BANYA

During the last few days, we have added a ‘Shops’ page here

One of the Shops that produce their own natural cosmetics reminds us that our skin is the largest organ of the physical body.

This prompted me to complete an article I started a few months ago, about one of the best investments I ever made.  

Yes indeed, our skin has greater significance than we are generally conscious of. In a book I read recently the author was held in utter contempt by his Sufi host when he remarked to him, ‘you only taught him breathing?’. We tend to think of our nose and mouth as the only air intakes and while nobody doubts that they are the main apertures there is also no doubt that the pores of our skin must process air to some extent.  

We all recognise that the efficient functioning of machines occurs when the components are clean and properly lubricated. It therefore stands to reason that the same applies to our body.

I somewhat apologise for yet again using Gurdjieff’s, ‘Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson’ to illustrate an example, but it is the first volume of the ‘All and Everything Series’. So, in theory the book covers all and everything. In this case it is the subject of ‘the Russian banya’ or what is more familiarly termed in the west as a sauna. While they are similar it is my opinion that the banya is a superior apparatus and in this article, I intend to explain why.

Literally translated from Russian to English a banya is a bath. The word banya is also used to describe what most in ‘the west’ would recognise as similar to a Scandinavian sauna. Beelzebub explained to Hassein, his grandson, that the Russian aristocracy, who for centuries used the banya or sauna to great effect, had, during the pre-Napoleonic era when they were impressed by and adopted all manner of French habits including the language, stopped using the banya and began smothering themselves with perfume to camouflage their body odour rather than cleansing themselves naturally. Beelzebub used this as just one example of behaviour that is beneficial but falls out of fashion as a result of a new or different activity that at best provides no residual benefit.

Beelzebub further explained to Hassein that it is not physically possible to clean the skin properly with the use of water alone. In order to properly clean the skin requires a banya or sauna. That process opens the pores allowing them to be cleaned thoroughly.   

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While living in Crimea I built my own banya. I was never sure whether it fulfilled all the criteria necessary to be a genuine Russian banya but it certainly worked well. Soon after arriving in the area, I began to notice that all the village houses built there just after WWII had a banya as well as several outbuildings. My house was built much earlier than that so a banya wasn’t included. It took a few years until I eventually dug my own water well but once that was completed it didn’t take long to build a banya.

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The main difference between my design, which we will for the remainder of the story, call a banya, and a typical Scandinavian sauna was the floor. Before I visited Ukraine and Russia the only deep cleaning facilities, I had experienced were either the Scandinavian sauna which always had a wooden floor or a Turkish steam bath which had a tiled floor. My banya is a combination of the two. The floor is tiled but the heat generated is similar to a Scandinavian sauna.

All of my previous experience with the Scandinavian sauna was that you constantly needed to leave the box to wash. In out in out constantly. The box lost heat every time you opened the door. Showers as we all know vary greatly in quality. Better facilities would often provide a cold plunge pool. Too much moving around!

The banya design combines everything inside the box. The tiled floor allows you to use water inside the box without the need for a separate shower or plunge pool. The locals showed me that 65-68˚c is hot enough. After half an hour you are sweating steadily with minimal shock to the body. I had installed a cold-water shower attachment at arms-length from the seating area so that it was possible to wash yourself every few minutes hardly moving. While in Crimea I used the banya for 90 minutes every other night and for 4 hours on a Saturday. How therapeutic to sit quietly sweating in the banya with a cup of herbal tea. 

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When I built the banya in late 2014 the cost was slightly less than $350. Due to positioning near the door of the house the size was restricted to a rectangular base approximately 1.8m x 1.0m. This meant I could not quite lie flat.  Timber corner posts were bolted to a concrete plinth using metal brackets and a frame constructed for double skin timber walls with standard insulating wool in the cavity. The evergreen timber was inexpensive and did bleed a bit initially but the resin was easily removed and didn’t last long. The roof was single pitch, timber on the inside, corrugated asbestos, very normal in Ukraine and Russia, on the outside, again with insulating wool in the cavity. The floor had a single brick laid round the edge except at the doorway. There was a slight run to the door and the floor was covered with non-slip ceramic tiles. There is actually very little waste water. I was able to direct the small amount through channels at the doorway into the closest flower bed. Be creative and find a soak away solution rather than waste time and money on an unnecessary drainage system.  

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I bought a small wood burning stove that had been built for a kadai or heavy iron wok, covered the top with a piece of metal for a 20-litre pan with lid. You don’t need much hot water but it was nice for an initial wash. We used basins and a not so big dipper. The stove was built with a chimney outlet. I sourced a pipe at the local metal yard. There is a small wooden frame around the stove that holds rocks that were obtained from the River Belbek. You also need a thermometer.

The two major advantages over the sauna are heat retention in the box reduces the fuel requirement but more importantly provides a more continuous uninterrupted cleaning process. The major cost advantage is that there are no additional facilities needed other than the wooden box itself.

If you have any land at all and reasonably good access to wood this is a great investment. The ultimate natural health treatment.

Remember to check the new Shops page, here, and in History & Culture we have added a link to the website of Dr Shiva Ayyadurai. Dr Shiva is currently defending the US First Amendment.

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prevents the government from making laws which regulate an establishment of religion, or that would prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

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