By Carrie Ann Salvi
Shannon Coppola of Montauk has imported literal tons of pink salt from the Himalayan Mountains in Pakistan and poured it into a renovated space on West Lake Drive. She opened it to the community two weeks ago, inviting them to experience a dose of its healing properties, which comes with the side benefit of relaxation. Visitors can soak it in while reclining in zero-gravity chairs, also designed to de-stress the body.
The Montauk Salt Cave is the first in New York, and it was inspired Ms. Coppola’s five-year-old son, Oliver, after a visit to a salt cave in her hometown of Clifton, New Jersey resulted in numerous positive changes in the youngster’s life.
Since infancy, Oliver suffered with a severe cough and complications included a blocked airway. When he was two years old, doctors recommended an adenoidectomy, a common surgery to remove inflamed glands in the roof of the mouth which produce white blood cells to fight infections. The surgery was ineffective, and the cough returned.
Oliver was scoped, shot with steroids, brought to allergists and specialists, and kept in a dust-free environment, to no avail. In December, the family visited Clifton, New Jersey for Ms. Coppola’s mother’s birthday, where Oliver was brought for a healing session in a Himalayan salt cave. That night, he slept cough-free through the night for the first time. Ms. Coppola’s husband, Peter, tried a session the next day. As a resident of Montauk since the 1980s and owner of Magnolia Landscaping, Ms. Coppola said he has contracting “pretty much every tick-borne disease,” and “always feels kind of crummy.” He was skeptical, she said, but he went and felt great afterwards.
When they returned to Montauk they started researching salt rooms, and decided the full-fledged cave was the way to go. They hired the one person in the United States who knows how to build them.
“You do whatever you can for your kids,” Ms. Coppola said.
Mined by hand, the pink salt from the Himalayan Mountains is thousands of years old, and contains 84 essential minerals that the human body needs to function, such as iodine, potassium, and bromide. Numerous forms of halotherapy (therapy using salt as a healing agent) have been used throughout history in Central and Eastern Europe, and are still in use today by many with respiratory disease. Naturally formed underground salt caves have existed in Poland for 150 years.
Clinical studies have shown the effectiveness of Speleotherapy, which goes a step further to utilize a specific salutary microclimate in salt caves and mines to treat respiratory conditions including asthma and chronic bronchitis. Medical centers using artificial caves have even been available in Belarus since 1990. The healthy microclimate is maintained at a constant temperature and humidity, with optimal gas composition and ionization of the air. The natural elements also promotes a normal acid-to-alkaline ratio in the body, which can improve digestion and immunity.
The Montauk Salt Cave will be open year round for relaxation, prevention or treatment of respiratory and skin conditions, and post-Tumbleweed Tuesday ailments including seasonal depression, Ms. Coppola said.
The environment is soothing, with softly lit lamps and stones that form a corner “fireplace.” Visitors can book a 45-minute session and recline in lounge chairs, sit, or lie on the salty ground. Soft music will play while they soak in the ancient salty treasure that fills the floor, walls and streams from the vents.
Those who schedule a session should be prepared to take their shoes off and bring socks to protect the purity of the salt. Yoga is a natural fit for the cave, since it is “all about breathing” said Ms. Coppola, and classes are being scheduled. Visitors also have the option to peruse the reception area for salt lamps in various shapes and sizes, as well as Himalayan salt culinary accessories and edibles.
The Montauk Salt Cave is located at 552 West Lake Drive in Montauk, open from Tuesday through Sunday. They can be reached at (631) 668-7258 or via their Facebook page.