When it comes to trying out crazy new yoga trends, there’s no need to twist my arm (or leg) to get me to show up. I’ve perfected my Chaturunga flow in a 100-degree room to the songs of Drake, practiced a downward-facing dog next to an actual dog (and cat) and zoned out in a soundless space with a pair of wireless headphones. So you know I’m always down for a new way to channel my inner Warrior II and drop into a Crow pose.
In honor of National Yoga Month, I decided to try another class outside of my usual hot Vinyasa: Salty yoga.
Salt room therapy, also known as halotherapy, has been practiced in eastern Europe and Russia for decades. You literally sit in a room surrounded by sodium to help treat breathing problems and skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis.
“The natural healing qualities of salt are antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory. Breathe Salt Rooms is one of the pioneers in bringing this natural healing modiality to the United States,” says Ellen Patrick, COO and founder of Breathe Salt Rooms.
The salty yoga class I signed up for also took place in an intimate room filled with six inches of pink Himalayan salt under my feet, and salt blocks stacked along illuminated walls. In addition to sodium all around the studio, there was a ventilator that aerated pure salt for us to breath in.
Like many hip-hop yoga classes, this salty class doesn’t include mirrors, so you’re not tempted to compare yourself to others. But unlike other group classes that focus more on building strength, salty yoga is all about bringing awareness to your breath. In fact, Patrick specifically developed the practice for those with respiratory issues or who need to clear stress or other energy imbalances in their 4th chakra, the heart chakra. (If you don’t already know, the seven chakras are said to control the flow of energy throughout the center of the body and influence physical, emotional and psychological well-being.)
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The Salt Room Yoga Experience
Patrick started the class after a short meditation, with cat and cow movements to get air flowing throughout the body. She then followed it up with chest-opening poses, like supine twists, triangle and peaceful warrior. Prayer in tadasana (mountain pose) and baby cobra followed and created space in my spine, which felt like I was freeing blockages from stress. Considering that’s one of the main goals of the class, it seemed to work from the start. Moving through the flow reminded me of being on the beach, and it felt super soothing to have the salt rub under my feet.
After about an hour of yoga and a deep five-minute meditation in savasana, I felt rejuvenated, not depleted as I do in other group fitness classes. But that’s the beauty of salty yoga: It isn’t about challenging your body, torching calories or toning muscles. It’s about deep relaxation, becoming more aware of your breath and opening places in your body where air is blocked.
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“Whatever it was, the class finally helped me say “aah,” instead of just trying to stick each pose.”
Salt Therapy: A Therapeautic Hour
There’s a reason I’ve been a little anxiety-ridden for the past few months. My dad, who has been living with lymphoma for the past 10 years or so, had recently started another round of chemotherapy. So sleeping through the night has been difficult to say the least — sometimes impossible. But I wasn’t ready to try sleeping aids.
What I love about yoga is that it’s a naturally de-stressing and detoxifying experience for me. But I didn’t realize I was taking something for granted during all those other classes: Salt room yoga finally taught me how to slow down and just breathe.
I think back to all those times I used every fiber in me to hold a standing split in warrior III, maintain balance in tree pose and stability in the tight binds of eagle pose. But admittedly, I never focused on my inhale and exhale during those positions. In salty yoga, I actually did. Maybe it was the salt in the air that cleared up my system or the soothing pink hue of the Himalayan salt around that made me relax a little. Whatever it was, the class finally helped me say “aah,” instead of just trying to stick each pose.
By the end of the class, I felt like I had more control over my breath and a new perspective on how I can use it to my advantage in everyday life — including my workouts. Even better, I slept soundly that night, without being interrupted by my anxiety.
Of course, you don’t need to have anxiety, allergies, COPD, asthma or other respiratory issues to benefit from salty yoga. Every one could use a lesson in simply being more present and aware of the breath. If anything, it’s a great way to practice more mindfulness in your day.
You can experience salt room yoga at Breathe Salt Rooms in New York City.