Banya Culture; The Eastern European and Eurasian Love for Saunas


If you ever traveled to the Eurasian region, chances are you were introduced to the banya. The banya is what we here in the U.S. refer to as a sauna or a steam room.

Most people think that the banya is popular only in the Eastern European countries like Ukraine and Russia. However, you will be surprised to find out that it is also very popular amongst the Kazakh people.

 

IMG_3563

Image Source: dumplingcart.org

While “banya” is Russian, the Kazakh word for banya is monsha. There are many banya places in Kazakhstan. In Astana, there is the central banya called Keremet, the banya at the Khan Shatyr plaza, or the one at the Duman Hotel. In Almaty, you can find the best banyas at the Alligator Club, the Arasan Baths, and the Spa at the Rixos Hotel. In both cities, you may find public banyas as well as more upscale ones, and at most of them memberships are not required. Whether you would like to relax, improve your health, hang out with friends, or meet for business, the banya is a great place for everyone.

Here is a list of benefits of using the banya:

Relaxation: The banya relaxes the body and eliminates stress that causes aches and pains. This elimination of stress can help stimulate mental function.

Weight Loss: A proper session in the banya can burn up to 300 calories. Routine banya treatments as well as a healthy diet and exercise regimen may help you in losing weight and maintaining weight loss.

Detoxification: The banya increases blood circulation which helps release toxins from the body. The steam opens up and cleanses pores for healthier skin.

Improved Immune System: The intense heat from the banya raises your body temperature and creates a false “fever” which triggers your immune system. Regular sauna visits helps fight illness and strengthen the immune system.

IMG_3562 (1)

Image Source: yelp.com

Most Americans may be reading this and thinking that the banya is just about sitting in a steam room. But there is more to it than that. Along with the steam room comes the Venik massage. This is comprised of taking bundles of oak, birch, or eucalyptus, and beating the skin with them over and over. This is known to help with to boost metabolism and circulation as well as to help with muscle aches, joint pain, and oily skin. Though it sounds painful, there are many techniques for Venik massage, and all are beneficial to your health. After multiple trips in and out of the steam room, and after the Venik massage, taking a plunge into cold water or pouring cold water on your body is recommended to refresh your body, as well as to increase blood flow.

For those of you who have a chance to visit a banya, we highly recommend it. It is not only relaxing, but it is beneficial to your health.

Sources: Wikipedia; edgekz.com; russianbanyaofdallas.com; downtownbanya.com