Staten Islander reporters visited HeavenLee Float Spa in Richmond Valley in early September. The spa is just South of the Outerbridge Crossing off of Arthur Kill Road on Richmond Valley Road. It was an easy drive; along the way we wondered just what we might encounter, having never been to any sort of spa like this before.
It’s a family business, owned and operated by Jennifer Lee Bane, and her parents, Norma and Robert E. Lee. In fact, that’s how the spa got it’s name, HeavenLee. The spa has been around since January of 2019.
How did we come to learn about HeavenLee Float Spa? Interestingly, I had spilled some salt on the floor of my car; a pound of salt had opened up, spreading white crystals all over the place. While vacuuming up the mess, apparently the salt was aerosolized. All I could smell was salt; my tongue tasted strongly of saline. Strangely, I immediately felt my lungs clear, and the usual congestion I experienced was gone for days. Wondering if this was a known phenomenon, I looked it up, and sure enough, halotherapy, or salt therapy, is an actual thing. There’s even something called a salt cave, and that’s what led me to HeavenLee, as the spa is Staten Island’s very own salt cave.
Besides the salt cave, there are flotation pods. According to Jennifer, the spa’s owner, one hour of flotation is equivalent to seven hours of meditation. It’s a deeply relaxing experience and can even help with numerous physical conditions.
We were greeted warmly at the door by Jennifer and her parents. The reception room features a concierge desk constructed of back-lighted pink Himalayan salt, and a wooden shelf at the far end of the waiting room holds a plethora of illuminated salt lamps in all shapes and sizes. The floor is a pleasant blue tone reminiscent of the deep ocean, and the walls and matching couch a calming shade of cornflower. There’s purified water for guests, and a HEPA air purifier that keeps the facility’s air free from dust, pollen, and germs. There are also living plants and purple amethyst crystals scattered lovingly about.
HeavenLee Float Spa’s logo is a stylized droplet of water encircling the traditional OM symbol, a well-known sacred Sanskrit sound and spiritual symbol deriving from traditional Indian faiths, and revered by Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists, Sikhs, and other Eastern esoteric religions. While a modern art Madonna adorned with Rosary Beads graces the room, the facility is for people of all faiths and backgrounds to discover their inner peace, in their own way, each according to their own belief and philosophy.
The cornflower walls throughout the spa have interesting images hanging here and there. There’s a golden OM painting, a Buddha’s face, a colorful image of John Lennon with the words to his most memorable track, “Imagine,” as well as a few other visual works more abstract in nature.
Jennifer spoke passionately about the services her family’s spa offers Staten Islanders:
“I believe that when you say yes to your healing, healing will happen…I call this place a spiritual safe haven for people. People are looking for alternatives to heal. Everything in HeavenLee Float Spa is here to support your healing journey. Everything. From flotation to the infrared sauna, to my favorite, is the crystal light bed. The crystal light bed brought me back my health…the proof is in the pudding. How do you feel [after a session]? Listen to your body. Your body knows better than anybody.”
Flotation Pods Foster Stillness And Relaxation
“Staten Island doesn’t have anything like this,” Norma explained. It all started when Jennifer experienced a float and found it helped in ameliorating her own health conditions, afterwards feeling like her entire body was renewed. Having been a serious gymnast in her youth, a member of the Junior Olympic Team, Jennifer was suddenly stricken with an unexpected health condition that caused her future as a gymnast to abruptly end. She was also left in a state of nearly constant pain and constricted muscles. After being helped considerably by floating, Jennifer had an idea. She realized that if floating helped her so much, it might likewise help others to feel better.
She asked, “Ma, what do you think? Let’s open a business!” Her Mom’s response was simply, “Sure, honey!” It just seemed like the right thing to do. From that point forward, HeavenLee slowly moved from idea to reality, as the family built the spa from the ground up, bringing their vision for a Staten Island sanctuary to life on the South Shore.
“We live in a world of chaos…sheer chaos…When you have one hour to dedicate to yourself…the goal is to be an expert in nothing,” Jennifer explained. It’s a time to go deep within, to forget about life’s stresses. She calls avid float practitioners, “float junkies.” There is three times more salt in a float pod than in the Dead Sea, which makes any size person float with ease, completely effortlessly.
A float session is an hour, but Jennifer enjoys floating for three hours at a clip! “When we first opened up, I said…you can’t get the full benefits from a thirty minute float,” Jennifer told us, explaining that her Mom had initially wanted sessions to be only thirty minutes.
Each float pod is filled with 900 pounds of Epsom salt, and the ten and a half inches of warm water is held at a steady temperature of 94.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Jennifer cited the fact that most of us are Magnesium deficient, and one float session provides, via dermal absorption, ample amounts of Magnesium, which helps muscles to release. That Magnesium plays such a role is hard science; our muscles relax by utilizing Magnesium. Arterial smooth muscles also relax when there is ample Magnesium in the body.
The ovoid shape and white exterior makes each pod look a lot like a giant egg, and in fact, Jennifer says the experience is a lot like returning to the sanctuary of the womb. In any case, the entire set-up looks extremely futuristic. Perhaps you remember Robin Williams’ character Mork, in the classic 80s ABC sitcom, Mork and Mindy? If you recall, he arrives on Earth in a spaceship that looks like an egg. In this case, you’ll be propelled on a journey, but it’s a journey into inner space, rather than outer space like Mork.
The experience reduces pain and inflammation, as well as stress and anxiety. It’s a respite from our hustle-and-bustle world. It’s useful for contractures and body tightness, not only for aiding to foster a sense of calm. “You enter an altered state of consciousness, and your body is able to just let go,” Jennifer notes.
According to Jennifer, one of flotation therapy’s most well-known advocates is Joe Rogan, host of the The Joe Rogan Experience pod-cast and former mixed martial arts commentator. Another is NFL star quarterback Tom Brady, who is said to float after every game.
There’s no light in the float pod. Once the door is shut, the person inside the pod experiences total sensory deprivation. “When you float, you do not know where your fingers are or where your toes are…you can’t tell where your feet are, or where your hands are,” according to Jennifer, revealing that our sense of proprioception is altered significantly during a session.
Of course, the lights can be left on, if that’s your preference, and the lights can be adjusted to each patron’s preferred color. The door doesn’t have to be shut, either. It’s really up to the person having the float session. The water remains still for nearly the entire session; five minutes from the end the jets turn on, signalling that the session is coming to a close.
The pods are self-cleaning, and are also additionally sterilized with hydrogen peroxide after each float session is finished. HeavenLee has three pods for its guests to use, so that there are ample appointments available each day.
Infrared Sauna For Detoxification
There’s also an infrared sauna, which provides dry heat via the infrared electromagnetic spectrum of (invisible) light. (“You can’t see it,but you can feel it”!) The air temperature slowly rises after the door closes, finally reaching 160 degrees. Interestingly, the Coronavirus cannot live at sustained temperatures above 136 degrees. While we cannot say for sure that the infrared sauna can help with COVID-19, it’s food for thought.
Sessions in the infrared sauna are generally only thirty minutes. By then, most people are sweating profusely. While I, personally, have never used an infrared sauna, I’ve experienced the power of both wet steam rooms and traditional dry sauna, and I must admit, the feeling afterwards is nothing short of a total renewal.
The sauna experience is a longstanding tradition in Europe and many other places, worldwide, and this is a modern high-tech adaptation of that theme which is slightly different. Jennifer explained, “Oh, does it make you sweat. You come out like you came out of the shower. You can feel your pain and inflammation being extracted right out of you.”
Sweating removes toxins like VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that are less easily excreted using the body’s other available detoxification pathways. Sweating also removes heavy metals from the body. It’s also been found to be helpful to those with with Lyme Disease, an under-reported condition on Staten Island and New Jersey.
While some think that this is all merely urban legend, studies have proven this all to be so. The sauna experience is rejuvenating, and many cultures swear by its efficacy. There have been a number of studies proving benefits of infrared therapy, specifically; it’s proven to help the heart and lower blood pressure. Jennifer said that many people come with pain, arthritis and, fibromyalgia, and start with an infrared sauna session and float afterwards.
Crystal Light Therapy Healing Bed Aligns The Chakras
HeavenLee float spa also features a crystal healing bed. Crystal light therapy employs colored light, simultaneously focused by quartz crystals onto each of a person’s seven chakras. While Westerners might pooh-pooh the notion of chakras, thinking it’s “New Agey,” it’s actually anything but.
Chakras are understood to correspond to each of the nerve plexuses in the human body. Chakras are actually a component of Hindu philosophy including Ayurvedic Therapy, as well as Chinese Buddhist teachings, including the practice of Chi Kung, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The term “New Age” is often used to denigrate Eastern philosophy, but it’s really a put-down without any basis in reality. New? Hardly. Hindu philosophy predates the birth of Christ.
The light is said to clear, align, and balance the chakras and energy meridians. Whether or not you “believe in” chakras or not, know that this is not a new concept.
Jennifer feels the crystal bed is HeavenLee’s most powerful aid to healing:
“I call the crystal bed one of the most powerful forms of healing that you can do for yourself, physically, emotionally, mentally, and Spiritually. What do I mean by that? Oftentimes in life we feel like we’re stuck in quicksand. You just can’t move forward. What the crystal bed does, it kind of gives you that little kick that you need in order to move forward. With all the [therapies] we have, I swear by the crystal bed because the crystal bed brought me back my life and my health. I have one at home and I go under it almost every day…it’s a pretty profound experience.”
Is this, indeed, a form of “quantum” healing? Skeptics will scoff at the notion, but then, skeptics also laughed at the idea of putting a man on the Moon and even the electric light bulb. Light vibrates at a specific frequency for each color, and different colors have been long said to be associated with the different chakras. In fact, recent advances in physics, such as a better understanding of vibrating string theory and pan-consciousness (form equals function) which explains the phenomenon of consciousness, confirm that ancient civilizations clearly had a clue about what’s what, and our modern science is not the first advanced technology on Earth.
In any case, the crystal bed is the most far-out of the therapies offered, and this unconventional treatment methodology is something few people have ever even heard of.
Pink Himalayan Salt Cave Combats Respiratory Issues
The heart and soul of HeavenLee, the salt cave, is located in the rear of the spa and is the showpiece of the family’s lovingly crafted healing space. “Have you ever seen anything like this?” Norma asked, smiling, already knowing our answer would be no. There is no other place on Staten Island quite like this. The room was custom-built to their unique specifications.
Eight to ten people can occupy the room at once for a group meditation, though one may partake of the experience alone, as well. The glowing walls evoke feelings of warmth and comfort; the salty air clears the air passages, making breathing easier. Of course, breathing is the core of meditative activities, and anything that will aid breathing can help one’s quest to accomplish their meditative goals. (There is also a smaller salt room where one or two people can sit, but it’s not quite as magnificent as the giant salt cave!)
Lights pulses in a rainbow of colors from behind the pink-hued walls, creating an unforgettable otherworldly effect. The sight is breathtaking; it’s at once incredibly beautiful and unexplainably serene. The room is filled with salt-infused humid air that’s pumped in; even when this airflow is switched off, you will immediately taste the salt once you enter the room.
The salt cave was built using imported bricks of pink Himalayan salt. This salt is rich trace elements, and is pink due to the presence of minerals other than sodium chloride. The salt accumulated in underground deposits when an ancient ocean dried up after the continental plates shifted about 600 and 540 million years ago, It is mined from the Salt Range mountains on the subcontinenet.
Salt is antimicrobial and drives most life processes, and has an incredible effect on the respiratory system. It can also foster the lessening of inflammation. Halotherapy, in all its forms, has been used for thousands of years. In our modern era, Feliks Boczkowsk, a Polish physician, popularized the therapy upon his observation that salt mine workers did not suffer from respiratory issues. As mentioned above, my own experience with salt is how I came to learn of HeavenLee’s existence, after investigating whether others have found salt to benefit their breathing. it was all a happy accident, really.
Walking Meditation Labyrinth Brings Inner Peace, One Step At A Time
A heart-shaped labyrinth is outlined in lights on the floor of the large Himalayan salt room. It’s for walking meditation, yet another way to experience inner peace. “This has never been done before we did it. I love labyrinths…The whole idea is…another way of meditating…this is the difference between a labyrinth and a maze,” Norma said as we walked the maze to reach its center, the symbolic center within ourselves. Our heart. Our very soul. Then, you retrace your steps and find your way back out. That is the process.
We walked the labyrinth. It was fun and something new for us. The idea is to walk with intention and mindfulness. There are many ways to meditate, and each effects a different kind of change in the practitioner.
Staten Island As a Center Of Spirituality
Jennifer strongly believes Staten Island is a special place; both reporters who ventured out to HeavenLee agreed with what she had to say:
“Believe it or not, Staten Island is a highly Spiritual, highly, highly highly evolved area. However, people are not awakened at this time and I believe places like HeavenLee, where the vibrational energy…is so high…people will be able to come in and..feel something. The woods in Staten Island are just beautiful. People think this is the end of the world. And, I look at it as something completely different. It is the dusk before the dawn….we will have universal consciousness. It’s one day at a time.”
Staten Island is home to many cultures, many peoples. HeavenLee is a place that is nonsectarian and offers healing to everyone. It is not a substitute for medical care, but rather an entirely different approach to wellness, a complement to whatever else you’re doing to find better health. While the sort of healing can extend to the Spiritual, there is clearly a physical, emotional, and mental aspect as well, presented by each of HeavenLee’s offerings.
Use of the facility’s various resources is by appointment; if crystal healing is outside your present worldview, perhaps start with the flotation pods or infrared saunas. Remember, meditation has been proven in many studies to have positive effects on the body. And, meditation can be religious or completely devoid of any aspect of faith. It’s really up to the patron of the spa to utilize the resources in ways that match their own needs and experience.
(Note: Staten Islander, and it’s reporters, were not compensated in any way for this story.)