by Kara-Leah Grant
Running a popular yoga website means I get all kinds of emails from people wanting me to review or share their yoga-related products and services. My favourite so far was the press release from a company launching a range of yoga shoes. Because we all know you wear shoes while practicing yoga right?
So I was sceptical when Jonathan from Shakti Mat New Zealand emailed me ask said he’d send me a free Shakti Mat if I did a review about it.
Road-testing, assessing and reviewing a product takes time and the price point of the Shakti Mat is moderate enough that my hourly rate would have been way less than minimum.
Besides, who needs a modern bed of nails?
But Jonathan was persistent, and finally, after several emails back and forth, I accepted his offer and agreed to write a review, The Yoga Lunchbox style, which means totally transparent.
By now, Jonathan’s quiet persistence plus some of the background reading I’d done on the ‘net had made me curious so I was excited to receive the mat. I was still sceptical though. The official story behind the Shakti Mat goes like this:
Om Mokshananda a massage therapist and Reiki healer was travelling and found the most beautiful and harmonious place in the Himalayas. After a long time spent in the Himalayas practicing mysticism, yoga and meditation he found that nothing is complete until all fellow human beings can experience living in deep happiness. During the past few years he had exclusively been focusing on different yoga practices and meditations.
Returning from the mountains he created a bed of nails with the help of the ancient Indian knowledge, Vedic science which was recorded 5-7000 years ago.
It’s the kind of slick marketing story that always raises an eyebrow from me.
My research into the history of the bed of nails wasn’t much more fruitful either. The same site served up this info:
The bed of nails is an ancient tool with its roots in Indian mysticism. With its origin, dating back thousands of years, the bed of nails is a well tested tool for healing the body and releasing emotional, physical and mental block-ages. It has been use by Indian yogis (yoga practitioners) throughout time to attain perfection of body and mind. The bed of nails was, on the contrary to popular belief, not a macho toy for the Indian fakir to prove resistance to pain. The true purpose of the bed of nails was misunderstood by media and the general public due to the seclusion and reticence of the yogis.
But it didn’t go on to explain what the true purpose of the bed of nails was – happiness? And the phrase ‘bed of nails’ has become so synonymous with products like the Shakti mat that I couldn’t find any real history or detail on the yogic practice of lying on a bed of nails.
Was it a yogic practice? What was it done for? I don’t know. So in true yogi style, I decided to let go of the thoughts and ideas I had about the mat and simply try it for myself, with an open mind. It’s the experiential approach – nothing can be known that is not directly experienced.
I thought I’d likely try out the Shakti Mat, write the review and then give it away.
But no, I absolutely love my Shakti Mat. I look forward to getting on it at the end of my day and I even pack it when I go away for the weekend.
Comprised of 6000+ plastic spikes on a pillow-case like cover over a thin foam filler, the Shakti Mat is about as long as my torso. That means I can lie on it with the spikes pressing into my very lower back and running all the way up to the top of my neck. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
Every night when I hop into bed, I strip to the waist and position the mat underneath me – carefully! The trick with the mat is to lie down with care and attention so your body all hits the mat in the right place all at once. You can’t wiggle around or re-position yourself once you’re on the mat – that’s when you will fill the spikes spiking into you.
At first, it’s uncomfortable. You could even say there’s low-level pain. There’s a desire to move and get comfortable, to shift position. But that’s pointless – or rather – mega-pointy! Instead, I’ve been breathing through those initial minutes of discomfort.
It doesn’t take long for the sensation to shift though – likely because the brain is releasing endorphins or some other feel-good chemical!
Then the entire area floods with warmth and lying on the Shakti Mat begins to feel utterly delicious.
I always set a timer when I get on – there’s no moving around to check phones or clocks and I wanted to know how long I’d been on the mat. I started with 15 minutes, and have worked my way up to twenty, which is the recommended length of time. However, often, when the timer does go off, I turn it off and stay on the mat until I’m ready to get off.
Coming off also takes care and attention. I attempt to peel myself off the same way I laid myself down – mostly all at once. Then it’s time to put the mat back in its bag, slide it under my bed, and go to sleep. Yes, I feel far more relaxed and chilled out as a result of lying on the Shakti Mat. Usually, I read while I’m on it, so it gives me a twenty-minute window that bridges the gap between waking and sleeping.
However, while I feel more relaxed and easily go to sleep, I don’t know if it’s affecting the quality of my sleep at all. One of the claims is that the Shakti Mat can help with insomnia. Possibly it can – I don’t have insomnia, so I don’t know.
But I have been tracking the quality of my sleep for a few months with an app called Sleep Cycle. There has been no measurable shift in the quality of my sleep since I started using the mat. That’s what the app tells me. My subjective experience tells me I feel more relaxed and I enjoy getting into bed, using the mat, and then going to sleep.
Overall, the Shakti Mat has become one of the habits of my daily life.
I look forward to it, I take it with me when I travel, I love raving about it to friends and family and giving it to them to try out. The packaging and presentation of the mat are beautiful, and it’s a great price point.
I’ve used the Shakti Mat lying on my back, lying on my front, and standing on it. It feels like it reduces tension in my lower back after a long day of sitting at my computer. It definitely helps with tension in my shoulders and upper back as well.
Turns out Jonathan was right when he told me I’d love it, and I’m so grateful he was so persistent and so insistent that I try one. There may or may not be any genuine yogic practice that involves lying on a bed of nails and I doubt very much it’s going to lead me to a state of self-realisation. But possibly, it does make me feel a little happier at the end of every day.