Sauna Evangelists Say Steamy Finnish Tradition Saved Their Marriage

By Jenna Ross
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Christopher and Julie Rice used to travel for food, to Texas for barbecue, for example, but now plan trips around rentals with awesome saunas.

ROCHESTER, Minn.

Christopher and Julie Rice sat naked in the sauna, sweating in its 180-degree heat. In the crisp air outside, they then played a few hands of cribbage and noshed on pickles and smoked fish. Steam rose from their wet hair.

The details, three years later, seem etched in their minds.

It was the night they fell in love with sauna. The night, they say, sauna saved their marriage.

“It was nice to be unplugged, nice to be together and to talk,” Julie said recently. “We put all our worries, all our grudges aside. We were able to say, ‘What’s going on? How can we move forward?’ ”

Nakedness bred vulnerability, opening up something in the Rochester couple’s marriage, which was then marked by resentment.

Their first sauna-destination trip, inspired by a chance steam a month before, led to another, then another.

Between watching YouTube videos on sauna methods and reading old tomes on sauna culture, the couple started a Facebook group to share their new obsession and a website to tell their story.

Clicks came, at first, from curious friends and family, but with each trip and each post, the Rices discovered, and helped build, a sauna-loving community.

Today, some 2,300 people subscribe to their private Facebook group, dedicated to wood-burning sauna. More than a few have invited the Rices to sweat alongside them.

The ancient Finnish tradition of sauna is trendy these days, as millennials have embraced its ritual. Mobile saunas, with their rent-a-session model, have popped up in Minneapolis and beyond. But the Rices, like the purists in their group, are anti-trend.

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