We tried out an acupressure mat, pillow and ring to see if they do what they say they do
It’s a rectangle piece of foam, covered in a black canvas and 230 carefully arranged white discs with exactly 27 spikes on each disc. It’s called an acupressure mat and I am supposed to lie on it for 20-30 minutes. I also have the acupressure pillow, a foam pillow covered in a purple canvas with a total of 2052 spikes on it, to be used on my neck and shoulders for 10-15 minutes. And to round up my adventures in acupressure, I have the acupressure ring too. A gold spring like ring that I am supposed to roll on any finger or toe for 1-2 minutes. All these tools are meant to release endorphins, stimulate my neuron system and increase my blood circulation.
The acupressure mat, pillow and ring use the benefits of acupressure, acupuncture and reflexology to help with stress relief, pain relief from stiff joints and muscles, relaxation, insomnia, decreased muscular tension and digestion.
The thought of all those benefits with just 30 minutes of lying down (eyes closed if it pleases you, which means you can do it while napping) is enough to make you forget that its origins lie in something called the “nail bed” used by Indian Gurus to meditate and heal. This is how I found myself one night on the floor gently lowering my bare back onto a mat filled with 230 white discs with 27 spikes on each disc. I made it 5 minutes.
I read a review where someone compared the acupressure mat to lying on a bed of fire ants. Another where someone compared it to stepping on Legos. Those are not untrue. And yet as soon as I lifted myself off the mat I felt immediately relaxed, any tension I had before lying down had melted away and my back was giving me some delightfully warm and tingly feelings.
I repeated the same routine twice a day for the next few days. But I never was able to go more than 10 minutes and couldn’t get into that “comfortable still position” you’re apparently meant to be in.
I was convinced I was lying on it wrong, and so I spoke to Liza of Billy the Bee, makers of the acupressure mat, acupressure pillows and rings. She’s used the mats enough that she feels no discomfort when lying on them and gave me the following guidelines to help achieve that comfortable position.
- Only your back should be on the mat – not your head, your head should be resting on the floor, a cushion or the acupressure pillow.
- If it’s too intense to lie on it without a shirt – wear a thin layer to start with. When I tried wearing a thin top, or layering the mat with a thin sheet, I could barely feel anything. So, I braved the no shirt for less time until I got used to it.
- To make it more comfortable you can place the mat on your bed and lie on that. The softness from the mattress makes it more comfortable. This helped me a lot in the beginning and made it more comfortable.
- If you are not comfortable, gently get up and slowly lie down, don’t readjust yourself while lying down – the spikes can scratch you.
Through my use of the acupressure mat I learned that if you want to really target your middle and lower back, have your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. This helped get my back flat and put even pressure throughout my back.
However, the acupressure mat is not just for your back. Liza also explained how I can use the mat for my feet – just stand on it for 2-5 minutes. This is fantastic for tired feet, but because you are standing and putting all your weight on your feet, wear socks. Without them it is painful.
She also explained how to use it for my legs – you drape the mat over a couch and then hang your legs over it – this gets your calves and feels quite wonderful.
Following her instructions made my acupressure mat experience more bearable, but never comfortable. The longest I’ve managed is 20 minutes and I have yet to achieve perfect stillness. I’m a fidgeter and an acupressure mat doesn’t still me. I did however find that doing nothing (no reading or scrolling through Instagram) while lying down, gave me a better experience, call it meditation if you will. I also discovered that my back is more sensitive in the morning than at night, and morning sessions were quite a bit more painful. It also leaves your back red, almost looking a touch sunburnt, but that quickly fades.
What kept me coming back for more and what keeps me regularly using my acupressure mat now, is not how I feel when lying on it, comfortable it is not. It’s how I feel when I get up. While it’s become more bearable, I haven’t fully gotten used to the feeling of the spikes, but without exception every time I get up, any tension I had before lying down is released, my back feels amazing and I feel relaxed and warm.
The acupressure mat as mentioned, is said to help with stress relief, pain relief from stiff joints and muscles, relaxation, insomnia, decreased muscular tension and digestion. I found that using the mat had no effects on my asleep, I’ve used it right before bed and it doesn’t help me fall asleep easier. I also didn’t notice any effects on my digestion. The biggest affect for me has been the tension, pain relief and relaxation. As odd as it sounds, and while I don’t feel relaxed while using it, I feel incredibly relaxed once I get up.
Would I recommend the acupressure mat, pillow and ring?
I found the acupressure pillow less painful than the mat, which can be because my neck and shoulders aren’t as sensitive as my back. If you only want to get one acupressure item – I would suggest the mat, as I found it more beneficial, and by rolling it up you can also use it as a pillow to target your neck and shoulder.
The acupressure ring is awesome if you use your hands a lot. I enjoy using the ring after days that I’ve been working with my hands and it gives my fingers a mini massage. I’m not a fan of using it on my toes.
My testing period might be over but I’m still using my acupressure mat, pillow and ring, but now rather than reach for it twice a day, I mainly use it when I feel tense, have any back or neck pain and after most runs. For that purpose, it’s been amazing.
Photography by Feige Lewin
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