The banya’s role in prenuptial rituals was also to ensure the woman’s purity: the bride was washed in the banya by her maids on the eve of her wedding. It was a custom in some places for the bride and the groom to go to the bath house before their wedding night. These were not just peasant rituals however; they were shared by the provincial nobility and even by the court in the final decades of the seventeenth century. This intermingling of pagan bathing rites with Christian rituals was equally pronounced as the “Clean Monday”. On these holy days it was customary for the Russian family to clean the house, washing all the floors, clearing out the cupboards, purging the establishment of any rotten or unholy foods, and then, when this was all done, to visit the bath house and clean the body.
During the next few hundred years that led into the modern times, almost all of the old rituals and traditions have died out. However, one thing remains true: banya is as popular as ever. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the proof of health benefits of steam bathing, the banya steadily and continually makes its way into the Western Culture and is a highly desirable form of a sauna.
Enter again. You are now ready for the venik. It is highly recommended that anyone bathing at Banya brings an acquaintance for purposes such as the venik massage etcetera. The venik technique can become rather sophisticated, in its simplest form it is just a rhythmic and gentle waggling. After soaking, the leafs and branches become soft and provides the most pleasant tingling sensation for your massage. The venik massage is not for everyone, many prefer their sauna stay without it. Sweating alone is by all means still affective in its own way. Please do not hesitate to push it a bit but when you feel that conditions are too hot to tolerate, go out and take a cold shower (A garden hose is used most of the times). In Winter take a dive in the snow! Ice-cold water comes as a bit of a shock to the body. To experience the Russian bath to the fullest, consider enduring it. Allow a cold plunge in duration of 10 to 60 seconds. The fantastic tingling sensation of your skin will make indicative that you have done it all. Allow 5-10 minutes after exiting cold conditions before re-entering the hot conditions of the sauna.
Relax and then repeat the hot-cold cycle as many times as comfortable. Bathers usually do five to six rounds, but acknowledging how you feel physically is absolutely essential to alleviate all risk of unfortunate happenings caused by your stay.
Since sweating may continue even for a little while after finishing bath, allow enough time for cooling off prior to redressing into clean clothing. Also, try avoiding cold conditions since the body is in a more “sensitive” state after the bath than normal.
Many common errors include:
• Do not drink alcohol prior to or while bathing. Alcohol and heat have a cumulative effect, greatly increasing the load on the heart.
The Venik has to be properly prepared before use. It must be soaked for a minimum of 20 minutes in warm water, followed by 10 minutes in hot water until the leafs become soft. A good Venik should last you several lashing sessions, but the loss of many leafs and twigs indicates the need for a new one. There are several Venik massage techniques. These include: waggling, compression, stroking, lashing, rubbing and stretching. Our recommended approach would be to carry out these techniques one after another to discover the technique most desirable.
Waggling: lightly flutter the Venik just above the body, gently touching the skin with the tips of leaves. This creates an air flow that warms up the body and prepares it for more intense procedures.
Stroking: gently press the Venik against the body in a long wavy motion, draw the Venik from neck to toes and back to the neck, repeat. The Venik’s handle should always be ahead of the bundle while in motion.
Compression: raise Venik up where the temperature is higher, shake for a moment to gather the heat, firmly press the Venik against the waist, shoulders, feet or knees for 2-3 seconds. While pressing, you may use your second hand to make contact tighter. This is particularly helpful against muscle and joint pains.
Stroking may then be alternated with lashing – simultaneous light hits while sliding along the body with the Venik.
You may now begin combining compression with lashing – elevate Venik to allow soaking up of heat, lash the body two or three times and then press against the body for 2-3 seconds.
After your second round in the steam room, short lashing may be followed by rubbing. Hold the Venik by the handle in one hand and press it against the body with a palm of your other hand. Then rub the body while making steady strokes and circular movements. Keep the Venik tightly pressed against the skin throughout this entire process.
For a good finish, consider placing two Veniks on the waist and while pressing them onto the body, slide the Veniks apart, one to the head and the other to the feet.
The most common types of Venik are made from birch or oak. The Birch Venik helps with muscle and joint pains. It cleans the skin, accelerates healing of wounds and scratches, have we mentioned that it smells wonderful? Its special virtue is that it widens small bronchi, this helps with removal of phlegm and improves ventilation of lungs. You’ll notice just how much more effortless breathing will be right after your stay. Birch leaves have essential oils, tanning substances and vitamins C and A. It is a great idea to wash one’s head with the infusion of the Venik, since it strengthens hair and destroys dandruff.
Oak Venik is most suitable for people with oily skin. It makes the skin smooth and resilient and creates strong anti-inflammatory impact. The smell of the Oak Venik creates a sedative effect and removes stress. Its leaves have a lot of tanning substances. Oak extract is used as a therapeutic agent for some skin problems and when an individual may experience excessive sweating of feet.
The rest? Just relax and enjoy it all