For us Russians, the Banya is a deeply rooted part of our culture, so we tend to forget that many don't know the basic whys and hows of steaming. Often first timers are at a loss of what to do in our bathhouse. They come in, steam once, change, rehydrate, eat, and leave. They really miss out on the overall experience and don't take advantage of the mental and physical benefits steaming has to offer. Our mission is for ALL our visitors to experience steaming the way it's meant to be experienced, so read on, ask questions and leave shyness at home!
This is a straightforward guide for steaming noobs! Over time your routine will become individualized to your habits and needs, but it's a fantastic start for the unsure and unpracticed.
Felt hat (find out why you need to wear a hat while steaming here)
Venik (for exfoliating massage)
Honey face masks and sea salt body scrubs
Robe, slippers, towels, soap, shampoo, conditioner (provided by the South-Western Bathhouse)
Bathing suit (only mandatory on Unisex days)
1. Take a warm shower. Wash away any dirt or oil from the skin as you don't want anything to clog your soon to be open pores.
2. Enter the sauna and lie down in a comfortable spot (use your towel if the surface is too hot). Lying down helps spread the heat evenly throughout the body and is the ideal position for relaxation.
3. For your first session we recommend spending 3-6 minutes inside the sauna.
4. Exit the sauna and take a quick shower to rinse off. Towel dry and robe up.
5. Drink some tea, water, kvas, or anything else that will re-hydrate you, and pick a comfy spot. Relax, read, watch tv, socialize.
6. After 10-15 min return to the sauna. Repeat step 2 but stay a little longer this time.
7. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6, increasing the length of your steaming session each time. Keep in mind to always listen to your body so you don't over do it.
*A Venik massage during at least one of these sessions will help heat your body to the core.
8. After you have had several sessions and you feel heated through, you can begin taking cold tub plunges or icy showers after each session. This will strengthen your immune system, shrink pores, etc (see health benefits). Traditionally, jumping and rolling in snow is ideal, but this is not available all year
9. Try sitting in the cold tub for 5-10 minutes between your last few sessions. It takes a bracing attitude but the payoff is incredible. Your core will remain hot while your skin cools down. When you re-enter the sauna it will feel as thought it's room temperature and your body will tingle as it warms back up.
10. End with a quick last steam, a thorough shower and more rehydration. At this point you may want a light meal and a nap
Recommended Activities Between Sessions:
A game of backgammon
A friendly debate
Trying Russian drinks such as kampot (homemade juice), kvas (bread drink), kefir (yogurt drink)
A Russian snack of dried fish, sala (cured pork) or seeds
A lighthearted movie
Good ol' girl talk
Stay Away From:
Eating a Big Mac and/or giant poutine right before steaming
Smoking between sessions