For the newcomer, the rituals of the Russian banya may seem dark and mysterious, but in reality, nothing is further from the truth!
A Russian banya is a place of rest, relaxation and enjoyment, and an integral part of the banya experience is the venik – the bundle of tree branches and leaves that is used in the Parenie treatment. The Russian tradition of Parenie is an incredibly popular spa treatment that you can find at Banya No.1
But what exactly is the Parenie treatment, and how does the therapist use the venik to create such an amazing, unique banya experience?
We are here to answer all your questions about Parenie, in this complete guide to the venik. Below, we will look at:
Parenie is one of the oldest bathhouse massage treatments. It takes place in the steam room and is predominantly a massage of hot steam.
“Pardon?” you may say – but yes. Parenie is a treatment of massaging your body with steam, and it is the venik that is used that makes this possible.
The next question – what is a venik? Well, we will get to that as well, but first, let’s take a step back.
For a Parenie treatment, you lie down on a bench, usually face down, and have one or two therapists in the room with you. They then use bundles of leaves and small branches (the venik) to waft the hottest air down and across your body, to give you a steam massage. At the same time, they also use the leafy bundles to directly massage as well, which is a tremendous exfoliating treatment and leaves your skin feeling incredible. This is more skilled than it first sounds; the process needs to be done correctly, with the hot air driven around and across your body in the right way, by skilled professionals.
Venik massage, as it is also known, is a very intensive treatment, but surprisingly is not painful. It sounds like venik treatment is a beating with branches, but this is not the case. It is, however, hot and the steam wafts can feel like they are burning – but at the same time, it is very pleasurable. Certainly, an experience to be tried by all at some point, and if you are like most people, then you will find that once will not be enough!
Added to the physical treatment is the medicinal aroma of the leaves, as the oils are released from them by the heat of the steam. This is another aspect of the venik treatment that we will explore in more detail below, but the breathing of the vapours in a Parenie is also very therapeutic.
To help you keep your cool during the process, a ‘pillow’ of wetted leaves is provided, which helps your face and enhances the aromatics.
This process lasts around 10 minutes, which is enough, and is quite exhausting for the therapists working in the heat.
After just 10 minutes, you too will feel almost drowsy, even lightheaded, and certainly very relaxed after you have sweated out all your toxins in the treatment room.
After the intensity of the steam room, the therapist will guide you out and to the bucket shower. This is exactly what it sounds like, a large oak bucket filled with chilled water that is tipped over you. It is quite breathtaking and will definitely bring you back to yourself.
Finally, comes the plunge pool -the last part of the Parenie treatment. You climb into the chilly water and dunk your head under, emerging awake and refreshed and feeling completely unlike you have ever felt before, even euphoric.
Parenie treatment stimulates blood flow, improving circulation and increasing oxygen supply to the whole body. During the Parenie, your body is also releasing toxins through sweating. The intense heat, especially as it is guided around your body, triggers this release and the sweating carries the toxins away from your body.
At the same time, the brushing of your skin with the leaves does a brilliant job of exfoliating, gently scrubbing away your dead skin cells and leaving the renewed layers feeling soft and smooth. Parenie treatment also works on your muscles and joints, removing lactic acid from the body. It relaxes your muscles, produces endorphins, releases tension and thus can alleviate both muscle and joint pain.
While all this is taking place, the steam and venik opens and clears the respiratory system. This inhalation of the steam infusion unblocks your sinuses and helps free up your breathing. If eucalyptus venik is used, then this effect is enhanced even further.
Away from the steam room, the bucket shower and icy water plunge also impart physical and mental benefits. They certainly clear the mind, but also strengthen your immune system. The sudden cold shock causes the body to increase the production of white blood cells, as it believes it has a fever, and this is the natural response. This is how Parenie is such an effective treatment at the onset of a cold, for example.
To summarise, Parenie has benefits for the whole body and mind, leaving you refreshed and relaxed and feeling like new!
The classic Parenie is most commonly given using birch and oak veniks, but there are different types of branches that can be used. Each has its own particular benefits, depending on the volatile oils and flavonoids they contain.
Venik leaves and twigs release substances and essential oils during the treatment, and each one has a different effect on the body.
Birch leaves contain oils that have both antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, among others. Birch is a particularly fragrant aroma, and the health-giving oils are released when the leaves are in direct contact with hot water or steam.
Birch leaves are ideal for:
Oak leaves are wide and lightweight, making them perfect for moving steam around during a Parenie treatment. They provide a rich, welcoming leafy smell which immediately transports you into the forest, which is a great mental refresher in itself.
Oak leaves contain high amounts of water-soluble tannins, and make them perfect for:
Eucalyptus leaves are well-known for their sinus-clearing properties, thanks to their high concentration of volatile oils. Eucalyptus venik contains many antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, and is particularly beneficial for:
The traditional Russian banya is almost as old as time itself and is unchanged from when it first came about centuries ago. And it is still as popular today for the simple reason that it works.
Russian banya, and specifically Parenie and venik massage, imbues such incredible health benefits into the body that, once experienced, often becomes a regular feature in people’s lives. It really is a unique health experience that you will not find anywhere else.
Why not discover the rituals of the Russian Banya for yourself – and book your own Parenie banya experience at Banya No.1?