A topless man Sit at a poker table with your cards in front of your chest.he was just downstairs die, A Russian-style sauna. One of the last remaining public baths in the East End, the Russian Banya Steam Baths in Newport, east London, has long been a haven for taxi drivers, boxers and longshoremen. But even as one bathing culture is fading, another is on the rise.
Four kilometers (2.5 miles) north, at the Hackney Wick Community Sauna, visitors work up a sweat in a horse box-turned-sauna. When they emerged, pink faces appeared outdoors, and they threw themselves into whiskey barrels filled with water. The highs brought on by the alternating temperatures aren’t limited to Hackney hipsters. Gabrielle Reason of the British Sauna Association estimates there are now 53 “authentic saunas” in the UK, a number that has doubled every year since 2018. Half of it is on the coast, where tourists can dive into the sea and return to the heat.
Part of the fun is the optional add-ons. “There are many kinds of sweating,” says Rose Elliott, who owns a sauna in Cornwall.To improve blood flow, lovers can slap themselves in Finnish vita, fragrant bouquet of birch branches. Mr. Elliot recommends pouring the salt from bowl to bowl and placing it in front of you, because “salt marsh workers have healthier lungs than ordinary workers”. Hackney offers towel art workshops.
These old and new ideas about public bathrooms may invite some low-level bashing. “We’re inspired by the Docklands…but as far as the facilities go, they’re kind of bare-bones and ready to go,” says New Wave sauna consultant Katie Bracher. According to Anil Singh, Docklands’ operations manager, “it’s a philosophy for us” but some of them are “having a good time”.
Other types of saunas are also available. When the Queen died last year, a gay sauna broadcast her funeral live instead of the usual pornographic film to show her deep respect. (Edinburgh’s Soul Water Sauna is one of the places to ban “non-woven” baths, wary of old stereotypes.) But all agree on the health benefits. Saunas can reduce pain, improve mood and improve blood circulation. Mr Elliott thinks everyone should give it a try. “It’s almost like trying to tell someone how to surf or have an orgasm. You can’t really get it until you’re done.”
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