarkets such as your local Yummy Market, though in this case you will only be able to find dried veniks . If you're feeling more adventurous you can always try your hand at making your own. Here's a video for the DIY fans: 

Step #2 – Choosing a Venik

There are many choices when it comes to picking out a venik. Here are some of our favourites.

Oak

Oak is a good all around venik for any day. Oak leaves are very rich in tannin, a substance that acts as a natural astringent which gives the venik anti inflammatory properties and also serves to tighten pores, making it great for oily skin. The laves also contain flavenoids, a class of substances that has been proven to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Aside from the healthful substances found within the leaves, Oak has a reputation for the rich smell that it produces during the steaming process which often has a relaxing effect on people. Oak twigs are also more durable than Birch or Eculypus so your venik will last longer.

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Birch

Birch is also a banya staple and a favourite to many banya goers. Like oak, birch too contains flavenoids, giving it anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Birch contains ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C. Vitamin C is a great natural exfoliant that brightens skin and reduces the appearance of scars and age spots. It is traditional to wash your hair in the water in which the birch venik is soaked; it's believed doing so will prevent baldness.

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Eucalyptus

evkaliptoviy_venik_dlya_baniIf you've come down with a cold and are feeling sniffly or if you simply are looking for something a bit more exotic, ecopulypus is a great choice. The leaves of the eculypous tree contain a substance called alpha-pinene, a proven decongestant with anti bacterial properties. This is why many of you will recognize the smell of eucalyptus, since its oil is often used in cough remedies such as cough drops and inhalents.

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Linden

The leaves of the Linden Tree are widely known in europe to have a sedative effect on humans. The leaves contain two very beneficial substances, Quercetin and Rutin. Both have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Rutin has also been shown to improve blood circulation, which is one of the ultimate goals of the steaming process.

 

Juniper

Like the leaves the the eucalyptus tree, juniper branches also contain alpha-pinene, making a juniper venik a great choice if you're sick. Though it looks intimidating, don't be too worried about its prickles, because once the venik is left in warm water for 15 minutes the prickles soften up and you'll be able to use it like any other venik. That being said, juniper is one of the harsher types of venik out there, and though you should not feel any pain, be prepared for some serious exfoliation!

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Step #3 – Preparing your Venik and Yourself for the Massage

Take a bucket and fill it with warm water verging on being hot. Fully submerge your venik in the water and leave it there for at least 15 minutes. In the meantime, make sure you go in for a few steam sessions before the venik massage begins (see our guide on steaming). It's important to get your body accustomed to the heat before the massage, because exposing yourself to too much heat before your body is prepared for it can cause over heating and lightheadedness. When you feel sufficiently steamed up, grab the venik and head back to the parilka; it's time for a good ol' whipping.

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Step #4 – The Massage

Once you're inside the parilka make sure you amp up the heat by adding water to the hot rocks. Once you feel the newly formed steam in the air, it's time to begin the massage. You can perform a massage on yourself if no one else is around but ideally you should have someone else perform it on you. Ask a friend, a fellow banya goer, or Andrey; the bathhouse's venik massuese. There is a space between the benches so that the person performing the massage is level to the person lying on the bench. Lay down on the top bench above this space, don't don't forget to wear a hat! Let the massage commence. If you are the one doing the whipping, take some time to observe how others perform the massage, or watch this video:


 

Step #5 – Cool down and Relax

Leave the parilka immediately after the massage is over and take a plunge in our cold tub, or better yet, if it is the winter run outside and jump in the snow! The rapid temperature change tightens pores, leaving your skin feeling clean and taut. This is also a great way to strengthen your immune system, as the extreme change in temperature actually tricks the body into believing it has a fever and triggers the production of white blood cells. After the cool down your muscles should feel loosened, you should feel light, and you should breath easily; in other words, total relaxation. This is a good time to take a break, drink some tea, and have a light meal.

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1 Comment

  1. max
    November 13, 2014

    .

    thanks for information….

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