The striking of a gong or the more gentle ringing of a bell announces the beginning of the Aufguss, the German word for what we in Italy call a “steam jet”. It is a ceremony to boost our mental and physical wellbeing and takes place in the sauna, originally involving pouring water or ice over the hot stones.
Over the years, this simple action has evolved and now includes a Sauna Master, a master of ceremonies specialised in elegant waving techniques who uses one or two towels at the same time, fans or birch or eucalyptus branches. The hot, humid air is dispersed throughout the sauna, heightening the perception of heat and encouraging deeper relaxation and increased perspiration. The Sauna Master is also responsible for choosing the essential oils he uses, which are based on the natural elements – air, water, earth and fire – and have a balsamic, refreshing, calming and energising effect on guests. All this takes place in twelve minutes, the ideal length of a sauna.
These techniques have been established by the Italian Association of Saunas and Aufguss which organises a spectacular Italian championship every year and promotes the sauna culture, a totally natural way of boosting the immune system, relaxing the muscles we use to breathe and improving our metabolism and blood circulation. The Aufguss ritual consists of three steam jets, each lasting the duration of an hourglass. The fanning movements of the towel gradually increase in intensity, so the air and fragrances are initially perceived as a gentle caress and then become intense heat. To allow the hot vapour to reach as much of your body as possible, you can also raise your arms. At the end, after cooling down with a shower, you relax on a bed for ten minutes, sipping herbal tea or a natural fruit or vegetable juice to replace lost liquids and mineral salts.