Acupressure seems to be the most recent craze in the world of acupuncture, reflexology, meditation, and other alternative wellness remedies. However, this practice has actually been around for thousands of years in China and India, and only the recent popularity of the uber-convenient acupressure mat has caused it to gain traction in more western settings. So what exactly is an acupressure mat and how can you use it safely and effectively right from home?
Essentially, an acupressure mat is a foam bed made up of thousands of tiny plastic spikes that you lay or step on to relieve pressure and target areas of stress in your body. While that may sound like a counterproductive concept, many healthy gurus swear by this “bed of nails” as an at-home answer to pricey acupuncture sessions.
Contrary to what you may think, your skin is not actually pierced by these spikes. Though it may feel uncomfortable and a little strange at first, because your body weight is spread over the whole mat, it is simply stimulating pressure points along your body without causing pain. As you get used to the mat and the strange sensation and relax into the pressure, you will notice your stress slipping away.
Keep in mind, acupressure is still relatively foreign to modern science, and though it has withstood the test of time as a viable alternative remedy, there is little evidence to prove its ability to treat any medical conditions or diseases. Avoid the use of an acupressure mat if you are pregnant, have any heart issues, or open wounds.
One small study of 32 individuals published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that though there was no significant change in saliva cortisol levels (which are used to measure stress levels), participants found that they were more relaxed after sitting on an acupressure mat. Once they got used to the unusual sensation and moderate pain of the bed of nails, they demonstrated a ”parasympathetic response” which basically just means they were able to chill out.
Reasons to use an acupressure mat
Anyone can do it
You don’t have to have specialized training in the art of reflexology or pay hundreds of dollars to visit an acupuncturist to receive the benefits of acupressure. And though some claim it is not as effective, acupressure works as well as an all-over, non-invasive daily treatment that can make a huge difference over time.
Simply taking 20 minutes a day to lie still can make a massive difference in your mental state. When you rest on the mat, you can feel your whole body begin to relax, and you can get back in touch with your thoughts and emotions without stress fogging your brain. You will start to look forward to your daily time on your acupressure mat, not just because of how good it feels on your body but because of your clarity of mind.
It is totally customizable
When you use an acupressure mat, you can customize your experience to fit your unique needs. Whether you need to target a specific tension spot on your back or neck, or merely need to gain some energy to get you through the day, you can adjust your use accordingly. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. You know it best.
Benefits of acupressure
- Reduces neck and back pain
- Relieves anxiety
- Boosts endorphins
- Relieves headaches
- Improves oxygen levels
- Increases circulation
- Removes muscle tension
- Encourages restful sleep
- Energizes the body
How to use an acupressure mat
At first, it is a good idea to place the mat on a soft surface such as a bed or couch and cover it with a thin cloth. You will still receive the benefits; however, it is crucial that you allow your body to get used to the sensation before jumping in. Over time, you can place it on the floor and lay on it with your bare skin.
Regular use is vital. As you become more experienced in acupressure, you can slowly increase the time you spend using the mat. Start with 5 minutes each day and gradually increase this until you are spending 30-45 minutes on the mat. It is essential that you keep up with regular use to work out all the spots of tension in your body. Start by lying on the mat at least every other day and build up to daily use.
Be sure to breathe deeply to allow your body to sink into the mat so that the spikes can penetrate natural tension areas. Drink lots of water after each session and don’t follow it immediately with an intense workout routine. Give yourself time to relax and recover for the full benefit.