“Miesai un Garam IK”
(For the Body and Soul)
LATVIAN TRADITIONAL PIRTS* (BATHHOUSE) RITUALS
Latvian traditional pirts is known as wet bathhouse, where one gets use of the hot air, moisture (steam), water and plants as they work on human organism. Several types of pirts are accessible in Latvia and one of them is called smoke or black pirts. It is the oldest bathhouse that Latvians have used over many centuries. Steam bath is both physical and spiritual purification, self harmonization, evening up of all functions, and source of energy.
Almost all North-Eastern European nations consider themselves discoverers of a steam bathhouse, since in point of fact Finnish sauna; Russian “banja” and Latvian pirts are similar in their structure and manner of usage. But only in Latvian pirts flapping with besoms, made of twigs and herbs, is one of the main activities.
Latvians have been bringing plants into pirts all year round. Pines and Christmas trees are used in winter time. Latvians have understood that plants and herbs are the closest and the most natural aid on the way to relaxation of the body that helps to regain physical and emotional shape, to dispose of stress, fatigue, and excessive weight.
Latvian pirts is unique at the root, because it offers emotional relaxation, physical therapy, aroma therapy, and hydro therapeutical procedures, to which massage and cosmetology are added.
During pirts treatment, body is affected by heat and moisture load (65-80 OC and 50-80% of moisture), water contrast procedures ( bathing in natural water bodies – lakes, rivers, showering of the body with plant infusions of different temperatures), manual work on body by means of performing massage with besoms, cosmetic procedures (steaming on the sweating shelves with plant rugs, honey massages, body skin packs and applications from plants), phytotherapy ( drinking of teas during procedures), aroma therapy (inhalations of natural plat aromas during procedures), application of different massaging techniques instantly after steam-bath procedures.
Flapping and massage with besom (plants and twigs bound in a bunch) is specific massaging technique that enhances circulation of blood in upper layer of skin and deepest tissues. Circulation of blood, lymph and inter-cellular fluid is stimulated in whole body. Any besom exudes phytoncids that neutralize bacteria engendering diseases, and volatile oils, that show down premature senility of skin when applied to it. One is not beaten with the besom as it sometimes might look from the distance. Movements of the one who is flapping are elastic, gentle, besom slightly touches the body
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