“SO, I WANT to do a salt cave for my birthday,” my friend Gina said one night at our regular girls get-together at her house, where we sip adult beverages and solve the world’s problems.
“Huh,” I said, thinking it sounded odd. “What is that?” And before I could change the subject, Gina launched into her explanation.
Himalayan salt—you know the pink stuff?—is apparently among the purest on earth, infused with all kinds of minerals and nutrients that are touted for your lungs, skin and digestive system. Breathing the air is said to relieve anxiety, asthma, coughing, weak immune systems and so on. You’ve probably noticed the pink salt lamps at Bed Bath and Beyond and, yes, pink Himalayan salt they sell in a grinder. Gina made me taste it, grinding out a pellet from the shaker in her cabinet.
“Doesn’t it taste different?” Gina asked.
“Yes,” I said enthusiastically. Of course, being someone who still makes the occasional box of Hamburger Helper, to me it just tasted like salt. But I knew she’d make me taste more if I said that, and I was drinking a beer, not a margarita. I didn’t want any more salt.
Less than a week later we were walking into the salt cave at Skin Sense, a day spa on Falls of Neuse Road to experience the only salt cave in Raleigh and one of only two in the state (the other is in Asheville).
We donned white cotton robes and spa-issued white cotton socks (required) as we crunched across the floor of crushed Himalayan salt. Everything was salt—the walls were huge blocks of it, softly lit to highlight shades of pink.
Three other women joined us early on a Wednesday morning. We all settled back into zero-gravity recliners and were given
a cold eye mask; the attendant told us he would check back in 45 minutes. “Relax, ladies,” he said.
That’s when I began to freak out a little bit. We were just going to lay here? No phones allowed (they emit positive ions which hamper the benefits of the salt’s negative ions).
But that forced stillness soon turned into mindfulness. I know just enough about meditation to be dangerous, and it dawned on me that that’s exactly what this room was for. There was no music, no talking and no technology. The mask covered your eyes, so you were submerged in darkness; the fountains provided soothing white noise. The air was still, the temperature about 75 degrees. I focused my breathing, taking deep breaths and releasing them. My nose was clearer than it had been; I could really smell the salt in the air. It was like being at the beach but quieter; soon my observations fell away as I melted into nothingness.
Until Gina started snoring.
Okay, lightly snoring, but still. Should I wake her up? Were there rules about snoring? If I woke her up, would that be more disturbing than the snoring itself? I tried to telepathically communicate to her to shut up, but it didn’t work. Shewas just that relaxed.
And it didn’t seem to bother anyone else. I felt like the last one awake at a slumber party—no one to scheme with over whose eyebrows to shave or bra to freeze.
So I decided to just pretend like I didn’t know her (sorry, girl) and let myself sink into oblivion again. The world was completely outside that cave, and I didn’t care, and if the women inside woke up and mutinied at Gina’s snoring, I would join in and wonder who on Earth brought the snorer to the salt cave.
But that never happened. Instead, she quieted down, and I began my lovely spiral once again of weightlessness and warmth, with deep breathing guiding the way. It was heavenly, until the young man returned to announce our session was over.
Already? As we walked back to the locker room and decided to steam (doesn’t that sound decadent?), we couldn’t believe how good we felt. The tension I carry around in my neck and shoulders nearly constantly from grading papers was gone, my nasal passages were clear. Most of all, I felt so peaceful.
We both want to go back. You can get scalp massages and reflexology in the salt cave—and even do yoga. Or just close that giant wooden door on the world and relax, soaking up the benefits of Himalayan salt and quiet time.
Next time, I’m bringing a snore strip for Gina—or falling asleep first.
From Angela Padgett, owner of Skin Sense, a day spa
When did you add the salt cave to the Skin Sense Falls of Neuse location?
Five years ago.
How many customers use it each week?
Between 150 and 200.
Why did you decide to add it to your own spa?
It was very personal to me; I wasn’t sleeping and someone told me to go to the salt cave. I started going a few times a week (in Virginia) and started sleeping through the night.
Feedback from customers:
Better sleep, help with allergies, pain reduction, decreased anxiety.