It was a joy and privilege to recently take iRest practice into a dry salt therapy center in Melbourne Australia. The Salts of the Earth (www.saltsoftheearth.com.au) dry salt facility caters for adults and children with various respiratory and dermatological conditions, most of who also report poor sleep and generally high levels of stress associated with their condition.

Salt therapy, also called Halotherapy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halotherapy), is a holistic method that reproduces the natural microclimate of a salt cave by dispersing dry saline aerosol in a high concentration in a room whose surfaces are covered with layers of salt. Patients sit in the salt room for 45 minutes and breathe in the fine salt aerosol, which is transported to all parts of the respiratory tract including the sinuses. The salt particles act as an anti-bacterial agent and help dislodge pollutant particles in the respiratory tract. These are then expelled by the patient by coughing, or during the metabolic processes via the bloodstream. The treatment also reduces inflammation in the lungs, thins out mucus build-up and generally improves lung function.

I had been attending the dry salt therapy center for a few weeks to assist with a minor but chronic skin condition. When chatting with the staff and some of the other attendees it occurred to me that an iRest practice may be a good adjunct to the salt therapy. I offered to conduct a free trial session in their main salt room and the 8 places booked out within a day. In planning the introductory session I needed to be mindful that some of the participants may be dealing with emphysema or other COPDs, for which ‘deep’ breathing is often contraindicated. The session also needed to allow for a range of sounds that are common in salt therapy, including deep coughing by some participants and the sound of the halogenerator pumping the dray salt vapour into the room for about 10 seconds ever few minutes. None of the participants had prior experience with meditation or other yoga.

The 45 minute session loosely followed most of the 10-step iRest protocol, keeping terminology simple and secular and with an emphasis on welcoming, especially welcoming the unexpected and what might otherwise be regarded as interruptions. I chose to avoid inquiry into emotions and beliefs at this introductory session and focused more on a short sankalpa (3 components), body sensing, breath sensing, joy and observing presence. Welcoming sounds was woven into the practice each time the salt was pumped in, or loud coughing occurred.

I was pleasantly surprised by the level of focus of the participants, who all gave positive feedback about their experience. Two days some of the participants reported to the center management that they had slept much better since the session and that they were less worried by the coughing of others in the therapy room. This feedback further encouraged me to offer the center a series of iRest sessions, which are just about to commence. The small fees the center collects for these sessions will be donated to a couple of charities such as the Cystic Fibrosis Association.
I hope this experience inspires other iRest teachers (or teachers in training) to reach out to similar facilities in their area.

Leigh Blashki