I enjoyed a relaxing preview this morning of the Fringe event the Beach Box Sauna team are putting on this festival. Steve, a new disciple to the art of the Aufguss sauna ritual was there to give me a taster.
I was already a fan of the Beach Box sauna, down on the East side of Brighton Beach level with Kemptown (next to Yellowave and opposite Concorde). I have spent many happy afternoons there, going from the snug and hot converted horse box with wood fired burner, to shower to sauna to sea to shower to sauna ad infinitum. I have enjoyed oversharing with strangers, scrubbing my body with sea salt infused with essential oils, whipping myself with birch leaves and getting to know new people in this intimate space. I thought life was pretty darn good. Turns out it’s going to get even better.
The new, upcycled (including the actual Olympics 2012 wood burning stove) Beach Box sauna is spacious, potentially holding up to 20 people. It’s a very different vibe to the original horse box. We still have the views of the sea and the Palace Pier and the crunch of pebbles underfoot, slipping in flip flops and giggling in unfussy changing areas. But the experience of the new sauna was quite a delight. At 10am, 3 hours after the burner was lit, the temperature was ambient enough to chat and relax without the intensity of its hotter and smaller – although we still love her – sister sauna. I can see this one as being a good introduction for those who find extreme heat too dizzying or who are new to the Sauna experience.
In our Fringereview interview with Liz and Katie (link below) they explain that their saunas are better ventilated that standard Gym saunas and that being set outside in fresh air on the beach makes the whole experience more comfortable and relaxing. A spa on the beach: an urban retreat. I do love Brighton. The sweat was a slow and satisfying burn and by 40 minutes in I was ready for a sea plunge. The fresh sparkly water cleared my groggy hay fever head instantly as I shrieked and whooped, hovering wimpishly near the edge watching my companion dive straight in (as always).
Before the Beach box team came along, my only experience of saunas were in the gym; a hot and breathless grit your teeth sort of encounter as you sweat for 10 minutes post work out concluding in a briskly cold shower. This is the experience of most British sauna goers. And on a grey lack lustre damp British day, it’s a pretty good experience and has always made me feel good after. But other countries have taken this concept above and beyond our sweaty and crammed Gym saunas. Enter the art of Loyly and the Masters of Freestyle Aufguss: think martial arts meets Tai Chi meets aromatherapy meets theatricality and atmospheric music.
As I sat back and enjoyed the slowly rising heat Steve explained the concept to me whilst waving a towel in balletic sweeping forms in front of us, wafting comforting warm air over my face and body. Pointing to the handful of ice cubes he had carefully placed on the hot coals he explained the varying combinations of essential oils that might be used in an Aufguss depending on the mood and atmosphere they wanted to create. Today we enjoyed orange and lemon; refreshing and invigorating, the smell utterly delicious. Soothing classical music poured through the sauna adding to this magical mood and within 2 minutes I was hooked.
I watched hypnotic as The Loyly Master (“Well not quite there yet, I’m still learning” said Steve modestly) swirled his towel more vigorously until it took on a shape and life of its own. I watched a youtube video made by the Masters of Freestyle Aufguss, who will be leading the Fringe festival immersive sessions and it really is much more than towel flapping.
Apparently the art of Loyly takes training and is a serious institution and there are championships and awards and everything (really). Some saunas will be fun and energetic with Russian music and lots of whooping, some more soothing, quiet and contemplative. The team here at Beach box have made trips to Munich and beyond to explore the beautiful art of Sauna and are now bringing it to Brighton to give a flavour of this immersive experience, that promises to feed all the senses. This luxurious art of Aufguss is unique and SO well suited to Brighton. I dearly hope it continues well after the Fringe.