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Lying on a bed of nails isn’t top of most people’s to-do list but what if we told you it could reduce stress, soothe headaches, ease muscle tension and post-workout recovery in a similar way to a massage, reduce the appearance of cellulite and improve sleep? Enter the acupressure mat, the at-home wellness hero, which has seen a surge in sales during the pandemic. Sales of the Bed of Nails acupressure mat, £70 on Cult Beauty rose by a staggering 223 per cent compared to the previous year. The mat, which has 8,800 plastic spikes, even earned a spot in the 2021 Cult Beauty's Haul of Fame , voted for by customers.
Image: Instagram @davidbeckham
While there's no scientific evidence for their effectiveness, users love the pain/pleasure experience and the profound sense of calm. Last summer David Beckham posted a picture of himself standing barefoot on his £49 Shakti Mat describing the experience as "so good".
Singer Pink was seen getting ready backstage with one while Britney Spears (above) has been a fan of Bed of Nails for years. Meanwhile, model Miranda Kerr revealed on her Kora Organics website that a Spoonk Acupressure Mat, £39.99 was one of her essentials. "I travel with it everywhere," she said. Top sports pros use it for recovery too including the All Blacks rugby team in New Zealand, where the brand Shakti Mat, with 6,000-plus spikes originates.
Its origins are deeper than a modern relaxation tool. It's said to have been created by a Swedish monk named Om Mokshanada, as a modern-day take on an ancient bed of nails to increase pain tolerance and aid healing. “The Shakti Acupressure Mat was developed to make the health benefits of a bed of nails more practical and accessible,” says Simone Engels of Shakti Mat .
An acupressure mat is about the size of a small bath towel. It also comes in acupressure pillow form - a cylinder shape for under your neck. When the spikes on the mat are applied to the body, they put pressure on the skin and muscles, although they don't penetrate the skin. Unlike acupressure as a therapy, they don't target specific points but work more generally. “This pressure works to release tension and encourages healthy circulation in the area being targeted,” explains Simone. “The result is an incredibly relaxed body and mind primed for deep, restorative sleep. It's not uncommon for users to fall asleep on the mat!”
How does lying on an acupressure mat feel?
You can use it on bare skin or through light clothing and there are definitely a few minutes of 'hump' to get over where it feels a little painful. But that soon dissolves into tingles and then into feelings of profound relaxation, possibly from endorphins released in response to the pain. In our experience, once the sensation subsides, you are left very much feeling the mind-body connection. If you spend a lot of time in your head, the acupressure mat is a great grounding practice. “The Shakti experience can be uncomfortable and prickly at first,” says Simone. “After five or so minutes, this transforms into sensations of tingling, pulsating and warmth. Then, after 20 minutes on the mat, all discomfort is evaporated and you can expect to feel extremely relaxed.”
Get the Gloss columnist Madeleine Spencer says she can spend up to half an hour on hers. “I’ll usually go on my mat for around 20 to 30 minutes - though I sometimes fall asleep and will end up on it for an hour!” she told us.
Journalist Bryony Gordon is a fan too, telling makeup artist Rose Gallagher on her Beauty From the Heart podcast that she lies on it 15 minutes before bedtime to induce sleep.
You'll normally see a red rash a bit like sunburn, where you've been lying on the mat. "This redness is caused by healthy blood flow to the area, which occurs during the session (the 'warmth' stage) and helps soothe and restore the muscles," says Simone.
It's reputed to help with migraines too; Lily Earle, daughter of Liz Earle, recently wrote on Get The Gloss about her chronic migraine condition and uses hers beneath her head on a 'migraine day'. As for its claims to tackle the look of cellulite, Cult Beauty says of its best-selling Bed of Nails that the spikes help the body rid itself of toxins and increase blood flow, to assist the breakdown of stubborn fat groupings.
As David Beckham says, it's great for the feet. Madeleine Spencer puts her mat under her desk to roll her feet on as she works. Nutritionist and Get The Gloss expert Daniel O’Shaugnessy says the mat is one of his must-have wellness aids of all time. “I use it before bed, sometimes while I’m watching TV for about 30 minutes. You feel the difference immediately and then almost float to bed.”
It's clear that it can become addictive. If you want a stronger sensation, there's a Shakti Mat Advance, which has 2,000 fewer spikes than the original so that your body weight is distributed in fewer places for greater intensity and is recommended for athletes and experienced Shakti Mat users looking for an upgrade.
Buy a Shakti Mat, £58.50 or check out the Bed of Nails Acupressure Mat , £70