Finding the cure to the common cold in a Park Avenue basement

Gettin salty A photo posted by Manhattan with a Twist (@manhattantwist) on

I was feeling appropriately sniffly when I entered Breathe Easy for the first time. A spa (or “wellness center”) in the basement of a Park Avenue South office building, it claims to treat colds and other seasonal allergies using dry salt therapy, a treatment that amounts to sitting in a room covered totally in salt and breathing very deeply for 30 or 45 minutes.

“This treatment is for anybody who breathes,” Ellen Patrick, the co-founder of Breathe Easy with her husband Gary, told me. The couple started the company in 2014 after Gary visited one in London that he says healed his cold. When Ellen, a yoga instructor, noticed that Gary’s snore had disappeared, she decided there really might be something to this salt therapy.

Salt has long been used as a cure for ailments in Europe (particularly Poland, where a doctor Dr. Feliks Boczkowski noticed in 1843 that salt miners had strangely healthy lungs; he opened up the first salt therapy spa soon after), but Breathe Easy is the first one to come to New York. Now the spa offers a range of services like thirty and forty-minute sessions in the salt rooms; sessions in the “salt beds” (essentially a tanning bed but with salt); as well as  “wellness events” like yoga classes in the salt room and massages.

Patrick insists that the salt treatment has no adverse consequences, though she did admit that afterwards, she often has a craving for potato chips. “It’s a bad side effect if you’re trying to lose weight,” she says with a laugh.

Inside the salt therapy room, there’s no getting away from the salt. The spa has a machine (called the Halo Generator) that grinds salt into a fine powder that floats around the air and which you can actually inhale it deep into your lungs. From photos, the room looks a little like Donald Trump decorated it with his signature gaudy marble, but inside the pink glow that the Himalayan salt bricks give off is strangely soothing. I took off my heavy riding boots and sunk my feet into the floor, which is covered with — you guessed it — six inches of salt crystals.


My favorite place to clean out my respiratory system from all of this NYC smog. ???


A photo posted by Weston Serame (@westonserame) on

Laying back in one of the eight lounge chairs in the space, I followed Patrick’s instructions to breathe deeply and allow my mind to drift away until — lo and behold — I had fallen into a light sleep. When my 30 minutes were over, I emerged from the spa blinking into the rainy street, wobbling unsteadily as I headed back to the office.

The next day, my sinuses were completely cleared and I did feel much more alive and alert than I did before. While I cannot definitively say that the salt therapy was what healed me, I don’t want to rule it out entirely either. At the very least, going to Breathe Easy let me take a nice little nap in the middle of the day, and I can’t honestly think of a better medication for a cold than that.