5 Star Salt Caves Wellness Center landed in the Washington Park neighborhood last summer and quickly constructed the state's first-ever Himalayan salt cave. The goal was to create a meditative space where visitors could enjoy the benefits of salt therapy — also known as halotherapy — in fifty-minute sessions. Owners Stephanie Pham and Markus Bohunovsky had discovered salt therapy while visiting Vienna several years ago, and while the wellness method has been used in Europe for quite some time, it is still relatively new to America.
"In the late 1800s, in a salt mine a Poland, a doctor (Felix Boczkowski) realized that all of the salt miners were so much healthier than the general population — which is the opposite of what usually happens with miners, particularly with their breathing," shares Bohunovsky. "The doctor noticed that salt draws out toxins, allergens and things like that through the lungs." Today that salt mine in Wieliczka, Poland, is a historic monument, church and underground rehabilitation center utilizing salt therapy.
Along with offering lung-related benefits, salt therapy is touted for its potential ability to neutralize the radiation that humans are exposed to through daily use of electronic devices. Himalayan salt is also said to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties: Used as an air purifier in the cave setting, it is recognized as a healing method for those afflicted with digestive issues, lethargy, headaches and some mood disorders. Intrigued with this type of treatment, Pham and Bohunovsky sought to bring the salt therapy stateside.
With Bohunovsky's extensive background and education in alternative healing practices and Pham's experience in spa wellness and breathing work, the two saw an opportunity to combine their skills with the salt-therapy method in a calming environment. The result is a spa centered around a room built out of 13,000 pounds of Himalayan rock salt, complete with a sand-like salt floor and a very fine dry mist of salt circulating through the air several times a day.
The cave has an otherworldly quality: Reclining chairs sink into the granular flooring with soft pink salt boulders running floor to ceiling, accented by artificial star-simulating lights. Soothing music is pumped into the salty atmosphere, creating a serene space perfect for meditation. If you're not a regular meditator, don't worry: Fifty minutes may sound like an eternity when you're sitting phone-less in a dim room, but the session flies by. 5 Star has calculated this precise amount of time needed to get the most from a salt-therapy experience — long enough turn off the daily mind chatter, but short enough to keep a cave visitor from falling asleep.
"We come from working with meditation and energy work. If you tell someone you have to meditate for fifty minutes they'll say, 'Are you crazy?'," jokes Bohunovsky. "But this is a simple thing you can do; you can come in and know you're getting a health benefit. The environment is designed for you to basically be doing a meditation without even knowing it."
5 Star Salt Caves Wellness Center is located at 722 South Pearl Street, where it offers salt cave sessions, energy healing, special classes and events throughout the year. For hours of operation, rates and more information on salt therapy, visit the center's website or call 855-578-2725.