ASBA is a proud member of the International Sauna Association (ISA). The ISA is a global organisation with representation from over 20 member countries, and was founded in 1956 to preserve and promote sauna culture worldwide.
The founding members of the ISA are Finland, Germany, Austria, and Japan, who each maintain a seat on the executive board. The statutes of the ISA were first declared in 1956, and the association was formalized in 1977 Its bylaws were most recently updated in 2012.
The ISA bylaws (6.2) stipulate that a country can have only one official member. For Australia, this member is ASBA.
ASBA was accepted as the ISA’s 21st member in October 2016. We now carry the flame for Australia in the international sauna community. See below for the relevant section of the ASBA Constitution, which declares our commitment to the goals of the ISA.
The ISA hosts an international congress every four years. The next congress takes place in Sweden, June 7-10, 2018.
For more information about the ISA, visit the ISA website, or keep reading.
- 1 A Short History of the ISA
- 2 Goals of the International Sauna Association
- 3 The Official ISA Definition of Sauna
- 4 ASBA and the ISA
- 5 ISA Member Associations
A Short History of the ISA
The International Sauna Association was established in 1956, but it moved slowly for the first two decades. The original headquarters of the ISA was in Germany, but was moved to Helsinki in 1977 (within the headquarters of the Finnish Sauna Society), where it remains today.
The Finnish Sauna Society (Suomen Sauna-Seura) is oldest national sauna association, and was founded in 1937 to preserve and promote sauna in Finland under a wave of technological and social change. There first president of the society was H. J. Viherjuuri, who wrote a short book about sauna that sold thousands of copies in multiple languages.
Germany was the other major force in the early years of the ISA, with the Deutscher Sauna-Bund being formed in 1947 and gained national registration in 1949, led by Dr Werner Fritzsche. Their aims sum up the nature of such national associations, namely:
to spread the idea of sauna bathing in Germany, to promote scientific research and technological progress in the area of sauna, and to advise all members of the association about sauna practice and sauna-cabin building, supporting them with a range of services.
– Deutscher Sauna-Bund
The Deutscher Sauna-Bund is still a thriving association to this day, with regular publications for members, a national sauna day (September 24), and even a Saunameister world championship!
Similar associations were created elsewhere (including Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Japan), and in 1956 the first international sauna meeting was held in Bielefeld, Germany, hosted by the German, Swiss, and Austrian associations. Statutes were drawn up for a proposed international association. Another meeting was held in Helsinki in 1958, with representatives from more countries in attendance, at which the first executive board was elected.
Further congresses were held in Salzburg (1962), Munich (1966 and 1970), and again in Helsinki (1974). The Helsinki congress was a particular catalyst, leading to a published book as well as the final formalization of the International Sauna Association. The proceedings were compiled into an English language volume called Sauna Studies (1976), which hoped to launch a new era in sauna research. Sadly it remains the only published volume of its kind. The ISA has held more successful congresses (especially Aachen in 1999; most recently in Vilnius, 2014).
* The above information is adapted from pp. 48-53 of Tsonis (2016) and the ISA website. A fuller reconstruction of the history of the ISA and its members would require archival research and oral history in multiple countries. ASBA is working with the ISA to pursue such documentation. For more, see our sauna research page.
Goals of the International Sauna Association
The following excerpt is taken from Article 4 of the ISA Bylaws:
1. With the assistance of supporters of sauna activities in various countries the International Sauna Association shall pursue the goals of propagating the sauna and of promoting its use at global level.
2. All measures suitable to serve this goal shall be used to pursue this goal,
a. acceptance of the sauna definition documented in Aachen, Germany on 08-05-1999,
b. to promote scientific studies of the sauna with aspects such as its social history, folklore, medicine and technology,
c. with special focus on the collection and compilation in archives containing the results of scientific studies
d. to disseminate facts and results on the sauna, its characteristics and its significance for its users,
e. to protect the sauna from adverse changes of any kind.
The Official ISA Definition of Sauna
One of the ISA’s most pressing concerns is to promote a specific definition of sauna, specifically “acceptance of the sauna definition documented in Aachen, Germany on 08-05-1999” (ISA Bylaws 4.2.a). This definition is recorded in a currently unpublished Finnish/German document called Kansainvälisen Saunaliiton saunan määrittely / Definition der Sauna. Below are the German and Finnish definitions, as excerpted from the document:
Das Saunabad ist ein gesundheitsförderndes und entspannendes Heissluftbad, in dem Ûberwärmung und Abkühlung einander abwechseln. Dabei wird in einem Raum aus Holz, mit einem typischen Klima von etwa 80-105 Grad C ca. 100 cm über der obersten Bank, sowie einer geringen durch Aufgüsse kurzfristig erhöhten Luftfeuchte, der ganze Körper mehrmalig erwärmt und anschliessend durch Aussenluft und kaltes Wasser abgekühlt.
Der Saunaraum ist ein Raum aus Holz mit aufsteigenden Stufenbänken und mit dem durch einen typischerweise steingefüllten Saunaofen festgelegten Raumklima von etwa 80-105 Grad C ca. 100 cm über der obersten Bank/sowie einer geringen Luftfeuchtigkeit, welche durch Aufgüsse kurzfristig erhöht wird.
Saunominen on terveellistä ja rentouttavaa kuumailmakylpyä, lämmittelyn ja vilvoittelun vuorottelua. Saunottaessa lämmitetään koko keho useita kertoja puupintaisessa huoneessa, jonka tyypillinen lämpötila on n. 80-105 º C mitattuna noin 100 cm:n korkeudelta laudetason yläpuolelta. Lämmittelyä seuraa vilvoittelu ulkoilmassa tai kylmällä vedellä.
Sauna on puupintainen huone, jossa on porrastetut lauteet, tyypillisesti kivillä varustettu kiuas, lämpötilaltaan noin 80-105º C mitattuna n. 100 cm:n korkeudelta laudetason yläpuolelta sekä vähäinen ilmankosteus, jota lyhytaikaisesti lisätään löylyä heittämällä.
Note on English translation
At present, there is no official translation of the ISA definition of sauna. It is hoped that something can be endorsed soon. See below.
In lieu of an official English-language definition of sauna from the ISA, the ASBA Constitution (2.3) currently contains the following definition of sauna, which is adapted from the above Finnish/German definition but rendered slightly differently:
Sauna can have the following meanings:
(i) n.1 a type of hot-air bath that typically takes place in a wooden room with wooden benches (at different heights if space permits), with a typical temperature range of 70º-110º C., heated by wood fire, electricity, or gas; most saunas also containing dense igneous rocks heated by the stove, upon which water is poured via ladle in order to increase humidity and create a deeply pleasurable sensation by enveloping the body in clouds of hot vapour. This type of bath is sometimes described as Traditional Sauna, as opposed to the post-industrial infrared variety.
(ii) n.2 the sauna room, as in “Armed with towel, bucket, and ladle, they stepped into the sauna”.
(iii) n.3 the act of having a sauna bath, typically with indefinite article, as in “I had a great sauna after work last night”, or the traditional Finnish proverb, “The human body is never as beautiful as thirty minutes after a sauna”.
(iv) n.4 sauna bathing as an abstract or generalized activity, as in “Sauna is good for you”.
(v) v.1 the act of sauna bathing, typically the infinitive, as in “Do you sauna?”.
means the act of using a sauna, in which the body is heated and then cooled in repeating fashion, the heat typically being between 70º-110º C., the cooling ideally taking place with very cold water.
Note on Infrared Sauna
Although the term “infrared sauna” has widespread global usage, the ISA does not recognise infrared heating cabins as saunas in the official definition endorsed in Aachen 1999 (see above). This is somewhat controversial to the extent that it enforces a traditional definition of sauna, and because infrared heating cabins appear to have a similar physiological effect (even if they feel very different at a sensory level). Many people around the world take no heed of the ISA’s position (indeed most people are not aware of it), and market forces are radically expanding global use of the term “infrared sauna”, so this is a point of considerable interest for the international sauna community to monitor.
ASBA is preparing a fuller statement on infrared sauna, so be sure to check back here soon. If you have a professional or personal question about the issue, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to engage.
ASBA and the ISA
The following is from Section 4 of the ASBA Constitution:
4. Declaration as Joining Member of the International Sauna Association
Following the goals under clause 3, one of ASBA’s primary objectives is to link Australia with the global sauna community by applying to become a joining member of the International Sauna Association (ISA). We are proud to record that ASBA’s membership was confirmed in October 2016.
We are the twenty-first member of the International Sauna Association. As a joining member, ASBA makes the following declarations:
4.1 ASBA declares allegiance with the ISA (and all ISA member associations) in pursuit of the goals stipulated in Article 4 of the ISA Bylaws, which we paraphrase as follows:
4.1.1 to propagate the use and enjoyment of sauna at a global level;
4.1.2 to promote the definition of sauna established at the ISA Congress in Aachen, Germany, on August 5, 1999, an English reformulation of which is at sub-clause 2.3 above with respect to Sauna (n.1) and Sauna Bathing, modelled on the unpublished bilingual Finnish-German document Kansainvälisen Saunaliiton saunan määrittely / Definition der Sauna furnished to ASBA by the ISA;
4.1.3 to promote scientific health studies and other academic research into the practice, culture, history, and technology of sauna;
4.1.4 to assist with efforts to systematize sauna research into well-organised and publicly accessible archives;
4.1.5 to disseminate the results of such studies to as wide an audience as possible, both locally and globally;
4.1.6 to promote, protect, and perpetuate the practice of traditional sauna, especially in publicly accessible facilities;
4.2 ASBA declares a particularly energetic focus on 4.1.3-5 above (promotion, facilitation, and systematization of sauna research), congruent with the goals under 3.16-21 above;
4.3 ASBA declares its intention to be an active participant in the quadrennial ISA International Congress, including sending a formal delegation to every congress, helping with organisation where possible, and offering to host the congress both as soon as feasible after joining and in regular rotating fashion thenceforth.
ISA Member Associations
The following list is copied from the website of the International Sauna Association (current Jan 2018):
National member associations
Finnish Sauna Society – Suomen Saunaseura ry.
Tel: +358 50 371 8178
President: Tuomas Lehtonen
Deutscher Sauna-Bund e.V.
D-33602 Bielefeld Germany
Tel: +49 521 966790
President : Prof. Carsten Sonnenberg
CEO : Rolf-A. Pieper
Druck & Versand Suite No. Nr. 130
Triester Str. 10/3/301
2351 Wiener Neudorf Austria
Tel: +43 664 9712814
President: Peter Jeitler
Japan Sauna Spa Association
907 ULS Ichigaya. 4-8-30
Tokyo 102 – 0074 JAPAN
Tel: +81 3 5275 1541
Contact: Mikio Wakaybashi
President: Mr. Kenichi Nakano
Badstuforbundet i Norge
7113 Husbysjöen Norway
Tel: + 47 90042799
President: Tor Anders Aune
Lithuanian Bath Academy
Vilnius 03201 Lithuania
Tel: +370 68711601
E-mail: rimas(at)pirtis.lt , info(at)pirtis.lt
President : Rimas Kavaliauskas
North American Sauna Society
30 Florence Ave.
Fiskhill , NY 12524
United States of America
Tel: +1 914 500 8541
President: Eero Kilpi
Saunaverening Belgie ( SVB) – Sauna Association Belgium
Lange Meire 1a
B 9270 Laarne Belgium
Tel: + 32 95 59 45
President: Tine Van Der Zypen
President: Göran Honkamaa
Det Danske Saunaselskab
Vildtbaneparken 74 D
DK 2635 Ishöj
E-Mail : detdanskesaunaselskab(at)gmail.com
President: Michael Besnier Jensen
Polish Sauna Society / Polski Zeazeck Saunowy
President : Pjotr Koper
Sauna Club of Kenya
PO BOX 24862-00505
E-mail: saunaclubofkenya (at)gmail.com,gt.innovations(at)gmail.com
President: Reijo Hakanen
British Sauna Society
91 Oriel Road
President Mika Meskanen
New Zealand Sauna Society
PO Box 104013
President Bede Burgoyne
4th Floor Encanto town
Tel: +976 – 7707 3034
Contact::Burenjargal or bill(at)mail.com
Associazone Italiana Saune Aufguss
Via IV Novembre 315
E-mail: info (at)aisa.it
Christine Rose , Mario Santini
The Australian Sweat Bathing Association (ASBA)
113 Lincoln St
Tel: +61 412 414 476
Dr. Jack Tsonis
Suomen Log House
E-G Weg 8
Tel: 0031 598450767
K van Donderen
Euskal Herriko Saunazaleen “Bero-bero” elkartea, Basque Sauna Association
E-20749 Arroa Behea (Gipuzkoa)
Basque Country (Spain)
Tel: +34 619 402 174
Contact Joseba Ossa
S-VSL ( The Scool of V.S. Liakhov)
Leninsky av. 121/1 building No 2
Tel: +7 926 381 0049
Internet: www.s-vsl.su , www.parenije.ru
President: Vasily Liakhov
ISA supporting members
GEM Co. Ltd KOBE Sauna & Spa
650 – 0011 KOBE
President: Atsushi Yoneda
WELLBE Co. Ltd
3-27-33 Sakae, Naka-ku,
Tel: +81 52 261 1401
E-mail; y_yoneda (at)wellbe.co.jp
President: Yukitaka Yoneda
6-61-1 Tsukiji Bldg.
Tsukiji , Chuoku
Tel. +81-3-3542 0332
E-mail: import (at)metos.co.jp
Organising Committee of Asia Pool and Spa Expo
Room 401, the Third Street of Kehui , Kexue Avenue
Science City , Luogang District
Tel: +86-20-22074185 , mob +86.13416279371
contact Jacob Kong
Shenzhen Keya Sauna & Swimming Pool Equipment Co. Ltd
Keya Industrial Park , Qigang village, Ionxi Town, Boluo
Huizhou City , Guangdong Province
Tel: +86 13829955819
CEO Victor Wang
Shenzen Keya Sauna
SAWO NORDIC OY
Tel: +358 (0) 207 353 818
Internet: www.sawo.com , www.sawo.fi
President Veli-Veikko Kallioniemi
saunitas globali amici
If you want to become part of this international network, then join ASBA. We even accept members from other countries, so if your country is not represented, we are happy to accept you into our ranks if you are keen to be involved in the international conversation.