"Aufguss is the highlight in large saunas"

An interview with multiple German Aufguss champion Udo Mohr

Aufguss is translated as infusion in English and is a sauna ritual. Water or ice mixed with essential oils is poured onto the hot stones. The resulting steam is waved at the guests through complicated towel movements.

In a traditional sauna, a sauna master is the one who waves the towels and raises the heat. He is also the one responsible for making sure guests feel the experience is special and that they receive the maximum amount of relaxation.

Corona also has the sauna world firmly in its grip. With a three-month break in the summer of 2020, public saunas in Germany have been closed for over a year. We spoke to Mr Mohr, the sauna master of the Waldschwimmbad Neu-Isenburg. Despite the situation, he is cheerfully optimistic and eager for a reopening. Because, he says, “I get so many messages and enquiries about when we’ re going to reopen. In these difficult times, when pressure and stress are on a different level, I want to give our guests at least something.” A people person, you can tell.

Today we asked a little bit more about Aufguss. And we were able to learn from the expert about this topic and a few others:

Hello Mr Mohr, you are a sauna master. At the moment all the public saunas are closed, how are you?

Last year, when the pandemic started, all the saunas were closed, then it went well for another three months, and now everything has been closed again practically since the end of October 2020. We try to make the best of it, like many others.

You are a multiple German Aufguss champion. In other words, you’re a man of the trade. Can you give people a few tips? First of all, what is Aufguss, what do you do it for?

Yes, the Aufguss is the highlight in large saunas, you do it at the end of a sauna session. That is, people sweat and then when the skin is wet, you try with the towel to pull down the so-called adhesive layer* or insulation layer from the body. For this is a very pleasant feeling. Especially if it is not done too forcefully, but delicately. At these temperatures it is pleasant to be touched by a light wind. And visitors just enjoy that.

Does this feel hotter in the moment?

Yes, because it works with a lot of humidity. This is of course due to the heat in the room. Therefore, one is initially hit by a warm sweep. After that, it is still very pleasant. It also always depends on the amount of water that is being worked with. Because some people always think that a lot of water is always good. But I believe that if you can create a lot with little water, it is much more pleasant for guests.

Who taught you how to an Aufguss?

When I started back then, I had very good sauna masters who were already quite far in this area for that time. Naturally, I learned a lot from them. But then I thought that maybe I could improve a bit on what they were showing me. So I always tried to keep working on it. I always practiced in front of the mirror at home. My wife scolded me for raising all the dust from the closet, but that’s how I worked my way in.

Are there actually different techniques?

Yes, of course, there are many techniques. The standard ones. For example, there was a sauna master in South Tyrol who did helicopter waving (the helicopter with the towel over the head). Or there is the pizza waving, which is so very trendy at the moment.

In addition, there are, of course, a lot of Aufguss utensils that are also used. For example, in Erding. Here, they work with the flag in the large sauna. The fan also belongs to it, of course, or a ring. But these are many things that have been copied from the past. For example, Mr. Danter (“Well-being Guide of Europe”) already had a large Frisbee disc back then. It was later adopted by others who still use it today for their Aufguss.

And what do you like to use?

I think I now use everything and change through. After all, it must not become too one-sided. The guests want variety. And I’m sure if we’re allowed to open again, people will come just to enjoy. I think there is a lot of pent-up demand. Commercial saunas are also a meeting point for communication. That’s missing now. Many people always visit on the same days, meet there, know each other and form groups. If private saunas are used, as they are now, then the family is there. That’s something completely different.

Good point, what is it like in a private sauna? Can you also make an Aufguss there?

For personal use, I would probably do less, because private saunas are usually way too small. They often have only 2-3 m². This means that an infusion is certainly made, but the towel for the air movement is omitted. In any case, the heat usually comes down on its own. Because when a ladle is poured on, the heat immediately accumulates. You notice that without having to move the air.

You also have separate men’s or women’s saunas. Do they differ in that respect?

Yes! Women usually don’t like it quite so hot. Of course, there are differences in individual cases. But in principle you can say: women like rituals. For example, with peelings or with singing bowls. Men, on the other hand, like to have a bit of rock music in the background and like it hotter.

We dare a fragrance manufacturer. Is it possible to increase the fragrance sensation in the sauna without increasing the dosage?

Of course! When it comes to dosage, less is often more. If overdosed, it can also be unpleasant or burn the eyes. This should be handled with care. Switching between fragrance concentrates and the oils is also often difficult. I do love the concentrates as well, because one can play with them. For example: A nice mint scent that brings the cooling effect on the skin is something great. But also the classic fragrances, such as lemon balm or citric scents are used constantly. Especially in the commercial sector. When the door is opened and then people stand in front of the sauna and still smell the fragrance, that is already an incentive.

You are a multiple German Aufguss champion. How one become such?

II came to it practically like a virgin to a child. At that time I had just started to perform Aufgüsse (infusions). One of our group said that there was a championship and asked who wanted to participate. Actually, it was just to see how we would do. That was in 2004 in Hannover at the aquaLaatzium. So I went there without any expectations together with a colleague. The competition consisted of three different techniques: the normal Aufguss, the banya sauna (the particularly hot, Russian sauna) thus the birch tassel sauna (Eastern Europe and Russia), plus an Aufguss that could be freely invented. Before the final round, I was in third place. Then all three Aufgüsse were to be worked through again, other characteristics were evaluated. In that round, I slipped from third to first place. That’s how I got my first title. After that, there was no championship for many years. In 2012 and 2014, the “Sauna, Wellness and Health Center” in Erzhausen near Darmstadt hosted the championship, both of which I won. At that time, however, there was not yet as much hype about it as there is at the moment. In the meantime there is a lot of fuss about the championship. Nowadays, more attention is paid to the show than to the health aspect. In my opinion, this aspect has been lost. Because it is only about how the towel is waved, thrown in and caught again. The health effect that sauna brings and that sauna is also for wellbeing and not just for show, that’s no longer a point.

Finally, we would be interested to know: Do you enjoy visiting the sauna to relax?

Yes, of course! If my time permits, I also like to lie down in the sauna for half an hour. Maybe with a good fragrance and some music in the background. I can close my eyes then and enjoy it extensively.

Thank you for the interview, Mr. Mohr!

Udo Mohr has been giving training courses for sauna personnel for 15 years. If you are interested in a contact, we will be happy to arrange it for you. A short letter via our contact form is sufficient.

*Adhesive layer [editor’s note]: The adhesive layer is a thin layer of air that surrounds all stationary or motionless objects. In principle, it serves to insulate the skin. This thin layer of air tears and is whirled away during the so-called Aufguss. This allows the even hotter room air to reach the body and the heat of the steam blast is felt even more intensely.

The same principle (of the whirled away adhesive layer) causes us to perceive cool weather as more uncomfortable when there is wind. This is similar in the sauna, except that the air layer protects the skin from the heat effect of the hot air (convection). Waving a towel intentionally removes it to achieve the above effect.