Pretty Good Thinking: Relax and breathe with salt therapy in Hove

Experienced yoga teacher Sue Bradley guides an exclusive group through Salty Breathing and Meditation at Salt Space
Experienced yoga teacher Sue Bradley guides an exclusive group through Salty Breathing and Meditation at Salt Space

Pretty Good Thinking returns to Salt Space and explores a salty breathing workshop with ground-breaking Meditation in Hove.

The opportunity to destress and boost my immune response in a prone position sounds like a dream assignment - but does salty yoga really deliver anything special. And how can you tell if it is working, exactly …?

Salt Space host a Salty Breathing and Meditation workshop on the third Wednesday of each month, between 7.30pm to 9.30pm in Hove. During the summer, I had the pleasure of attending the debut session which is unique in the UK, because these techniques aren’t usually taught in a salt environment. The class is supercharged and I was keen to explore how and why.

The programme has been devised and managed by Sue Bradley - a Brighton based teacher with over 20 years of yoga practice. Sue is compassionate and clear teacher who is serious about down-to-earth yoga that you also take home for every day use (I attended her beginners group on mats in a regular room last year. These sessions are even more personal, with just seven other people at a time).

The ‘Salty Breathing’ sessions suit all-levels and newbies are welcome. The workshop takes place seated on chairs and focuses on breathing and relaxation rather than physical poses. You also get to try both therapy rooms on site at @SaltSpaceBH. The first half of the workshop concentrates on Pranayama (breathing exercises). After a break for delicious chai tea, the session switches into Yoga Nidra (guided meditation), while micro-particles of pure salt aerate in the larger room.

Hold up - what is this Salt Therapy about?

Salt therapy is a drug-free treatment which reproduces the natural micro-climate of a salt cave. It disperses dry salt in high concentrations into a special room with hygienic salty surfaces. Think Santa’s grotto (but decluttered, no tat). The Salt Room sports a Buddha head, and they do offer wave music (if you need or want it - I thought I didn’t but it was oddly unobtrusive). The pure whiteness, simple quiet and sheer out of the way-ness of Portland Road West also lure you to a new dawn before the sessions even start. Everyone wears little hat and shoe covers and the place is absolutely spotless.

How do the salt particles work?

As if by magic - you don’t notice much at first, because you simply breathe normally. People of all ages are benefitting from the natural healing properties of salt. The tiny salt micro-particles are inhaled and penetrate deep into the lungs, airways and skin to help relieve congestion, inflammation and skin irritations.You may get a little sniffily before relief comes for health issues like asthma, lung conditions and skin disorders. After my first venture into the cave (without yoga), I emerged feeling rather euphoric as though I had come from an amazing sleep (I had only dozed a tiny bit…). It is subjective, but I then slept profoundly for the rest of the week, despite assuming that I was fully rested.

Chair yoga suits everyone

Sue explains each exercise and they are easy to customise to your own ability. Our group were diverse (age, size and flexibility) and everyone tried what they were comfortable with. In this workshop, chair yoga poses set us up to relax and prepare our bodies for the breathing work to come. Sue opens with a mix of stretches to release tension in the neck and shoulders. You get a real pay-off with shoulder rolls and we used belts and blocks for two types of twist.

Some benefits of yogic breathing

We know that the mind/body connection is a central theme in yoga. One of the primary systems affected by yoga practices is the autonomic nervous system. Even as a novice, I noticed that Yogic breathing positively impacted on how I was feeling, during and after.

Breathing Exercises (Pranayama)

At the Salt Space, the dry salt molecules enhance the Pranayama. Pranayama is best practised under the supervision of a teacher whilst you are new to the practice. Sue explains her course techniques in a little video here.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali describes pranayama as a process by which you can break your unconscious breathing pattern and make the breath long, easeful, and smooth. We did several excercises, including Cooling Breath (Sitali/Sitkari Pranayama). I only giggled once, and that was OK. We also went for Rechaka Puraka, Chandra Bhedana, Surya Bhedana, Nadi Shodana (Anuloma Viloma), Non-digitally enhanced Nadi Shodana, Kumbaka, Viloma, Sitali, Kapalabhati and Brahmari. I want to use these at any time in my daily life.

Yoga nidra promotes a deep rest and relaxation far beyond your average meditation practice. Yoga nidra, or ‘yogic sleep’ is an immensely powerful meditation technique. Sue leads the group through a classic Yoga Nidra, covering different stages including the ‘rotation of consciousness’ through all the different body parts. This feels incredibly self nurturing, and actually I crave to do again! Another client seems to agree in her feedback; “I was amazed to discover the multi ways of relaxing through breath. Sue was excellent with her guidance. The second half in the adult salt room with Sue's visual guidance in particular was awesome!”

As a medicinal tool, Yoga Nidra can increase well-being and peace of mind. These ancient techniques can help to reduce anxiety and depression. If that sounds kind of amazing, it should - because it is. Newbies often go to sleep during their first few yoga nidra sessions (I came close but expected it, as the salt has that effect as well).

Tweet Sue @EatinPsychUK or post on Facebook and more information online, here.

You won’t need much prep before a session but there are guidance tips when you book. The next Salty Breathing and Meditation sessions are on Wednesday September 20, October 18 and November 15. Call Salt Space on 01273 973843 or email brighton@saltspace.co.uk to book. See you in Portland Road for deep, healthy and slooooow breathing.