After navigating my way through Latham in the snow and ice, I found myself at The Salt Den. The holistic halotherapy, or salt therapy, space is meant to improve respiratory and skin conditions and promote a good night’s sleep. Stepping away from the dense gray of the February late afternoon, I stripped off my boots and socks and stepped into an ancient salt cave in the Himalayan mountains.
The space feels otherworldly. It’s dark and cool (though if you get too cold, there are blankets provided) and in spaces of the ceiling, twinkling lights mimic a remote night sky devoid of any light pollution. This cave takes you out of Latham, out of the Capital Region, out of your familiar space if you let it, but there is still an air of artificiality here. What does feel real is the 70,000 pounds of pure, pink Himalayan rock salt under my feet.
Blocks of salt brick the walls, they’re piled up in a fireplace and salt lamps are placed around the 350 sq. foot room to offer a dim source of light. All of this salt–plus the pharmaceutical grade salt being intermittently dispersed in the air–is meant to help cleanse the respiratory system and rejuvenate skin. Despite the acute awareness of my salty surroundings, there’s no overpowering smell in the air during the session–not even a refreshing, familiar ocean scent. The only evidence of its presence in the air is the faint, building taste in the back of my throat that stuck around for hours after leaving.
Once settled into the room, alone and kicking my feet around in the salt, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself.
I’ve meditated before, in brief and semi-active moments like the closing corpse pose, or savasana, of a yoga practice. There’s an intention, a mission if you will, something to focus your thoughts on. When it comes to just sitting in a room and “being present” — I’m a bit out of practice. The longest I’ve ever sit still, quiet and undistracted was a 10-minute breathing practice led by a teacher, so a 45-minute solo adventure was something I was ill-prepared for, as the therapy session in The Salt Den is essentially self-led.
There is a short introductory statement that comes over the speakers as you enter the room and a closing statement as you’re instructed to leave. But those, say, 44 minutes and 40 seconds in between? Nothing but prerecorded lulling waves and the occasional seagull paired with instrumentals that sounded exactly like the score of Law and Order as the prosecutors make their closing arguments. Vaguely unsettling.
Though, that might have been from my innate inability to relax. I sat in the salt for a while, burying my legs, stretching out and making small piles. When I caught sight of the security camera by the door, I immediately became self-conscious and climbed into one of the dozen pool chairs along the wall. At about 25 minutes in, I finally closed my eyes, leaning back deeply as the chair reclined. Suddenly it was as if I could feel my skin expanding and compressing with every breath. Over the speakers, gentle waves rolled in and out and with my toes in the grainy salt, I could almost imagine I was on a beach.
For those of you who need something to focus on for lengthy meditation sessions, yogis will tell you that breathing should be your go-to. They’re right. Listening to the steady inhales and exhales, it felt easy to focus my thoughts in one quiet place. When I opted to open my eyes, the slow pulse of the glowing salt lamps matched my breathing and I was on the verge of a really great nap. Before I knew it, a voice came over the speakers announcing that the session was over.
As for the results of the single session, my respiratory system and skin felt generally the same. I did a rough job rehydrating so a headache was on my horizon but most interestingly, the good night’s sleep I was promised morphed itself into a night of near-lucid dreaming. Overall, the halotherapy session was a solid practice in meditation and quiet–learning how to calm a racing mind–if just for 45 minutes.
Try it for yourself by booking a session ($35) at nysaltden.com or call (518) 785-SALT (7258)