Banya 101 Venik – sweet, sweet torture
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Venik 101

When the Apostle Andrew visited the land that would become Russia, he observed their ritual bathing practices and remarked that they lashed themselves so violently they "barely escaped alive."

Well, the ancient Slavs were beating themselves and each other with veniks - bundles of birch, oak or eucalyptus. A visit to any authentic Russian bath will be replete with veniks for you to maximize the many health benefits of the banya. Don't be afraid, the voluntary torture Andrew described is not nearly as brutal as it sounds … though it could be if you like.

The lashing of the body with a venik improves blood flow and releases phytoncides which defeat pathogens and have a healing effect on the body. Your capillaries haven't ever had it so good as this. Stimulating venik massage is an essential part of the banya experience; make sure to grab a bundle next time you come.

Of course, like any proper banya, Downtown Banya offers veniks to enhance your visit. Improve circulation, boost metabolism and suppress the growth of harmful pathogens with our "Platza Treatment." Every Russian knows that the venik is an essential part of the banya. 

Venik massage (Platza techniques)

The Venik has to be properly prepared before use. It must be soaked for a minimum of 20 minutes in warm water, followed by 10 minutes in hot water until the leafs become soft. A good Venik should last you several lashing sessions, but the loss of many leafs and twigs indicates the need for a new one. There are several Venik massage techniques. These include: waggling, compression, stroking, lashing, rubbing and stretching. Our recommended approach would be to carry out these techniques one after another to discover the technique most desirable.

Waggling: lightly flutter the Venik just above the body, gently touching the skin with the tips of leaves. This creates an air flow that warms up the body and prepares it for more intense procedures.

Stroking: gently press the Venik against the body in a long wavy motion, draw the Venik from neck to toes and back to the neck, repeat. The Venik's handle should always be ahead of the bundle while in motion.

Compression: raise Venik up where the temperature is higher, shake for a moment to gather the heat, firmly press the Venik against the waist, shoulders, feet or knees for 2-3 seconds. While pressing, you may use your second hand to make contact tighter. This is particularly helpful against muscle and joint pains.

Stroking may then be alternated with lashing – simultaneous light hits while sliding along the body with the Venik.

You may now begin combining compression with lashing - elevate Venik to allow soaking up of heat, lash the body two or three times and then press against the body for 2-3 seconds.

After your second round in the steam room, short lashing may be followed by rubbing. Hold the Venik by the handle in one hand and press it against the body with a palm of your other hand. Then rub the body while making steady strokes and circular movements. Keep the Venik tightly pressed against the skin throughout this entire process.

For a good finish, consider placing two Veniks on the waist and while pressing them onto the body, slide the Veniks apart, one to the head and the other to the feet.

Venik types

The most common types of Venik are made from birch or oak. The Birch Venik helps with muscle and joint pains. It cleans the skin, accelerates healing of wounds and scratches, have we mentioned that it smells wonderful? Its special virtue is that it widens small bronchi, this helps with removal of phlegm and improves ventilation of lungs. You’ll notice just how much more effortless breathing will be right after your stay. Birch leaves have essential oils, tanning substances and vitamins C and A. It is a great idea to wash one's head with the infusion of the Venik, since it strengthens hair and destroys dandruff.

Oak Venik is most suitable for people with oily skin. It makes the skin smooth and resilient and creates strong anti-inflammatory impact. The smell of the Oak Venik creates a sedative effect and removes stress. Its leaves have a lot of tanning substances. Oak extract is used as a therapeutic agent for some skin problems and when an individual may experience excessive sweating of feet.

You can always find a great selections of veniks in Downtown Banya. Price range is between $20 - $25, depending on size and type.

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