SWEAT BATHING HAS BEEN as common to people as the making of bread and the squeezing of the grape. Numerous cultures through history have discovered that the sweat bath, in one form or another, enlivens both body and spirit. Although sweat bathing has only recently entered America’s contemporary life, it thrived here long before Columbus in the form of sweat lodges and temescals.
Imagine literally sweating yourself around the world, as Mikkel Aaland did-lying on a marble slab in a Turkish hammam enduring a delicious pummeling by a fierce masseur or basking in the profound tranquility of a mushi-buro in Kyoto. Aaland spent three years on his pilgrimage sweating with people in far parts of the world-in the ancient smoke saunas (savusaunas) of rural Finland, boisterous banias in Russia, neighborly temescals in a Mexican village, and a Navajo sweat lodge in the Southwest.
Aaland brought back a rich store of photographs and experience from his world travels. His book is a revelation. “Sweat is beautiful,” he declares. They used to say that only horses sweat, that men perspire and women glow, thereby suggesting that sweating is undesirable and should be suppressed by anti-perspirants.
Aaland touches a sensitive nerve in the gentile and those of us who don’t sweat for a living. He explains that if we don’t sweat regularly, we deprive ourselves of a vital bodily function. The skin is our body’s largest and most complex organ and plays an important role in our fitness.
Aaland has a vision of public saunas appearing on street corners throughout America, trail sweats glowing in mountain campsites, sweat baths in schools, skyscrapers and factories-a vision of people everywhere basking in the healthful warmth and camaraderie of a sweat bath.
Sweat bathing, undoubtedly, is more important now in these sedentary times than ever before, in the same sense that so many of us have turned to jogging, tennis and jumping rope to keep our bodies alive.
This is the eBook edition of the original book published by Capra Press in 1978. This edition includes minor edits and additional color images.