Who is an Aufgussmeister? Here’s the topic of our interview with Nicola Fabbianelli, representative for the Modern Aufguss of Aisa – Italian Association Saunas & Aufguss – and long-time external associate of Starpool.
Nicola has thorough experience in this sector: he has been a teacher at the Aufguss School at Cron4 in Riccione and manager at the JutaSpa Sauna Center in Trent. Among his various activities in the wellness sector, he has won numerous awards in The Auguss championships, and not only at national level, as proven by his 5th place in the 2011 World Championship.
Who better than him can present the characteristics of a good “sauna master” and reveal some secrets about the ritual?
The expert Nicola Fabianelli answered us in ten questions.
Who is the “sauna master” also known as Aufgussmeister?
“The Aufgussmeister is the operator in charge of the saunas – that is the person who welcomes the guests, presents the various possible options, explains the differences between the various types of equipment, and how to behave inside of a sauna, and, of course, he’s the one who performs the Aufguss rituals”.
How do you become a “sauna master” and what skills must you have?
“To become a “sauna master” it’s necessary to take one of the courses offered by the various associations and companies. Specifically, the most thorough course that provides you with the Aufgussmeister diploma is the the 40-hours course sponsorized by AISA. You can also take the 8- or 16-hours courses to become Spa Operator. In this case, the School of competence issues a certificate. The student can later complete the missing hours with AISA and have access to both the written and practical exam. No specific attitudes are required to attend the courses. Only a medical certificate attesting that you are of healthy and robust constitution is necessary.”
Is it a common practice worldwide?
“Over the last ten years, the Aufguss ritual has experienced a large expansion. Nowadays, it is performed everywhere in Europe and is more and more requested in hotel spas. Just think that the applications to participate in the courses are more and more numerous and about a thousand Aufgussmeister have been trained in Italy since 2011.”
What is an Aufguss ritual about?
“I like explaining it like this: when you see a classic Aufguss for the first time, it reminds you of the rituals that used to be performed by the Indians. They threw herbs on the flames, and the fumes that arose were considered a tribute to the Gods to honor and thank them for their protection. The Aufguss ritual is very similar. The “sauna master” pours scented water or ice balls on the stove. The vapors rise thanks to the movements performed with the towel and are directed to the people sitting in the sauna. This causes an increased perception of the heat – starting a great perspiration of the skin through the pores and abundant sweating.”
What is the purpose of essential oils and why are they mixed with ice?
“Essential oils are first of all a pampering trick, a sensory involvement, something that captures the guest’s attention. The music and the harmonic movements of the towel have the same goal. In this way you can divert the attention from the heat and the fatigue that our body is experiencing in a cabin with an average temperature of 90° C. The essential oils are also used to thematize the ritual and offer even more benefits to the guests. Proof of this is the fact that the preferred oils have mainly relaxing, energizing and balsamic properties.”
What technical characteristics must a sauna have in order to perform a ritual at best?
“The biggest the sauna, the best you can perform the ritual, of course. It’s wrong to consider a sauna suitable only because of the many available seats – what should be evaluated instead is the room available for the Aufgussmeister to move. Height is also a very important factor: 235-240 centimetres is the minimum height to allow the Aufgussmeister to move the towel harmoniously.
The location of the stove, however, is only partially important. A central stove with a distance of 110-120 centimetres from the benches is obviously ideal because it allows the Aufgussmeister to perform freely around the cabin and move enough air towards the guests. However, even a wall stove with a front space of 3-4 sqm is a good alternative.”
Why do the guests like it so much?
“The ability and competence of an Aufgussmeister is that of being able to catch the attention of the guests through rituals that are always new, engaging them on a spiritual level, yes, but mostly an emotional one. As we can imagine, the Aufguss ritual offers people all the benefits of the Finnish sauna, but not only that. It reaches the soul as well, thanks to the music, the atmosphere created with lights (dim and colorful) and the flowing movements of the dance performed by the sauna master.”
What is the right position and behavior to maintain during an Aufguss ritual?
“The guest must follow precise rules inside the sauna, and not only during the Aufguss ritual: no bathing suit or clothes in synthetic fabric or microfiber towels (a good alternative to that is a light cotton towel called peshtemal – READ HERE); sitting and resting the back entirely on the towel, without leaning against the wooden benches; trying to maintain a relaxed position, that is also appropriate in the context – that is, avoiding ambiguous position; and respecting the silence. Fun fact: during the Aufguss ritual, it’s possible to see some people raising their arms in the air. This is a request to the sauna master to have more hot air in that direction. Have you ever seen people wearing a hat in the sauna? It is used to protect the head from the intense heat and be able to stay longer inside the cabin.”
How many rituals can an Aufgussmeister physically sustain in a day?
“The number one task of the Aufgussmeister is to provide wellbeing to the guests. I, for instance, always try to compare our role to that of a beautician: the first massage is always the one where you use more energy, more focus and more attention; the more massages are performed throughout the day, the less intensity we are able to give our guests. A trained sauna master can perform an average of three or four rituals a day – even better if spaced apart with a pause of about 90 minutes.”
Is it important for a spa to have an Aufgussmeister?
“I can say that nowadays the Spa Operator and Aufgussmeister are crucial. The clients themselves are no longer unprepared: they know about the Aufguss ritual, both for personal experience and word of mouth. It is essential to make the guest feel cared for and pampered.
In the North and centre of Italy, it is now common to move away from the big cities to spend some weekends a year in wellness centers or spas which offer various treatments. Rituals can be integrated in packages together with massages, scrubs or even combined with food&beverage options. In this way, the guests can live a structured Wellness experience, which will result in economic benefits for the facility as well.”