For those of you who are planning to travel to Russia, it’s a good idea to include Banya among your itinerary. Banya, the Russian version of sauna, is the steam bath where many people in Russia love to go. It’s a way to relax your body, detoxifies your body out of illness and toxins, and it’s also good for your skin. Many Russian models swears by Banya. It’s one of the beauty secret from Russia fo a nice, and healthy skin.
When in Rome, do what Romans do. This quote applies as well if you’re visiting Russian Banya. Every culture has its own custom and traditions. It is nothing but wise to educate yourself with local etiquettes. Not only it will save you from troubles, it’s also give you an insight to the culture of the country you’re visiting. When it comes yo Banya, this Russuan steam bath has its own unique etiquette.
So, in Banya, there are some things you should not do while you’re here. Some are the ettiquette, some are helpful tips for the best experience and for you to get the most health benefit of Banya. Learn and take note, so during your trip to Russian Banya, you can enjoy it to the fullest.
1. Not getting naked
You wear practically nothing when you go into a sauna room. This also applies in Banya. People don’t even wear swimwear. You will get a weird look if you do. For first timer, you might get uncomfortable with the thought of stripping bare in a public area.
But don’t worry. Banya are separated by gender, and every other person, young and old, are also naked too. You also still wear a towel. A towel is to wrap the body when you are moving between rooms, and it’s also where you sit on in the steam room.
On other occassion, follow Russian ettiquettes of clothing.
2. Not wearing the felt hat
Banya is a wet-type sauna. It means it has wet steam as the source of its heat. Typically, dry-steam and wet steam saunas, both have similar temperature. But because wet steam Banya has higher humidity, it will feel hotter inside a Banya room than a sauna one. Hence that’s why you have to protect your head. Your head area is known to raise its temperature the quickest compared to the rest of your body.
Hence, if you don’t want your head to feel like its about to explode, you wear this felt hat when you’re visiting Banya. It’s rather funny looking, but that’s what makes Banya unique.
3. Not getting slapped, or trying the venik
By “Being slapped” here means getting slapped by a bunch of dried twigs called “venik”. It is one of the tradition of Banya. It is how you get the most health benefits of Banya. There are so many kinds of herbs used in this steambath flogging. Mostly, russians use birch tree twigs. It is believes to improve blood circulation and releases your body toxins.
4. Force yourself to stay
If you have been a while inside the steam room, you might feel lightheaded or dizzy, due to the high temperature. It’s okay to take a break. Head outside to cool off before coming back again to the steam room. No need to force yourself, your safety is more important.
5. Not rehydrating properly
Having your body sweat that rigorously du to the heat, it’s recommended to rehydrate yourself to compensate that liquid loss. Bring a bottle of water inside to sip once in a while. A cup of warm tea in between the bathing session sounds delicious. Do not drink alcohol though, because it can even make you dizzy, so skip Vodka although it is always part of russian drink recipes.
6. Not finishing with a cold shower
Shower afterwards is important to wash off all the sweat and toxins after the steam bath. It also wonderful to get your body temperature back to normal. Some Russian even dip into a pool with ice. But you don’t have to go such extent, of course.
7. Taking a selfie (or even bring your phone)
If it’s your first time visiting Banya, it’s totally understandable if you want to catch some pictures, you know, for memories. Especially the towel and the hat can look so stylist on your instagram feed. But you might want to crush this specific dream. First of all, it’s highly dangerous to bring your phone to the steam room. They practically can overheat and explode.
Second, you don’t want to annoy any other people in the room. They may be worried about their privacy too. You simply don’t bring your camera to a place full of naked people. If you don’t want to be scolded by a group of Russian women, it’s best to leave your phone on the locker.
However, if you’re so inclined to take a selfie, comes early when the Banya is not crowded yet. Make sure no one is around, snap some selfies, and then leave your camera on your bag.
8. Staring inappropriately
If this is your first time visiting a public bath, the new experience will leave you in awe. It’s intriguing to see around the atmosphere, especially learning how locals do their Banya activity. However, try not to stare like a creepy person, for example, if you find the venik tradition intriguing. If you are curious, it’s better to ask instead of staring and wondering.
Anyway, if you are curious about the difference between Banya and Sauna, head for this article. On a hindsight, both looks similar. But if you dig deeper, there are a lot of differences which are interesting to find out.