Visiting a Salt Cave to Improve My Asthma
On a recent trip to Williamsburg, Virginia I visited a salt spa. Along with the typical spa services such as massages (and not so typical float tanks), they offered salt inhalation therapy sessions in a salt room or "cave." I had been years before but felt it was time for another visit.
The benefits of salt inhalation therapy.
Salt therapy, which has been around since the 1800’s, claims to benefit many conditions, including allergies, asthma, and respiratory tract inflammation, along with emphysema, sinusitis, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, COPD, high blood pressure, depression, hypothyroidism and a weakened immune system. Continued sessions are recommended to see long-term results.
The salt cave model.
This spa is modeled after the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland. According to its brochure, the salt cave I visited contains over 15 imported therapeutic salts from Poland and Pakistan to create a unique micro-climate rich in minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, bromide and iodine. The temperature inside the salt cave is a comfortable 75 degrees with humidity at 40% - 50%. It is these physical and biological conditions that claim to have a positive impact on health, and are almost identical to the Wieliczka mine.
The salt cave experience.
When you enter the spa you are seated in a prep room with wood benches and lockers underneath. There are no outside items allowed in the salt cave other than bottles of water, so bags and cells phones are stored in the lockers (I did manage to sneak a picture before locking up my phone). Shoes comes off and you are given a pair of white booties to cover your feet. Up to 10 guests are escorted into the cave. The floor and walls are covered in salt. The cutouts on the walls hold Himalayan salt lamps that provide warm light and a relaxing glow. The ceiling is not covered in salt but it looks like it is.
Two steps into the cave and I was hit with the smell of salty air. It wasn’t overpowering, just noticeable. We took our seats on the zero gravity lounge chairs with blankets. The suggestion from our friendly host was to recline, cover with a blanket, and relax. There was gentle music playing and the sound of water flowing through the two water features.
We were offered ear plugs to drown out any “bodily noises” others might make, such as coughing or snoring. Tissues were passed out since the salt air could have a drying effect. Our host dimmed the lights and left the room. I was very aware that I was completely unplugged and didn’t quite know what to do.
Fully reclined in my lounge chair I closed my eyes and started to breathe deeply. I inhaled and exhaled through my nose. The stress of my travel to the east coast and work disappeared. I had no thoughts other than “breathe in - hold - breathe out” - and then I realized - I was meditating. Successfully meditating. Something I’ve always had trouble doing. When thoughts popped into my head I just let them float by and went back to concentrating on my breath.
After 45 minutes the lights came back up slowly, and we were gently awakened from our experience. All of the participants woke up and exited in complete silence. I think everyone wanted to stay in their relaxed state as long as possible. Our host offered water and wipes to remove residual salt from our bodies.
I was quickly asked, “do you feel a difference in your lungs?” I did feel I could breathe deeper, but was uncertain if that was from the salt air, the meditative breathing, deep relaxation or a combo of all three. I felt wonderful.
It’s been a week since my visit to the salt spa and my lungs are still feeling pretty good. However, when I returned home to California the air quality was (and remains) poor due to the wildfires. Everything is covered with ash and smells like fire. I’m hoping the salt inhalation therapy was a precautionary measure that may help avoid a serious asthma episode.
With only two visits many years apart, I cannot say if the salt inhalation therapy provided in a salt cave will help improve asthma. However, it doesn’t seem to hurt asthma, and the relaxation and meditative benefits of the session may help improve overall health, and in turn, asthma. Overall I felt pretty amazing after the visit, the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. I would definitely go again.
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