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There are many different types of bathing that use steam instead of water. There are several types of steam bathing systems, including steam baths, steam showers, Russian banya, and Turkish hammam. Steam baths are very similar to saunas, but they differ in the fact that steam baths depend on steam as well as heat, while saunas mostly rely on the heat in order to induce sweating.
Steam baths and steam showers both use steam, but they are slightly different. Steam baths are very communal. Steam showers are a smaller version of that with the similar commodities to an ordinary bathroom shower.
In order to prevent the steam from escaping and wrecking the drywall, paint, or wallpaper, steam showers are taken in enclosed stalls. These enclosures can be made out of tile, acrylic, fiberglass, stone, or wood.
A banya is a traditional Russian steam bath. Banya buildings vary in size. Some of them are very large with multiple rooms, while others are more similar to wooden cabins. Banyas usually have an entrance room, a washing room, and a steam room. Bathers first go through the entrance room, where they can hang their clothes on pegs and rest on benches.
They then proceed to the washing room, where they can clean themselves. The tap water is heated using the stove from the steam room. There is also usually a separate tap or basin filled with cold water so the bathers can mix the water for their ideal temperature.
It is believed that sweating before entering the steam room protects the skin from the steam; so many bathers use the hot water to instigate sweat in the washing room. Unlike the public bath houses of other cultures, there are usually no traditional hot tubs in a banya building.
A Hammam Bathtubs, is a Middle Eastern version of the steam bath. Hammam play an important role as areas of social gathering and ritual cleansing. The bathers first go through the warm room, an area that is heated with warm, dry, air. They sit there and perspire before moving on to the hot room, which is even more heated than the warm room.
They then splash themselves with cold water before washing themselves and getting massages. After that, they rest in the cooling room. However, since more homes are acquiring private showers and bathtubs, hammams are receiving fewer customers during modern times.
Steam baths were very popular among ancient Greeks and Romans. A Greek or Roman steam bath is called a Laconia. These baths were kept in a circular room with a large domed roof. Some Laconia lit fires underneath the floor in order to heat the room. Others used the fire to heat rocks.
The hot rocks would be placed (using a pitchfork) into a dish in the middle of the room. In order to create steam, the bath attendants would pour cold water onto the burning hot rocks. Sometimes the leaves, oils, or essences would be added to the steam for therapeutic purposes.