Upon first glance, the salt cave at Hudson Valley Healing Center looks a little like Aladdin’s cave of wonders. Sure, there’s no gold, and there’s definitely not a genie lamp anywhere in sight. There is, however, more sand than you’ve likely ever seen in one place — barring the beach, that is.
In fact, there’s a whopping 14 tons of Himalayan salt inside the cave. Imported straight from Pakistan, it lines the walls and crunches softly on the ground as you tread across it to reach the spa chair of your choice. It’s also in the air, thanks to the room’s special halotherapy, or salt treatment, setup to promote respiratory and vascular health. You won’t notice it, however. The ventilation-controlled system keeps the salt perfectly dispersed throughout the room, just as it ensures the cave’s temperature remains at a precise 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
If it sounds scientific, that’s because it is. The center is meticulous about cleaning sensors and filtering the air, which has a 50-percent fresh air exchange and gets dumped every 24 hours. Not only does this keep the cave as optimized as possible, but it also ensures that the salt won’t evaporate, a possibility that increases in likelihood during the hot, humid days of summer.
When you go, however, you won’t need to worry about humidity, salty air, or anything else for that matter. All you need for your salt cave experience is an open mind and a desire to relax. Salt cave sessions, which run $40 for a single visit or $180 for five visits, begin every hour on the hour, which means you can swing by whenever you have time in your schedule. As for what to expect, get ready for 45 minutes of soothing sounds, dim lights, and a beautiful, twinkling ceiling (*cue the Aladdin vibes again*). Once you take a seat and cozy up under one of the plush, provided blankets, you can quietly contemplate and meditate until your session ends. If you happen to fall asleep before the serene voice cues you that it’s time to go, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
While a respite in the salt cave is a dream for individuals who want to unwind, it’s also a boon for anyone in search of allergy relief, improved breathing and lung function, cold and flu prevention, stress and inflammation reduction, and/or increased stamina and endurance. A truly meditative setting, the cave is also open for private event rentals for everything from bachelorette and birthday parties to corporate retreats and support groups. On select days throughout the week, it even welcomes little ones during the “Kid’s Cave” sessions, during which the cave’s “quiet rule” does not apply.
With the salt cave’s potential to reach and assist so many different individuals, its design had to be perfect in every way.
“I just wanted to do it once,” explains Elisa Gwilliam, the founder of Hudson Valley Healing Center in Poughkeepsie. When asked about the build, she reveals that it was a two-year process that turned the empty, 2,700-square-foot spot into an oasis in the heart of Dutchess County. To get it done, Gwilliam, a former real estate developer in Miami, consulted with a fellow salt cave owner in Montauk and visited caves across the nation, including ones in Miami and near Albany. After enlisting the help of an experienced cave designer, she got to work to transform the barebones building into the dream retreat that it is today.
Not just a salt cave, Hudson Valley Healing Center is a one-stop shop for all things alternative medicine in the region. It’s a place where locals who want to test out different wellness practices can try everything from yoga and reiki to chakra balancing and primal movement.
“You can come here and try things,” Gwilliam says, adding that her overall goal is to cater to individual needs above all. “We’re meeting people where they’re at.”
Gwilliam, who’s currently finishing her doctorate on behavior change, works to ensure the center has a little bit of everything. That’s why she often invites local experts to host classes or private sessions inside the Poughkeepsie space. She also makes a point to offer free events and workshops, which range in topic from cooking to mental clarity, to give anyone interested a chance to explore the many sides of alternative wellness.
Although Hudson Valley Healing Center is relatively new to the Hudson Valley (it opened in February 2018), it has already developed a supportive family of followers.
“The community has really embraced us,” Gwilliam enthuses. Looking ahead to the rest of the year, she hopes to continue to spread the word about the center, which is tucked quietly across the street from Chakra Bowls and The Wheel House off of the East-West Arterial in Poughkeepsie. She’s also excited to collaborate with more alternative professionals and expand the center’s list of classes and free events.
And there’s always the salt cave, of course.