The 17th International Sauna Congress took place earlier this month in the twin cities of Haparanda and Tornio, on the border between Sweden and Finland.
Organised by the International Sauna Association (ISA), the event is held every four years in different parts of the world, and is a mixture of scientific presentations, workshops, sauna bathing, food, music, excursions and activities. Presentations and workshops cover three areas: health science, history and culture, and technology and design.
More than 200 people from 24 countries attended the event, including delegates from new sauna countries such as Pakistan and Kenya, as well as a group of 20 delegates from Japan.
Presentations covered the globe, from Sydney to Seattle. Seminar topics focused on research into saunas and health, including the effects of saunas on cardiovascular health and gene expression; cultural presentations on shinrin yoku (forest bathing) and sauna; the vanishing practice of Estonian smoke saunas; and modern Lithuanian baths.
Technology, design and architecture were explored in presentations on sauna stoves, contemporary sauna architecture, design vs function, and the new sauna movement in the UK.
Twelve workshops delved in to topics including Finnish sauna design, building a mobile smoke sauna, sauna as a part of radical inclusion and a place to connect, Russian banya and youth culture, and sauna culture in Japan.
An opening barbeque at Kukkolaforsen celebrated the International Sauna Association’s 60th anniversary, was followed by a chance to explore the 18 area saunas in a Midnight Sun Sauna.
“An important part of the event is the practical side, meaning sauna visits in interesting historical places, whisking, making whisks according to old habits, etc.,” said Risto Elomaa, ISA president. “We hope that the visitors can bring some of that sauna culture and experiences with them when going back home.”