Salt Cave Life

Will an hour in a salt cave unlock a new level of trust in a relationship?

WORDS Jessica Militare
July 2019

I’ll slip an amethyst crystal in my pocket to calm my nerves and rub peppermint oil on my temples to cure a headache. My husband, Seamus, not so much: He thinks my homeopathic remedies are pseudoscience. When we got a massage on our honeymoon three years ago, his review was, “It was weird being rubbed all over.”

But here we are, sitting in the lobby of the Montauk Salt Cave, this one located in Manhattan’s East Village, about to try halotherapy (a.k.a. salt therapy), the wellness trend whereby you perch in a man-made cave filled with pink Himalayan salt while the salt’s “negatively charged, ionized salt particles” and “84 trace elements and minerals” are pumped into the air. The goal for many is a deeper state of relaxation, but Montauk Salt Cave owner Shannon Coppola claims that salt therapy cured her son’s sinus and respiratory troubles.

“To give in to whatever salt therapy is, you can’t be an empirically minded person,” Seamus tells me in the lobby. I haven’t downed the salt-cave Kool-Aid either, but I’ve dragged him here to see if I can change his mind and we can both get some R & R. “Anyway, let’s get salted,” he adds, smiling.

The petite Shoko, our healer, leads us into the cave, replete with a twinkling star ceiling, salt bricks and rock walls, salt lamps and a salt gravel floor. “Please take off your shoes,” she says. Seamus’ first impression: “Wow, this hurts my feet.”

Shoko waves a palo santo smudge stick over us. I close my eyes and inhale the herbal scent, imagining all my anxious thoughts leaving my energy field (a term Seamus doesn’t use). Seamus furrows his eyebrows in confusion.

The next exercise, Shoko tells us, is about finding out who we are. We must close our eyes and perform a “cosmic dance” as we scream our names out loud. “Jessica! Jessica!” I howl at the faux starry sky. Seamus murmurs his name. Shoko then invites us to create “dreams” with our elbows, and she spirals around the room gracefully. I’m a neo-hippie, but even I make a face at this one.

Eventually, the three of us stand in a circle, within centimeters of holding hands. “Do you feel the magnetism of our energies coursing through our bodies?” Shoko asks. I peer at Seamus, expecting him to shake his head. But even he agrees that he felt “something.”

We then lie down and receive a sound bath from Alfonso, the curious-looking man who’d been watching us from the corner this whole time. He employs chimes, Tibetan singing bowls, gongs and Native American flutes. Though I’m feeling mellow, not even the salt cave and music can keep my hunger at bay. I’m soon calculating the route to the nearest ramen spot.

Just as I drift off, perhaps mere moments from meeting my higher self, I’m surprised to hear a familiar sound: Seamus’ raspy snoring!

Now very much awake, I laugh out of embarrassment, but I’m glad he let himself go enough to catch some z’s.

When we head out onto the street, we’re greeted by honking cars and the bustle of evening commuters. “How do you feel?” I ask. “Relaxed,” he says, a little surprised. “I won’t go back, and I don’t think the salt has magical healing powers. But it was nice to do that together.”

Though my little salt cave date didn’t convert him, it reminded me that we’re good enough teammates to try out things that one of us finds alien. Guess who’s teaching me to skateboard next week?


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