I am not usually one to write blogs dedicated to reviewing a product, or even to recommend 1 particular brand over another. But the Shakti Mat is definitely one I am happy to open up a conversation about. Perhaps it is my interest in chronic pain and the claims of the Shakti Mat to reduce pain, it’s similarities to dry needling (which I use frequently as part of physiotherapy) or perhaps the word of friends who swear by the product. Either way… I thought this was one I had to try!
For anyone who is new to the Shakti experience, the Shakti Mat is the bed of nails phenomenon that is gaining more and more traction in therapeutic circles. It is a mat that is lined with many small, sharp plastic spikes that when the user lays or stands on it, is designed to reduce pain, improve blood flow and leave the user with an overall improved sense of well being.
I must admit… when it arrived in the mail, I immediately regretted my am breastfeeding/online shopping decision. Had I just spent $60 on a painful plastic torture device that I would use once only for it to sit in the back of the linen press for all time? As I unravelled it on the lounge room floor and inspected the plastic spikes (apparently analogous to a therapeutic bed of nails) I couldn’t imagine how this was going to be a helpful or a positive experience. I decide to jump in the deep end. I lay down, bare skin, on a hard surface and tried to let myself relax. My response? Laughter. How did I end up here? It was super painful, scratchy and really hard to get off once I was on. This was definitely going to be one of those funny stories I tell at parties. Perhaps it could be a party challenge!
Okay… I needed to give this a better crack. This time I did my research. Apparently, beginners should have a layer of light clothing on, and use the Shakti Mat on a softer surface, such as a bed, to allow the mat to conform to your natural curves. The result… ah-maze-ing! The initial 5 minutes (much more bearable with a t-shirt on) gave me a slightly uncomfortable, sharp sensation. I could notice the unhelpful thoughts emerging, such as “this hurts, get off now”, and “this isn’t helping, it’s just uncomfortable”. When I mindfully began to notice those thoughts as simply thoughts…. I was able to rest in awareness of the physical sensation without the suffering. As I reached the 5-minute mark, the sensation evolved from sharp and uncomfortable to warm and diffuse. I began to feel the blood flow reaching the areas of my back that were most in contact with the mat, and I could sense the strength of my heart beat pulsating toward the area, which in its own way was amazingly therapeutic. As I approached the 10-15-minute mark the throbbing decreased and I was left with the warm, diffuse sensation, which I can only describe as the feeling of laying in the intense sunshine for a short while. By 15 minutes (as the brochure said)… I felt I could drift off to sleep.
“By day 4 I could easily tolerate the Shakti Mat on bare skin and quite enjoyed it”.
These days, my Shakti Mat has a primarily therapeutic purpose. That is, when I feel my back and hips become achy from too much sitting or lifting, I simply do my 20 minutes of Shakti with a splash of mindfulness meditation and the pain is significantly relieved. If only I didn’t get complacent and actually did my session every 1-2 days, then surely it would serve as a preventative as well.
The meditative and spiritual aspect of using the Shakti Mat is also highly useful for me. Mindfulness meditation, which is grounded in reaching a sense of awareness, is much easier to frame when you have the changing physical sensation of the mat to work with. I would love to engage in this every day and feel that the mind body connection could really be cultivated by regular use of the Shakti Mat. I only blame myself for my lack of regular mindfulness practice! …. and my kids.
The Shakti Mat as a therapeutic tool for chronic pain? Well, I have some anecdotal evidence from friends who have become Shakti Mat users, but certainly not enough to make a clinical recommendation at this point. I would be highly interested if the Shakti Mat made its way into chronic pain treatment circles. I bring my thinking to my professional understanding of chronic pain and the way the brain reorganizes itself and its sensitivity to areas that are experiencing chronic pain. We know from pain science that becoming mindfully aware of that area, it’s sensations and being able to decrease the “danger” message associated with it can have profound effects on the management of chronic pain.
“Perhaps using the Shakti Mat can not only give the user structured access to mindfulness meditation, but also a physical stimulus that could in time normalize the abnormal and hypersensitive nerve pathways associated with chronic pain”.
For now,… I am a convert and an addict to the Shakti Mat. I would love to hear from anyone who has found it useful (or not so useful!).
PS: The image attached to this blog is the (#) Shakti burn they speak of…. either love it or you hate it!
Yoga or Pilates? The modern age old war but which one is actually better for you? Stay tuned!
Be kind to yourself,