Woman enjoying the benefits of relaxing sauna at Ritual Nordic Spa

A Healthy Way to Manage Stress

Life can be stressful, and finding healthy ways to better manage stress can be game changing. Many people have been discovering hot and cold contrast therapy, a practice where you challenge your body (and mind) to do something that it doesn’t normally do. It’s not easy to go willingly into a cold body of water right after being in a really hot space. But by doing so, you become more resilient to stress in your world, by showing yourself that you can handle this simple act of stress itself.

Discover the Benefits of Hot Cold Therapy

There are some great studies on this, particularly by Dr. Rhonda Patrick who looks at the benefits of sauna and cold immersion.

Enjoy the benefits of hot and cold therapy - group of people sitting in sauna while a man takes a cold therapeutic shower

Practicing hot cold therapy – moving your body between hot elements (such as sauna) and cold elements (such a cold water) – can offer many positive effects on the health of both mind and body.  

Physical Benefits of Contrast Therapy
– Increased circulation
– Strengthened immune system
– Improvement for endurance exercise
– Elevated heart rate and related cardio benefits
– Reduced inflammation
– Better sleep

Mental/Hormonal Benefits
Looking for a quick mood boost? Contrast therapy can trigger a release of positive hormones. Regular practice can offer longterm benefits affecting mood and mental energy. Alternating between hot and cold exposure stimulates hormone behavior such as:
– The storage and release of norepinephrine, improving attention and focus.
– Increase in prolactin, which helps your brain function faster by enhancing myelination and repair of damaged neurons.
– Encourages growth of new brain cells, improving the ability to retain new info, and lessening certain types of depression and anxiety.
– An increase in dynorphin, which results in your body becoming more sensitive to the benefits of the release of endorphins.

Social Benefits
We have long known that humans benefit and thrive from social connection. However busy lifestyles in the urban world frequently resort to digital tools that connect us in some ways but disconnect us in others. There is a need to be with and physically gather with other people. The social, communal element of a saunahouse offers this opportunity for connection, often with others who you might otherwise not cross paths with.

Still Curious About Sauna Plus Cold Plunge? Read on…

“One of the most common reactions to taking a sauna is that it simply seems to make people feel better. As it turns out, there are some measurable scientific reasons behind that.

Two men relaxing in a hot sauna, a technique for encouraging healthy dopamine release at Ritual Nordic SpaSauna exposure causes a significant release of Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, and Beta-Endorphin, a neuropeptide hormone. These substances cause a sense of euphoria, as well as improved mood, energy, sense of calm, and pain tolerance. The level of endorphins released during sauna bathing can be three times normal, similar to a middle distance training run. This “runners’ high” that occurs can be somewhat addictive and may affect regular sauna users in the same way it affects regular exercisers.

Sleep is also improved after a sauna, with some research showing longer stage 4 sleep, which provides a deeper, more restful sleep and healthier dream activity. Sleep affects so many other aspects of health, including mood, immune function, and ability to handle stress, that this alone would seem to suggest a significant health benefit from regular sauna use.

The psychosocial aspects of group activity such as sauna bathing may also be an important part of the health benefits of sauna. Social connection, sharing with friends and feeling a part of a community, as well as the personal nature of conversation that is fostered in the sauna, all play parts in the cultural validity of group sweating that has existed in so many cultures over time.”

SOURCE: The North American Sauna Society

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Growing up in Canada with Finnish heritage and sauna culture

Hi! Or Hei as they say in Finland –

I’m Marci, a Canadian girl who learned a lot from my Finnish Grandma. Especially how much fun it is to introduce friends and new people to the fun of doing sauna. And by sauna I mean cold plunge too since going from hot into the cold is where the fun begins!

I grew up doing sauna with my Grandma at her cottage by the lake, and assuming everyone’s Grandma had a sauna too. In my teens, my friends came to visit they tried it too—first out of curiosity and then it became the fun thing to do. They loved it—even the ones who insisted they hated getting hot and didn’t like to sweat. Running into the cold lake was the icing on the cake. As I grew up and travelled, I sought out a sauna wherever we went. I craved the hot+cold contrast that comes with a sauna plus a cold plunge, cold lake, cold shower, or even jumping in a pile of snow.

In 2022 I opened RITUAL Nordic Spa, an urban saunahouse in downtown Victoria BC so that others can discover and enjoy these experiences.

Sauna-curious? Read on…

As we roll into 2023, there is much buzz around wellness. You may have heard of ” sober curious”, an exploration of living an alcohol free lifestyle. Or perhaps you are trying a “dry January” (or even a “dry-ish” one!) when we give our bodies a break from a decadent December. At RITUAL we propose the perfect complement to these and other healthy choices. We encourage you to be sauna-curious and cold plunge-curious this month and discover the many benefits of hot cold contrast.

Owner of Ritual Nordic Spa, Marcia standing at the entrance of the Sauna Circuit at Ritual Nordic Spa

 What can I expect during my first visit to RITUAL Nordic Spa?

Our main offering is the 2 hour Nordic Circuit, a self-directed journey through elements of hot, cold and relax. You decide how long to stay in each step, choosing from traditional Finnish sauna, steam room, cold plunge pool, Nordic bucket shower, Himalayan salt lounge, and outdoor patios to relax on. RITUAL is not a “silent” spa… We are based on the traditional Finnish-style social saunahouse where it’s fine to chat with friends or fellow sauna-goers.

All you need to bring is a bathing suit and water bottle, and we provide the rest—locker, robes (if desired) and a fun licensed café to relax in after your circuit. Our Nordic Circuit Hosts are present to share their knowledge of hot and cold therapy, and guide you if you’re new to sauna or cold plunge. We also have a massage wing with RMTs on staff, as well as private sauna suites for booking.

Why are people SO into this?

During Covid I noticed how people were trying cold plunge as a recovery practice for sports or dance. It went from being freaky—standing in the ocean or a bucket of ice water—to being an accepted thing. I think Wim Hof (the Iceman) helped the awareness grow too.

I think the flow of city living also makes gathering with others for a wellness experience appealing. When I heard about smaller, modern, urban sauna houses and bathhouses being built in cities like Brooklyn, Asheville, Portland, and even Calgary, I knew that Victoria BC deserved its own urban saunahouse too.

What’s the vibe like?

Our goal was to create a space that was friendly and “delightfully unpretentious” like a ski lodge. Where other guests welcome you inside on a cold winter day, even if they have never met you. RITUAL uses streamlined Finnish design elements — wood, water and wool, and a Nordic palette that focuses on form and function — to make it feel like it could be a spa in Helsinki, Oslo or Stockholm. Even the snacks and beverages in the café have a Scandinavian hint to them!

Certain days and nights have a different vibe. Fridays are very social in the circuit as a fun thing to do (read: date night!) before couples and groups of friends go out into the city for a meal or drinks. Wednesday is Women-only 5-9 pm and very social as well; whereas Sunday mornings are quieter, with classical music.

Customers enjoying their time at Ritual Nordic Spa's sauna circuit

Social or Silent?  Do I have to talk to people?

RITUAL is a social saunahouse—not a quiet or silent spa—so people chat with each other in the sauna or salt lounge. That said, it’s a fairly quiet atmosphere usually and many guests come alone and enjoy the peacefulness. There is no requirement to talk. And for sure there is no physical contact in any way.

I’m a bit nervous about getting in my bathing suit…

The RITUAL guest experience is a digital and phone-free space, with very few mirrors.  That was intentional to create a freedom. We can take a break and experience a true moment of being in our bodies, without wondering how we look in a bathing suit. We believe in body neutrality (which is a bit different than body positivity). This philosophy is based on the idea of valuing your body as an instrument for moving through the world, rather than as an ornament for being seen. This resonates well with guests.

Who Goes There? Who Will I Meet?

With the goal to be an inclusive, welcoming space for all people, design was guided by the idea of “urban, sporty Nordic” that could encompass all expressions of gender, more in line with a gym or recreation centre than a typical luxury spa. In our first year we have met a wonderful mix of folks of all ages (tho we are limited to 18+). Experience levels range from “sauna curious” first timers, to those who LOVE sauna and cold plunge, and find it essential to their lives each week.

Who you might meet in our main sauna circuit changes every day—we are as popular with locals as with visitors to Victoria, plus our Cold Plunge Club members who visit regularly. We have become a hot spot for athletes who love the therapeutic aspects of contrast therapy. We also get a lot of mother/daughter dates, and couples or groups of workmates coming in before a night out. Some people enjoy the Nordic Circuit as their “reward” after a long week or a challenging yoga class. Being tucked into a private alley right in downtown Victoria, people often visit on the way home from work or after the gym, combined with downtown errands, or while staying at a nearby hotel. 

How much does it cost?

With a weekday circuit for $59 or weekend $69, our price point makes RITUAL a nice addition to the local spa landscape. We are priced in the middle between the high-end luxury spas and the local recreation centres. People find they can afford to visit weekly or monthly and build us into their lives rather than having to save up and visit once a year.

How do I give it a try?

You can book online here on our website, selecting your desired date and time. If you have any questions or need assistance, give us a call at 778-440-9009.

See you in the sauna! XOXO


Finland Tops World Happiness Report for Fifth Time in a Row

For the fifth year in a row, Finland landed the #1 ranking as the happiest country in the world in the 2022 World Happiness Report. And it’s in good company with other Nordic companies appearing in the top 8. It’s an interesting time to be thinking about happiness as the world faces distressing challenges such as COVID recovery and war. Perhaps by exploring the elements that contribute to this ranking, some light can be shed on how to build happiness in other countries—their structures, policies and actions.

The report—now in its tenth year—comes out of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. And while the topic might seem “light”, this group takes data gathering seriously. The report relies on global survey data to report on how people evaluate their own lives in more than 150 countries around the world.

Top 10 Happiest Countries in the World

According to the report rankings, the top 10 countries are as follows:

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. The Netherlands
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Sweden
  8. Norway
  9. Israel
  10. New Zealand
    (Canada lands at 15)

What Goes into the Ranking?

The report measures well-being based on three factors: life evaluations, positive emotions and negative emotions, paying specific attention to daily emotions. It looks at data from the Gallup World Poll, which asks people to evaluate their current life, from 10 to zero, with 10 being the best possible life, and zero being the worst.

The study maps average life evaluation per country and explains the results by six factors: dystopia, perceptions of corruption, generosity, freedom to make life changes, life expectancy, social support and GDP per capita. It aims to measure overall contentedness with life while at the same, comparing it to data gathered in previous years. Three years of data go into the calculations – the 2022 edition used answers from 2019 to 2021 to calculate the 2022 rankings.

Photo by Eric Ward

Can Happiness be “Structured” into Place?

The report claims there are identifiable key determinants of wellbeing that can inform the policies that countries, cities and town create to help achieve happier societies. People in Finland and elsewhere understand that contentment and satisfaction don’t just occur. You have to construct and maintain the culture and the social institutions that form the basis and framework for individuals and communities to build their happiness.

For example, Finland with the rest of the Nordics supports democratic governance and human rights. Education and healthcare are available for free, or nominal cost. They also know that balance is part of the happiness equation: in one section of the report, researchers examine data from a separate global survey about balance and harmony to look at how they relate to happiness. In that survey, 90.4 percent of Finnish respondents deemed their lives to be “in balance,” a top result matched only by Malta. Many in Finland see access to parks and wilderness as an important part of their lives. We also know that many in the Finnish culture prioritize wellness, community, and of course spend a lot of time in the sauna!

finnish people prioritize wellness and sauna

Factoring Values into the Picture

Finland’s repeated success in the World Happiness Report can be attributed to factors that show up in other reports, indexes and international comparisons. Finland is considered the world’s most stable and least corrupt country, ranks highly in good governance and in political and civil freedom and ranks second in press freedom, second in gender equality, third in children’s rights and fourth in education. It tops the Sustainable Development Index and the Work-Life Balance Index, and places third in the EU Social Justice Index. Finland is also the EU country where people express the most trust in each other.

It’s difficult to process happiness when tragically unhappy things are occurring in the world, and Finland faces its own challenges this year on the global stage. The World Happiness Report offers a moment to glimpse what happiness can mean to a nation or a people, and provides an annual opportunity to think about the elements that shape it. We hope, for other nations too.

Better than book club! Bring your bathing suit. Turning every Wednesday night into Women’s Night.


We’re setting aside one night a week to offer women-only urban wellness inspired by the classic Scandinavian sauna tradition. A chance to decompress and relax in the middle of the week with female-only time in the spa. Join us for our signature, self-directed 2 hour Nordic Circuit, some great tunes, and in future – options to chat with a women’s wellness expert after the circuit. Another important part of Wellness Wednesdays for Women is giving back. A portion of WWW circuit sales are donated to  local charities working to improve the lives of women and girls. 

women only spa use Victoria BC


RITUAL Nordic Spa, Victoria’s newly opened modern sauna house located downtown at 989 Johnson Street. RITUAL reimagines the hot/cold/relax circuit for our busy lives, by offering a modern sauna experience in a delightfully unpretentious, urban setting. Bathing suits required: we follow a “suits on, phones off” policy. 


Each Wednesday evening from 5-9 pm, starting March 16. Reservations required. Online booking for the 2 hour Nordic Circuit available on the half hour, with the last booking time at 7:00pm. Four spaces available in each “wave.” Book for a group or yourself – solo visitors welcome. 


Open to women 18 and older, including those who identify as female (includes cis and trans individuals identifying as female). We have three changerooms, towels, water, lockers, plus robe and sandals, if desired. 


We’ve heard from you that Victoria needs more lovely spaces where women of all cultures can relax together, in the name of wellness. (We’re inspired by Crystal Pool, where they’ve been offering women-only swim slots for years.) In European cultures, women have gathered in the spa for centuries. Whether for cultural preference, personal comfort, or a chance to socially connect with other women – we think it’s a new Ritual worth trying in Victoria.  

RITUAL Nordic Spa aims to provide a comfortable, welcoming environment for women / those who identify as women, to experience the Nordic spa circuit, and reduce barriers or concerns when trying something new. As part of creating this space, we maintain an atmosphere of body neutrality: the growing movement that believes the best life is one lived without having to think too much about our bodies one way or another, positive or negative. Every body is amazing. Guests focus instead on health, wellness, and how great the feeling can be, when you move through the hot+cold+relax cycle of the Nordic Circuit.

outdoor spa patio with firetable for Ritual Nordic Spa guests

The RITUAL Nordic Circuit starts at $59 for a mid-week visit or $69 on weekends. Regular guests can choose one of the series passes starting at $160 for three visits or a monthly Cold Plunge Club special at $184/month. 

Check out our hours of operation and book online, or for more information call 778-440-9009.
RITUAL Nordic Spa observes all provincial public health guidelines. Read our policies.