Too much salt can be a bad thing for your health. But new spa services in the city are encouraging people to embrace it.
Halotherapy -- or therapy that uses salt -- plays on the healing benefits of the mineral, from relieving allergy symptoms and asthma to improving skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
"The natural qualities of salt are anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal [and] salt has the quality of emitting negative ions, which are relaxing," says Ellen Patrick, founder of Breathe Easy, a spa that administers dry salt therapy through salt rooms and beds. "There's no other way to detoxify your lungs. It's like a toothbrush for your lungs."
Dry salt therapy is not new -- it's widely common in Eastern Europe -- but Patrick couldn't find anywhere to go in New York after her husband got turned on to the treatment to relieve his sinus infections. In a year-and-a-half, she's opened four locations in the NYC area.
"We saw this as an opportunity to go into business as well as share this great holistic treatment with others," Patrick says. "We have a lot of confidence in this healing therapy."
Dry salt therapy isn't the only use for the mineral. Sensory deprivation tanks, wherein people float in salt water in total darkness and silence, are becoming increasingly available in NYC. One of the newest centers offering the meditative experience, Lift Next Level Floats, opened earlier this month, bringing five pods and tanks each filled with 1,000 pounds of diluted, magnesium sulfate-rich Epsom salt to Brooklyn.
"It can have a very profound effect on people," says co-owner Gina Antioco, who first experienced the calm of a floatation tank at Blue Light Floatation, a spa run by Sam Zeiger in his Chelsea apartment.
One of the biggest benefits of floating is the opportunity for mindfulness and meditation -- a few hours in the tank can achieve the same effects that someone who has meditated for years can, says co-owner David Leventhal. Clients may also come to reduce stress, pain, swelling or inflammation.
Leventhal first got into floating while a college student in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the 1980s. The former lawyer rediscovered it a few years ago and decided to go into the floatation business.
"I wanted to help bring it back and spread the word," Leventhal says. "It's had an amazing renaissance, but New York has largely missed the renaissance until now."
Indeed, for many years, the only place to go was Blue Light Floatation. Zeiger has seen floating's heyday of the 1980s, its decline during the 1990s and 2000s, and recent resurgence in the past seven or eight years.
"It's a different time, and people are more open to this sort of thing," Zeiger says. "Floating is a way of reconnecting with one self in a very intimate way with no distractions in a very relaxed setting. The percentage of people coming and having a sometimes life-changing experience, even after the first float, has greatly increased. People leave here glowing just about all the time."
Beyond Blue Light, novice or dedicated floaters can now find tanks at dedicated spaces like Lift or within multi-service health spas like La Casa or Vibrant Sea, which opened in November. Co-owner Christina Pistone first tried floating in Los Angeles and now floats religiously, sometimes up to four hours at a time.
"I feel like it makes me a better person," Pistone says. "You can be so stressed out or angry or whatever it was, get in there, and realize it's really not that big of a deal, everything's going to be OK. We need that in the city."
From floatation tanks to saunas to yoga, here's where to find salt-based therapies in NYC:
Lift Next Level Floats
New York City's newest floatation center -- and the only one in Brooklyn -- opened earlier this month. The facility features five tanks -- the most out of places that offer this service in NYC -- filled with 1,000 pounds of diluted Epsom salt. Options include the egg-like pod and the 7-foot-high float room, the latter ideal for those who want to be in less of a confined space. When you make a reservation for a 60-minute float, you can choose which one you want, availability depending. Longer floats can be accommodated. $99/60 minutes, $199/first-time three float package (monthly plans also available); 320 Court St., 2nd Fl., Carroll Gardens, 718-701-0808, liftfloats.com
This health spa opened in November, equipped with the Escape Pod, often described by guests as looking like a coffin. Services also include an infrared sauna, so you can pair your Epsom-salt-based float with a stay in the sauna for the ultimate detox. Long float times can be arranged, too. $90/60 minutes, $120/90 minutes, $150/120 minutes (packages available); 528 E. Fifth St., 646-429-9470, vibrantseanyc.com
Blue Light Floatation
Before there was Lift or Vibrant Sea, many of the city's float aficionados turned to this private location in a Chelsea apartment, run by Sam Zeiger since 1984. Unlike most tanks, the specially-designed floatation spa is entered through a sliding door and is more than 6-feet tall for a spacious setting. It's recommended to float in silence, but for those who prefer, there is an underwater stereo system, too. $80/60 minutes (packages available); call 212-989-6061 or email email@example.com for appointments, bluelightfloatation.com
Aspire Center for Health and Wellness
This therapeutic center's services include physical therapy, speech pathology, acupuncture and floatation in two types of tanks: its Tranquility pod or Oasis tank. It has one of the largest float tanks around, able to accommodate someone up to 7-feet tall. Pair your float session with a massage or acupuncture session. $90/60 minutes, $130/90 minutes (packages and memberships also available); 248 W. 35th St., 212-453-0036, nyaspire.com
La Casa Day Spa and Wellness Center
Facials, massages, wraps and colonics are among the offerings at this holistic spa, whose center also features a floatation room and salt sauna. Relax and detox for an hour in the spa's floatation room, or take a seat in the salt sauna and breathe in air saturated with Himalayan salt and Black Sea salt for the respiratory and skin-healing effects. Salt sauna $50/30 minutes, floatation $80/60 minutes; 41 E. 20th St., 212-673-2272, lacasaspa.com
This year-and-a-half-old spa has two locations in Manhattan that offer dry salt therapy through salt beds and salt rooms, where you can sit back, relax and breathe in air aerated with very fine particles of pure salt. Its flagship Park Avenue location also offers "salty yoga" on Tuesdays at noon and Thursdays at 7 p.m., massages and, by the end of the summer, meditation. The 20- to 45-minute treatments provide a respiratory detox, recommended for people with asthma and allergies, as well as can address skin issues like eczema and psoriasis. $40/session salt room, $45/session salt bed, $25/drop-in yoga (promotions, packages and memberships also available); 1 Park Ave., lower level, 212-725-1138; 825 Seventh Ave., lower level, 212-581-2400, breatheeasyusa.com
Both the massive College Point facility and recently reopened Manhattan outpost Premier 57 feature several saunas, each with its own healing element, from jade to gold to infrared to Himalayan salt. In the Himalayan Salt sauna, blocks of salt are incorporated to help relieve allergies and asthma and clear skin conditions. $40/weekday day pass, $50/weekend day pass, 131-10 11th Ave., College Point, 718-939-6300, spacastleusa.com; $65/day pass, 115 E. 57th St., 7th Fl., spacastleusa.com/57