A few weeks ago one of my yoga instructors invited me to like a Facebook page for "Salt Room Yoga." I was very confused. I read a little bit about it on the Facebook page and only became more puzzled. As a practicing yogi of seven years, I am well aware of the benefits of yoga, but I racked my brain trying to figure out why on earth someone would do it in a room where the walls are made out of salt, and a machine disperses finely ground salt particles through the air. So I did what I always do when I hear about new naturopathic therapies - I sat down at my computer and poured over research articles. What I found truly impressed me.
It turns out that halotherapy, an alternative medical treatment involving breathing in salty air, is not all that new after all. The idea for halotherapy originated in Poland in 1873 when a physician named Dr. Feliks Boczkowsi noticed that salt mine workers did not suffer from the same respiratory problems as other people in the area. Flash forward to World War II, Dr. Karl Hermann Spannagel, a German physician, found that his patients' health improved after spending time in the salt caves, which they used as shelters during bomb raids. Since that time, halotherapy has become a more and more common method of treatment for people with respiratory problems, and halotherapy companies have built chambers to mimic the conditions of salt caves.
According to the Lung Institute, halotherapy works because salt has the following properties:
Loosens excessive mucus in the respiratory tract
Removes pathogens and filters airborne allergens
Helps moderate immune system sensitivity
There have so far only been a few clinical studies that support the possible benefits of halotherapy, but there are thousands upon thousands of testimonials from people swearing by the healing effects of breathing in the salty air.
What I found in my research certainly peaked my interest, so I decided to try out halotherapy at a studio called Salt of the Earth in Allen, Texas (whose Facebook page my yoga instructor had invited me to like). Although I was not suffering from allergies or other respiratory problems to begin with, I left the class feeling completely relaxed and re-energized.
After attending my first halotherapy - yoga session, I was able to talk with one of the owners of Salt of The Earth, Gage Hubbard, and the two yoga instructors who work there - Christi Tracy and Maribel O'Brien - about the benefits of halotherapy and why incorporating yoga makes the therapy more effective.
Can you talk a little bit about how it works? How do you get the salt into the air, and all that kind of stuff?
GH:Yes ma'am. We have a halo-generator that finely grinds the therapeutic salt, and it comes throughout the room, mimicking a salt mine atmosphere. So what you do is you sit and relax in one of our rooms for 45 minutes, and you breathe in those fine particles, and it goes through your sinus ways, your airways, your respiratory system and just clears everything up and opens up your airways so you can breathe better, optimize breathing for athletic activities, any sinus problems, stuff like that.
Do you have to control the temperature and humidity in these rooms?
GH: We usually keep it kind of cold in here for the humidity reasons and everything like that so the salt can travel throughout the air easier, you know. The hotter the air, the more moisture it gets with the salt. So having the room cooler makes it easier for the salt particles to disperse throughout the room.
I heard that it was only recently that you started incorporating yoga into the halotherapy, so what do you think are some of the benefits of adding yoga rather than just sitting and breathing it in?
CT:Yeah, I think there are a lot of benefits as far as with yoga and the salt therapy at the same time. Obviously, we focus a lot on breathing in yoga, so this just enhances that experience, and makes the breathing easier, and also brings another element to that. Also salt is a very grounding element, and in yoga we always talk about being grounded, so we really enjoy practicing yoga in a grounding environment.
Are there any particular types of yoga that you recommend when doing halotherapy?
CT:Easier, more gentle types of yoga like restorative or a gentle flow because the temperature in the rooms is lower.
And have y'all had any clients come in and say "wow this really helped with this particular problem", or have you personally experienced something?
GH:Yes, it was actually life-changing for myself. I've had asthma and allergies my whole life, so that's the whole reason I got into the business. I got off all my medications, stopped going to the doctor, and I just use this. And then I've got a bunch of other stories like that with customers that come in with maybe like a bronchitis, and they've had it for months, battling it for months, going to the doctor, getting medications, none of it working, and then trying this and it clears them up and just - people being amazed at how it works and everything like that.
CT:Yeah well, everybody who came up - and this is only the second class I've taught here - but last week people were talking about how great it was and they were saying, "I just felt so relaxed," and then the interesting thing is it also makes you kind of energetic too. They were like "I'm really calm, but I have a lot of energy." I think it really does something to your nervous system. It's relaxing; it's stress-relieving, for sure.
And how often would you recommended people to come in, in order to reap the full benefits?
GH: Probably weekly, usually. It depends on the person; everybody is different. So if someone has a chronic allergy problem, like to the seasons or anything, they probably should come in once a week.
So I saw when I was doing a lot of the research that sadly, like a lot of naturopathic therapies, there are not just a ton of clinical studies that have been conducted on this, but do you think that as it becomes more popular we will see more of that happening?
GH: I mean of course, like with time that will definitely be more prevalent. But over in Europe, they prescribe it over there. In the United States it's still a new thing - the holistic environment, holistic everything.
So in Europe the doctors will actually write a prescription for it?
GH: Over in Europe yes.
CT:I think it's just like with anything else. I think that, unfortunately, if big pharmaceutical companies don't back it, then it's usually not researched very often. So I think it's just kind of a grass roots type thing where we all just have to talk about it and hopefully with people like Gage, and people who are doing what Gage and his brother Alec (the other owner of Salt of the Earth) are doing, we can really create more of this type of thing and bring benefits to people.
MO:In my restorative class on Tuesdays, we had one sweet student who came in with a chronic cough, and ten minutes into class her cough started to subside, and by the middle of class her cough was completely gone.
Just within one class?
MO:One session. And she came up, and was amazed, and she even said, "I wouldn't have believed it unless I experienced it." So I would love to invite people to come and experience it themselves. Give it three sessions at least. See how it will change and affect you. I know it's made a big difference in our lives - grounding, our mood - your'e happier, in my opinion. So why not incorporate all these things that will improve your life? It's really quite amazing.
Please comment below If you have any questions or if you want to share your experience with halotherapy!
Disclaimer: Please talk with your health care provider about any interest in halotherapy. There are not yet adequate controlled, clinical studies conducted on the effectiveness of halotherapy for treatment of medical conditions. Please consult your physician if you choose to replace prescribed treatment with halotherapy.
"Promising or Placebo? Halo Salt Therapy: Resurgence of a Salt Cave Spa Treatment." American Lung Association - Each Breath, ALA, 9 June 2016, www.lung.org/about-us/blog/2016/06/promising-placebo-salt-halotherapy.html. Accessed 23 May 2018.
"Salt Therapy and COPD." Lung Institute - Breathe Easier, 18 Sept. 2015, https://lunginstitute.com/blog/salt-therapy-and-copd/. Accessed 23 May 2018.
Tudor-Andrei, Cernomaz, Bolog S.G., and Traian Mihaescu. "The effect of a dry salt inhaler in adults with COPD." 18 July 2007. PUBMED. Accessed 23 May 2018.