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Interview with Silvia Mittelberger: six highlights about sauna rituals

Silvia Mittelberger, Spa Manager at ADLER Spa Resort DOLOMITI, reveals six highlights about the sensational experience of participating in a steam blow ritual, called Aufguss in German.
The steam blow or Aufguss consists of throwing water on hot stones, which at first sight doesn't seem anything extraordinary. But what makes this practice so special?
The Aufguss comes from the need to oxygenate the sauna. In Finland it is called 'Gluthauch' (light breath), a term that perfectly expresses the feeling someone has during the steam blow, a beloved practice by sauna-goers and now a must-have of high-level wellness areas.
Usually, the humidity in Finnish saunas is kept as low as possible, as the body needs to lower its temperature through sweating, and to expel fluids and toxins. During a steam blow, water or ice are enriched with essential oils and poured on the sauna stove. As they evaporate, humidity increases and the perception of heat on the skin increases, too. This stimulus, precisely, increases the sweating. The Aufguss intensifies this effect because of the hot air rising upwards. Therefore, the sauna master must swing the hot air towards the guests with specific ventilation techniques performed with towels. The Aufguss is usually a short ritual lasting 8 to 12 minutes.
In addition to the beneficial effects on the body, the special feature of this ritual is a multisensory experience, which the sauna master creates for its guests. The combination of essential oils, music and the performance of the sauna master, called Aufgussmeister, creates a feeling of deep relaxation and psychophysical well-being. The guests become fully involved enjoying the sauna ritual and the strong heat no longer bothers them.

There are many types of Aufguss. Some focus on Tibetan experiences, others on high-tech effects. What do guests expect at the ADLER Spa Resort DOLOMITI from a sauna ritual?
Professional sauna masters know how to adapt the ritual to their 'audience' and location. Depending on the type of guest, the sauna master creates a tailor-made experience using essential oils, music and instruments. For the ADLER target group, we mainly offer a relaxing Aufguss, accompanied by soft music or the sound of Tibetan bells, which is most popular instrument among our guests.

Let us talk now about ventilation techniques with the towel. Is it almost like a performance when the sauna master 'performs'?
The sauna master's task is to swing the hot air, imbued with essential oils, towards the guests through specific ventilation techniques using a towel. They can be simple or more complex movements, such as throws, depending on the theme and atmosphere that wants to be created. The choice of the background music plays an important role in the ritual, as the sauna master moves the towel according to the rhythm of the music.
The subject and ventilation techniques do not substantially affect the benefits of the Aufguss. However, the quality and choice of performance of the sauna master is essential to engage and capture the guest's attention, thus distracting them from the perception of heat. Their stay in the sauna becomes thus more pleasant, losing the perception of time.

How hot has to be the Aufguss so that you can relax without thinking: 'let's hope it ends soon'?
In general, the perception of heat and duration of the sauna session are very personal; therefore, there is no standard temperature for steam blows.
In the Finnish sauna, where Aufguss usually takes place, the temperature is between 70-100 degrees and the goal is to keep humidity relatively low. The higher you sit in the sauna, the higher the temperature. For those who don’t do saunas very often, we recommend sitting on the lowest seats and staying no longer than 8 minutes. As water is poured over the sauna stove, humidity has around 30% increase. Since the increase in humidity stops the sweating, the perception of heat increases, even though the room temperature decreases.
The role of the sauna master is crucial. Through his/her performance, the choice of music and use of essential oils, capture the guests' attention making the ritual more enjoyable. The feedback from our guests regarding the steam blows is more than positive. They hope it won’t end. As soon as the Aufguss is over they ask for the next one!

What makes the new sauna area at the ADLER Spa Resort DOLOMITI special, architecturally and in terms of design?
To create our new sauna area, we chose local natural materials. In fact, local woods such as spruce from our forests were used for the bio-sauna and the ‘Fleres’ stone from the Upper Eisack Valley were used for the steam bath cladding. The walls of the areas between the single saunas and the relaxation area are made instead with terre pisée (crushed clay): a totally natural material that guarantees a very pleasant visual impact, thanks to its delicate natural tones. The architecture of the saunas and their idyllic location on a pond in the middle of the ADLER park contributes to an even more pleasant wellness experience.

Which local essences are used in the Aufguss and what are their benefits?
During the Aufguss we use natural essential oils from our region, including fir tree, stone pine, mountain pine and juniper. The fir tree has a positive effect on the environment; it is an excellent antiseptic against viruses and bacteria. It promotes breathing and soothes congestion, colds and winter-related illnesses. It also promotes relaxation, as it acts on the nervous system. The stone pine has calming properties, which are ideal for achieving a relaxing effect on body and mind. The essence also exerts a balsamic effect on the respiratory tract. The mountain pine and juniper have formidable balsamic properties that prevents the respiratory tracts from coughs, bronchitis and sinusitis.

Silvia Mittelberger
Spa Managerin at ADLER Spa Resort DOLOMITI