Month: July 2014

Sweat bathing the Banya way ….

Banya stove - Photo by Vlad Chorazy

Banya stove – Photo by Vlad Chorazy

A variation on the traditional sauna bathing practice is the Russian Banya.   The Russians have long understood the concept of health and water and sweat bathing is now part of everyday life for most Russians, because of the many health benefits as well as for relaxation.

The basic concept of true Banya bathing is to sit in an extremely hot sauna for 10-15 minutes (or as long as you feel comfortable), cool off in cold water, return to the sauna for an invigorating Venik massage then cool off again as before.  This ritual can be repeated as often as required and a refreshing drink (water or herbal tea) should be incorporated into each cooling down procedure.

The temperature within the Banya should always exceed 90 degrees Centigrade.   The heaters are wood burning stoves or ovens with stones on top.  Once the stones are hot enough, the smoke from the wood is let out either through the door (in a ‘Black’ banya) or the chimney (in a more modern ‘White’ banya).  Then water is poured onto the hot stones to produce the steam and increase the humidity in the room.     DROM_022

As the head heats up quicker than the rest of the body, it is advisable to wear a felt sauna hat.  This can be dipped into cool water beforehand, enabling the bather to stay in the Banya longer for optimum benefit.

The steam and heat of the Banya opens the pores, improves blood circulation, eliminates toxins through the skin, increases metabolism and increases the oxygen level of the cells.   The heat also creates artificial fever conditions within the body which boosts the immune system.

Once the bather is sweating profusely, it is time to cool off.  Most Russians throw themselves into the snow or an icy lake, but in the absence of these a quick dip into a plunge pool or ice bath is just as beneficial!     Watch out for future blogs on the best way to refresh after sauna bathing.

Then it is back to the Banya.   Again, water is sprinkled onto the stones to create more steam.   It is common to enhance the bathing experience by adding essential oils, eucalyptus leaves or mint to the water, as different fragrances can either aid relaxation, reinvigorate you or de-stress you.

Once the steam has disappeared and the sauna is bearably hot, it is time for a Venik massage.  A venik is a fragrant bundle of twigs tied together which is used to stroke and lash the body to improve blood circulation and metabolism.    The most common veniks are made from birch twigs, but eucalyptus and oak are also widely used.

There are several ways to use a Venik, including waggling, compressing, stroking and lashing massage techniques.   It is best to use these techniques one after the other.

IMG_7116Waggle – flutter the Venik just above the body to create an air flow that warms the body up for more intense procedures.

Stroke – gently press the Venik against the body and draw it from head to toe and back again.                                            

Compress – raise the Venik up to the warmer air, shake it to gather the heat, then press firmly against the body for 2-3 seconds.

Lash – Light sliding hits with the Venik.

Alternate the stroking and lashing, then combine compressing and lashing – lash the body two or three times and then press against the body for 2-3 seconds.  This stimulates blood flow to the outer layers of skin which helps draw waste out through the open pores.

To get the best out of Banya bathing, repeat the hot, cold and massage rituals several times.   Take your time and enjoy all the wellbeing benefits this particular form of sauna bathing can offer.










Why I chose to expand the Company during the Recession

As the UK recovers from a debilitating recession, guest blogger Kicki Carlsson, CEO and Founder of Dröm UK, reveals why she chose to expand the Company in difficult economic times:

Whilst a number of other businesses tightened their belts and nervously saved their money, Dröm UK refurbished their 4000 sq ft Surrey showroom with a luxury range of bespoke saunas, steam rooms, feature showers and spa areas.

The reasoning behind this was simple.  It is all too easy to start to worry and even begin to lose confidence in yourself, your company or your products.  Stay focussed, believe in your ability and never react to other people’s loss of confidence in a negative way.  A downturn in the  economy forces people to take a good hard look at their assets and outgoings.  Luxuries such as expensive spa days and gym memberships are put on hold.   Instead of moving, a lot of people look to refurbish their homes, with bathrooms being high on the list of renovations as future resale values could bring up to 80-100% return on investment. So we decided to focus on the products that gave us the best return with the least risk and concentrated on showing the market how you could invest in bringing the expensive gym wellbeing experience into your own home at an affordable cost to enjoy for years to come.

Wellbeing is very important during the stress of a recession, or any difficult period.  Everyone wants to feel better, and the health benefits of water and hot and cold treatments are well documented in a variety of newspapers and magazines, and have been enjoyed since Ancient Greek and Roman times (see our previous blogs on Warmth and Water:  The basis for life).

We did however have to adapt the product range we had to offer and reluctantly stopped selling some of our lower profit making items.  We also felt that we had to show our customers the type of quality products we offer – just viewing our images in a brochure was not enough.  We had to entice them in to the Showroom to feel, touch and experience for themselves.  It is important to maintain the trust and confidence of our market, and especially the high end sector, who are getting more careful with which suppliers they use for their projects.   They need to know that their chosen company has confidence in itself and will be around in the future for maintenance and warranty work if required.   It is important to prove that you believe in yourself.

So we took the risk and invested. We rebranded and unveiled a new website too. We very quickly saw results from this as more architects and clients visited the showroom and the feedback from this has been excellent, resulting in a greatly increased order book.

A decision to diversify slightly to maximise on all potential sales opportunities was taken. As well as offering a consultancy service to architects and clients we also decided to focus more on our after sales service. Don’t forget the importance of this. Customers appreciate a company that is willing to take responsibility for their products and to ensure that they stay in optimum working order over the years to come. Our Service department is now thriving as our clients ensure their saunas and steam rooms are regularly maintained and serviced, thus keeping their investment alive.

My advice to work through the difficult times would therefore be:

  • Don’t get carried away by everyone else’s doom and gloom!   Things may not happen as quickly as they used to so patience and hard work is essential.
  • Even though the risks are obviously higher, stick with your beliefs and have faith in your abilities.   Never underestimate determination!

Some important points to remember are:

  • Products – source good quality, innovative, unusual products.   Have a curious mind and a passion for what you’re selling.   Customers need to have confidence in the quality of the product they are buying in difficult times (and the good times too!) and your enthusiasm and complete faith in what you are offering will help to reassure them.
  • Customer Service – This is obviously of the utmost importance.   Give the customer the best service possible at all times and always remember to LISTEN to their wants and needs.
  • Employees – it can sometimes be very easy to blame employees for difficult workplace situations in the depths of an economic recession.   Look after them and value them, in good times and bad, as they are your support and often your inspiration.


Warmth and Water: The Basis for Life – Part II


‘Bella’ Steam Room – Dröm UK Ltd

Steam bathing can be traced back thousands of years with the ancient Greeks, Romans and Turks recognising the benefits of steam to enhance health and wellbeing.   The original Roman baths utilised thermal underground springs, with the Caldarium room (the hottest of a series of three bathing rooms) being built directly on top of this heat source with the walls being hollow to allow the heat to rise through them.  The Roman Baths and Turkish Hammams were considered an integral and important part of social culture with the men congregating in the baths to discuss the various political and social issues of the day.   The Hammams were originally adjoined to mosques to enable cleansing and purifying before prayer and the prophet Muhammad taught that steam and hot water helped enhance fertility.  However, they became a more separate facility during the period of the Ottoman Empire.

The Aztec people also had a form of steam room called a Temazcal which was considered to be a cleansing and healing place – somewhere to purify the body after battles and physical exertion.

During the 1850’s, British diplomat David Urquhart introduced Turkish Baths to Britain and promoted them in great detail in his book The Pillars of Hercules (1850), which led to the Irish physician Richard Barter including them in his system of hydropathy.   Urquhart was instrumental in the building of the men-only Turkish baths at 76 Jermyn Street, London and lectured widely on the benefits of steam bathing recommending it as a cure for almost all known Victorian ailments!


Turkish Baths, Jermyn Street : Illustrated London News

Over the next 150 years more than 600 Turkish baths opened throughout the United Kingdom and bathing in a sauna or steam room is now considered a normal, regular part of many people’s routine as the health and relaxation benefits continue to be well documented.

Warmth and Water: The Basis for Life – Part I

Sauna bathing has been enjoyed since ancient times.   Nomadic tribesman wandering around Scandinavia would dig pits into slopes, cover them, fill them with rocks, burn large amounts of wood for around 6-8 hours, let the smoke out and then enjoy the residual warmth for possibly another 12 hours, offering respite from the biting cold.  This primitive form of sauna not only warmed the body but cleansed the mind and refreshed the spirit.   This type of bathing evolved into what became ‘smoke’ saunas, which is a sauna without a chimney.   Wood is burnt in large fireplaces over a large period of time, heating the stone of the fireplace directly.   Once the room has reached the required temperature the smoke is allowed to escape through a small hole in the roof.

Centuries ago, saunas were originally the only source of clean water in the towns and were considered holy places, where women gave birth and healing rituals could take place.   It was a place for worshipping the dead and the bodies of the dead were washed here before burial.

First Tylö sauna heater – 1951

With the advent of the industrial revolution, heating saunas became easier with metal woodstoves which could be housed in wooden structures.  The first electric sauna heater prototype was built in 1949 and developed over the years into the high-tec heaters we have now.   There has even been a sauna installed by Swedish company Tylö within the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi in Northern Sweden with a full size working sauna heater carved from one block of ice!

Saunas have come a long way since the early slope pits, and can be installed and enjoyed in spas, gyms and private leisure spaces all over the world as awareness of the importance of everyday wellbeing grows.

Tylö Sauna, Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel