Yesterday I had my very first experience meditating in a salt cave. I was looking forward to the adventure and I dragged Frank along as a unsuspecting research participant.
What is a salt cave meditation you ask? Basically its a room filled with Himalayan salt, lounge chairs, piped in spa music and darkness. This is one of the new rages in wellness available around the country, mostly in affluent areas and is touted as helping to cure any respiratory diseases.
Now those of you that know me, know I am generally pretty willing to believe in any and all health claims from any psuedo science, if only because I firmly believe in the placebo effect and if you believe something can help, then your brain/body unit is going to do everything in its power to make this happen.
So off I went to the salt cave, with high hopes that I would enhance my breathing if only for the 45 minutes I was in the cave. This did happen. It was truly wonderful to lay down in a zero gravity chair, covered with a blanket, in the dark, listening to soft music and breathing in the cool salt infused air. My breathing did deepen and flow and I settled into a nice meditative doze. The 45 minutes flew by and the next thing I know we were being roused by the attendant and heading out the door back into the bright Florida sun.
So why was I disappointed? Well for one thing, it cost $45 for that 45 minutes, which I think is a bit steep for simply laying in a room with soft music and breathing. I mean geez, I could never get away with charging someone $45 for a shavasana. There was no guided meditation or anything. The health benefit explanation was pretty lame and consisted of us being shown the salt particles floating in the air (which look suspiciously like regular dust motes), and being told that after 3 minutes the oxygen levels in our blood would be up to 98% which is great for asthmatics and people with cancer.
So I did spend the first few minutes of my rest time contemplating the effects of 98% oxygen in the blood stream….what exactly does that mean? What is my normal percentage? Do I need a salt cave in order to increase my blood oxygen levels? I decided to allow that the more oxygenated my system was the better off I would be and let it go at that. (I have since discovered that normal blood oxygen levels range from 95-100% with anything below 90 being an issue–according to the Mayo Clinic, I am, however, not sure if we are all using the same measuring scale)
I have since read that spending 3 days at the ocean is equivalent to spending 45 minutes in a salt cave, as far as your oxygen levels are concerned. I then decided, since I live on Cape Cod, which is surrounded by the ocean that I must be pretty well oxygenated all the time and in no need of a salt cave….but I am not sure if they mean you actually have to be at the beach, or just near it.
She made no mention of the effects of the negative ions from the salt itself and its help in allaying the effects of the positive ions generated by our many electronic devices. Which I thought was kind of lame, so either they have no effects if devices are not in the vicinity or not enough of a lingering effect for her to mention it. This particular salt cave had many salt lamps for sale, so it seems to me she would have mentioned it as a sales gimmick if nothing else.
I figure it certainly can’t hurt to counteract those evil positive ions with a source of soft, gentle serene light. I have no factual scientific data to support the positive/negative ion invisible battle taking place beneath my awareness, but I do know I enjoy the soft glow of the Himalayan salt lamps and if there is added secret benefit, I am all in.
So, my take away–I enjoyed the actual physical experience, felt no lingering effects beyond what I would normally feel after a 45 minutes Shavasana or meditation experience. I did not learn a whole lot of new information which was somewhat disappointing. And I am not sure the $45 was money well spent. I do know for a fact that I feel better after a day at the beach, which I think is a combination of many factors beyond just the negative ions.
All that being said, if I were forced to live in a city without the benefit of a beach down the street, breathing in auto fumes regularly I would probably seek out the nearest salt cave and buy a monthly package, which significantly reduces the cost, and enjoy the stress reduction, oxygen enhancing peaceful benefits. I would also like to try it again if I were suffering from a respiratory illness, just to see if it did help….even a little bit to ease the symptoms and bring about faster relief…..so I guess that means, the next time I have a cold, I will make a concerted effort to get my butt to the beach to breath in some serious salt air or visit one of the few salt caves in New England. (none on the Cape at the moment)
My recommendation at this point on Salt Caves–great for a supervised nap time or a peaceful escape from your cell phone, but not as pleasant as a day spent on the water. As for the purported health benefits…I don’t see how it could possibly hurt you, so by all means go for it if you think it helps you. I do know that any form of relaxation is helpful, so far be it for me to turn my nose up at anything that helps us relax. But in all honesty, for the relaxation buck–massage goes farther than the salt cave experience….just sayin’ 🙂
Namaste my friends and I hope this post helps clarify how to spend your relaxation dollars.
P.S.–Franks take “Waste of money, but it went by really quick and was relaxing”