Russian banya: hot in the Russian way

Steaming in the bath is the oldest Russian traditions, one. In addition, although it has been around for several centuries, the Russian bath is still popular today. What are its features, why Russians like to go to the sauna and what you should prepare for if you are going to steam for the first time — all this is in our article?

The Russian banya features

To begin with, we suggest being acquainted with the general concepts associated with the Russian bath.

  1. Russian banya is associated with good health, rest and communication in good company.
  2. As a symbol of hospitality, guests were always invited to the bath.
  3. Bblack banya is a bathhouse in which large stones are heated over an open fire.
  4. White banya equipped with a stone stove with a chimney.
  5. Bath besom usually made from dried trees or herbs branches and used for steaming.
  6. Modern baths often include steam room, washing room и entrance room.

What is the difference between a Russian banya, for example, and a Turkish or Finnish bath? First and foremost — температурой (temperature) и уровнем влажности (humidity). Классические показатели: +60-700С and humidity 70–80%. It is in such a bath you will get the maximum benefits and pleasure.

How does a Russian banya work?

Russian banya

A special room (steam room) uses water and hot air to produce hot steam a large amount. The classic Russian bathhouse is heated with wood, but in modern versions, you may also find electric heating. Inside the bathhouse, which is usually wood built; there are wide wooden benches along the walls. They are built one above the other like steps. One can sit or lie on the benches. The higher the bench, the hotter the air.

As soon as someone gets warm enough, he gets the steam room out and takes a dip in cold water a poo.

 You can also pour water on yourself from ушата (a tub), and in winter it is customary to come the steam room out and jump into the snow. An important tradition is to take a steam bath with a broom. The broom is previously steamed in boiling water, hot water is also put on the stones, and one starts to slap the broom on the one who is steaming.

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Tips for a good steaming experience

Despite all the benefits, bathing can also be dangerous if you do not follow the recommendations, especially if you are a beginner.

  1. Before entering the sauna, take a warm shower, do not wet your head, put a special cap on your head or wrap a towel around it.
  2. The first time spend 3-5 minutes in the bath to preheat.
  3. The second run can be increased to 10-15 minutes, if you feel well. It is better to lie on the bench.
  4. During the third run, it is possible to steam with a broom. The steaming time should also be limited. If you are a beginner, 5 minutes is enough.

After the bath, it is important to replenish fluid loss. Drink tea, morsels, mineral water.

Useful vocabulary on the bathing topic

To fully enjoy bath time and fellowship in the process, the following words and phrases will come in handy:

  • банщик — a banya’s service person;
  • баня — banya (Russian sauna and steam bath);
  • бассейн — a swimming pool;
  • берёзовый веник — birch besom;
  • веник — a bath besom (bunches of dried or fresh branches and leaves);
  • вода — water;
  • дубовый веник — oak besom;
  • здоровье — health;
  • массажировать — to massage;
  • мне/тебе/ему жарко — I/you/he feel(s) hot;
  • мыться — to wash oneself;
  • охлаждаться / охладиться — to cool down;
  • пар — steam;
  • парная — a steam room;
  • полезный для здоровья — healthy;
  • предбанник — the entrance room;
  • расслабляться / расслабиться — to relax;
  • снег — snow;
  • ушат — tub.

Bath in Russian culture

Banya has always held a significant place in Russian culture. In Slavic mythology, a spirit named bannik, who was considered capricious and sometimes evil, inhabited the baths. The baths were considered a magical place where the fire, earth, water and air elements combined to create a purifying and spiritual experience. Saturdays used to be bathing days, and most families drowned their baths at least once a week, on Saturdays. In modern Russia, many still go to the bathhouse once a week.

This baths importance is reflected in the Russian language, in numerous proverbs and sayings.

  • Without a besom, the bath does not steam and the steam does not make it hot.
  • Besoms for a bath are like butter for porridge.
  • A bath without a besom is like a samovar without a pipe.
  • Washing up in the banya is like being born again.
  • Stuck like a limpet! (literally: stuck like a banya’s leaf).


Moreover, after the man comes the bath out, he is told: ”С легким паром! / I hope you enjoyed your bath!” (literally: Enjoy your steam!) 

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