A banya is traditionally a Russian-Eastern Slavic steam bath heated by a birch wood stove. It is considered an important part of Russian culture, with ancient Slavic and Finno-Urgic roots. Bathing in a banya takes place in a small room or building build of wood, designed for dry or wet heat sessions. The steam and high heat make the bathers relax and perspire; bundles of birch branches are used to gently stimulate muscles and enliven circulation. A variety of soaps, oils, and brushes add to the spa effect. The most important accouterment is a felt banya cap! Bathers alternate between time in the steaming banya and jumping into cold water pools -- snacking and chatting in-between! Throughout Russian history, the banya was used by all social classes within Russian society, including villagers and noble people. Communal banyas were very common in villages and towns, and continue to be popular as public and private institutions today!