One of the best health purchases I’ve ever made was of a small mat, covered in 8,820 tiny plastic spikes. Laying on this baby is one of the easiest things I do to relax; I would be lost without my acupressure mat.
I’d read about acupressure mats and wanted to try one. Yantra Mat was having a sale, so I bought a pretty purple mat and had it shipped to my apartment. When I unrolled it, I couldn’t imagine how effective those prickly little discs would be at helping me unwind.
At first it was very weird, laying shirtless on the slightly painful spikes, waiting to relax. But after a few minutes, I actually was relaxed. You can really feel the circulation increasing in your back and neck. Slowly, the good feeling spreads throughout your whole body, and the strange sensation melts into an overall feeling of ahhhh.
Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, except that instead of using needles to affect certain areas of the body, practitioners use pressure. Acupressure mats have been available for a few years now, although their benefits are somewhat debated (not by me, but by science.) The mats can help with circulation, relaxation, anxiety, pain relief, and more. The idea is that all of the little spikes on the mat will hit over 100 pressure points on the human back, bringing you into a blissful state of relaxation.
For me, the biggest benefit of my acupressure mat is how much it helps with sleep. Both myself and my boyfriend suffer from occasional insomnia, and laying on “the spiked mat,” as we call it, almost always helps both of us fall asleep (we only have one, though, so we’ve gotten good about sharing!). I’ve used it to fall asleep when I’m sick, stressed, irritated or hungover, and the mat always relaxes me.
I’ve also used the mat for really intense savasanas after home yoga practice, to help with headaches and body aches, even to alleviate nausea (laying tummy-down feels weird, but I swear it works). I’ve had my Yantra mat for over two years and I’m still finding new ways to use it. I haven’t done much meditation, but laying on the mat does sometimes bring me into a trance-like state, a mindset that’s both calm and clear.
Companies that make the mats usually recommend a few minutes of daily use, but I usually only lay on mine when I feel like I need it. You can use it in your bed, but it generally works better if it’s on a hard surface. You can do it while wearing a thin shirt, just a bra, or nothing at all. I’ve seen some people stand on theirs, and you can also roll it up and use it as a pillow to lessen tightness in the jaw, neck and face.
Acupressure mats may seem like a crazy hippie cure, but if you’re looking to get to sleep or relax without using medication, they are definitely worth trying. There are different companies that manufacture mats in all sorts of colors and sizes, and a mat will cost you anywhere from $30 to $80.
Photo: Carrie Murphy