Inside an urban salt cave

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Dry-salt therapy is the latest health craze. Our reporter tried it out at a NoMad wellness center


  • Modrn Sanctuary's salt room is one of many halotherapy treatment spots around the city. Photo: Carson Kessler

  • The walls of the salt room are made from blocks of aged Himalayan salt. Photo: Carson Kessler

  • The floor's salt minerals serve as a natural exfoliant. Photo: Carson Kessler

Entering the room is like putting on a pair of rose-tinted glasses. Hundreds of illuminated Himalayan salt blocks line the walls, as the pink granulated carpet of loose salt crunches beneath your bare feet. For thirty minutes, you breathe in the warm, briny air while the blush-colored surroundings lull you to sleep.

But this salt cave isn’t tucked away in a tropical oasis or buried in an exotic subterranean salt mine. Instead, this Himalayan salt room is on the ninth floor of a high-rise in NoMad.

Modrn Sanctuary, a luxury wellness center nestled between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, is among the many spas featuring the increasingly popular salt room.

Dry-salt therapy, also known as halotherapy, has recently emerged as the newest health craze. According to Ulle Lutz, president of consultation service at Salt Chambers Inc., nearly 150 halotherapy facilities have sprung up across the country in the past two years.

While halotherapy has become a recent trend in the U.S., dry-salt therapy originated from the natural salt mines and caves of Eastern Europe in the 1800s. After witnessing the natural health benefits many salt miners gleaned from breathing in tiny salt particles as they worked, Dr. Feliks Bockowski founded the first health resort facility at the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland in 1839.

As the years went by, those who suffered from respiratory or skin problems found relief in the natural benefits of dry salt. Halotherapy utilizes dry salt in a man-made environment, often referred to as a salt cave, salt room, or salt chamber.

The room is fitted with a halogenerator, which disperses a dry salt aerosol into the space. As the salt travels throughout the enclosed chamber, the particles of dry sodium chloride are inhaled into the respiratory system, absorbing allergens, toxins, and foreign substances from the lungs.

Properties of dry salt may also help to reduce inflammation and open airway passages for those suffering from respiratory conditions such as allergies, asthma, and cystic fibrosis. Dry salt has also been reported to provide anti-bacterial properties that benefit the skin, improving skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

“There is a hunger and a need for more innovative treatments,” Modrn Sanctuary Coordinator Edgar Monserrate said about the uptick in salt treatments around the city.

The typical salt therapy session involves 30 to 45 minutes in a zero gravity chair designed to decrease bodily tensions. Clients remove their shoes to enjoy the natural exfoliant beneath their feet. Many clients choose to meditate or sleep during their session, while others prefer to roll around in the salt to reap all the possible benefits from their surroundings.

“Just walking into a Himalayan salt room, the energy and the vibe that you get is instantly soothing,” said Monserrate.

Joel Granik, founder of the Hell’s Kitchen spa Floating Lotus, often retreats to the salt room to get his work done after hours. “It is just a very meditative space,” he said. “It’s a really good space to get out of the craziness, especially if you work around here.”

Although the health benefits of halotherapy are mostly anecdotal, Granik notes the treatment’s simplicity and the chance for solitude as supplementary elements of dry salt therapy.

“It is so simple. There’s no intervention. You don’t even need a therapist,” he said of the recent appeal of salt treatment. “A massage is really nice, but sometimes you just really want to be alone.”

As for the skeptics? “If you have half an hour, come check it out. I guarantee you, you’ll be in love with it,” Monserrate insists.

According to Modrn Sanctuary, halotherapy is not recommended for those with infectious diseases, cardiac, lung and kidney disease, and women who are pregnant.

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