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Retreat to a Himalayan Salt Cave Without Leaving West Hartford

Elements Destination Day Spa, which recently opened on Farmington Ave. in West Hartford, offers unique treatments including the state's first salt cave.

West Hartford is now home to one of the most distinctive day spas in the area, and the only spot in Connecticut where visitors can experience an authentic Himalayan Salt Cave.

There are a number of places in West Hartford where you can get a massage, ranging from the nail salon where you get a shoulder rub during a manicure and sit in a massage chair during a pedicure to full service day spas where a variety of customized treatments are offered. However, Elements takes "unique" one step further, offering what they call an "urban sanctuary and wellness retreat."

Owner Sarah Howes, who is originally from San Diego, formerly operated a small massage studio in Canton. She lives in West Hartford, and said she "loves the town, loves the energy." When the building at 945 Farmington Ave. became available, Howes said she "decided to be courageous" and create something special. She purchased the property, which formerly housed the Jean Paul Salon, from the great grandchild of the the original builder.

The name of the spa describes the range of treatments offered – with each room based on one of the five essential elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Treatments within each room are customized to the clients' needs as well, with a variety of massages, facials, and other therapies.

Director/Manager Janette Gianatti performs Ashiatsu massage in the "Wood" room. The massage is done with the feet – skin on skin – and Gianatti balances on the clients' back while holding onto a bar attached to the ceiling. "It's kind of like snowboarding on your client," she said.

The "Water" room contains a therapeutic soaking tub, large enough for couples massage, and also has a Vichy shower, which Gianatti described as "like a car wash for people." It has eight different shower heads, she said, and as you lie on the table it hits all of the "shocker points" of your body.

But by far the most unique feature of Elements is the Himalayan Salt Cave – described as a "dynamic and contemporary subterranean space" with walls, floor, and ceiling all constructed of authentic pink Himalayan salt, and a salt auger that finely grinds and diffuses salt particles into the air, creating an ionizing effect. Add to that diffused fiber optic lighting, soothing music, zero-gravity chairs, blankets, herbal neck wraps, and inhalation therapy, and the experience is truly one-of-a-kind.

Gianatti said that salt therapy (halotherapy), which can help with depression, sleep problems, and skin conditions, was discovered in Eastern Europe after it was noticed that salt miners were exceptionally healthy. According to Elements' brochure, the salt environment has an "anti-inflammatory and mucolytic" effect, and is used to treat a variety of conditions.

A total of 14 people can fit in the salt cave at any one time, although it is also available as a space for private massage at a rate of $240, or for couple's massage at $200 each person.

Several times a week sessions are scheduled as "family time" where adults and children under twelve can spend time in the salt cave together. The littlest kids can crawl around on the salt floor – which is anti-microbial – and play with wooden toys.

The salt cave has already become a popular escape. "The ESPN guys love it," Gianatti said. "It's a totally sterile environment, and it's cell phone free, too," she said.

This is just the first phase of Elements. In late May, the top floor will house a juice bar, oxygen bar and acupuncturist, as well as an outdoor Zen garden area on the roof deck. They plan to host special events as well, such as champagne nights and tequila tastings, Gianatti said.

Howes said that Elements has treatments that appeal to people of all ages, both men and women. All of the products used are organic and vegan.

"I've found West Hartford to be very welcoming, and everyone to be wonderful," she said.

Elements – a Destination Day Spa is located at 945 Farmington Avenue, West Hartford. For more information, call 860-231-8011, email 5elementsspa4u@gmail.com or visit their website 5elements4u.com.

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