Rudding Park to host UK Aufguss championships

Sauna masters will gather on April 25-26 hoping for the chance to go on to the world championships in Germany later in the year


By Wendy Golledge

15 December 2022

The inaugural UK Aufguss Championships are set to take place at Rudding Park in Harrogate, North Yorkshire from April 25-26, 2023.

Rudding Park was the the first UK spa to introduce aufguss, a multi-sensory sauna ritual where an ‘aufguss master’ works with water and a towel, using techniques to circulate heat throughout the sauna.

The winners will go on to represent the UK in the Aufguss World Championships at Satama Sauna resort, Germany between September 11-17, 2023.

Aufguss explained

There are two types of aufguss – performance and wellbeing. The championships will focus on performance, combining key elements including heat, essential oils, lighting and music.

The art of aufguss is a ritual derived from native Americans but it was the Germans who introduced the concept into spas. It’s widely recognised as a leading wellness practice across Europe.

Designed to enhance the benefits of a sauna session by heightening endorphins and serotonin levels, the Aufguss ritual leaves guests feeling mentally and physically revived.

Benefits range from a meditative state of mind to improved cardiovascular strength, a boosted the immune system and alleviated pain.

"We are thrilled to be hosting this prestigious event. Art of Aufguss champion Lay Pang Ong (pictured top) is well regarded as a pioneer of sauna reinvention and helped train the Rudding Park team to allow us to bring a sense of theatre to the sauna."

Sarah Johnson

Head of spa at Rudding Park

“It’s an experience we have been offering to our guests for a number of years now and, together with the British Sauna Society we are keen to increase awareness of the ritual,” continues Johnson.

“At Rudding Park we offer aufguss as a new wellness experience for our guests, on a complimentary basis. Even five years in we’re still educating new guests who have never experienced it before – it’s a USP for us.

“From January 2023 we will be offering three different aufguss experiences a day, almost like a treatment menu for aufguss – an uplifting session to enliven people in the morning, a more wellness focussed, meditative session in the afternoons and in the evening more of performance experience.”

The Banya Whisk sauna ritual

The ‘whisk’ technique originated in Russia where the venik, or banya as it is often known, (a bundle of leafy tree twigs) is used to draw the maximum amount of heat and steam to a person’s body whilst using the whisk to massage the body.

“We will use sauna whisks made from eucalyptus, oak or birch branches rather than towels to move the heated air around the sauna,” says Johnson.

Aufguss at Rudding Park Spa
Rudding Park offers aufguss as a new wellness experience for guests

“Traditionally sauna whisks are used on the body of the guest to get the wellness benefit but we’ve adapted it to be more inclusive in a communal space.”

Just before the massage commences, the soaked whisk is placed on hot stones for a few seconds on each side. Guests can be standing, sitting, or lying down when receiving the whisking massage and the whisking techniques and their intensity can be adapted to suit the guest.


Banya Whisk treatment at Rudding Park
A master of aufguss will often wear a woollen 'sauna hat' that helps them to perform the ritual for longer

Open to all

Entry is open to those employed as a master of aufguss in a spa facility, and also to members of the public, providing they have undertaken the training course to master the classical aufguss prior to the championships.

Deborah Carr, an aufguss training provider from Anada Spa and Wellness, who is championing the aufguss revolution in the UK, said: “The 2022 Aufguss World Championship in the Netherlands drew 68 participants from 13 countries.

“The prospect of seeing UK entrants at the World Championships 2023 is hugely exciting and will really help increase awareness of the many benefits of aufguss.”

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