At first sight, the Yantra Mat challenges the common senses you’ve spent a lifetime learning, like “Don’t stick your hand in the fire,” or “Avoid sharp objects.”
It’s a foam mat with over 8,800 tension-targeting pointy, plastic spikes poised to prick and poke thousands of pressure points located across your body. Yantra experts encourage you to lie on, sit on, and even apply the mat directly to the sides of your face to help encourage good blood circulation and relieve muscle tension. As little as 10 minutes per day is claimed to unlock numerous health benefits, with enthusiasts saying that consistent use helped improve their mood, quality of sleep and stress levels.
Can a two-inch-thick mat really work such miracles?
As Chatelaine’s resident gadgets girl, I couldn’t resist testing this modern-day bed of nails. At the moment, I’m still nursing injured knees from a timed double marathon-length hike (see this post for clarification). After spending 10 minutes on the mat over the past 10 days, I must say, I like the Yantra way, although I wasn’t quick to sing its praises.
Now, I’m less stressed than I was last week, when I fretted over my recent relocation to The Land of The Slow-Moving. The Yantra Mat, I’ve come to learn, is as much a lesson in letting go of your fears of pain as it is a pain reliever.
Worry initially led me to lie on the mat in a rigid plank position, reluctant to relax and let the spikes work. I tried to think about more pleasant times, when I could run freely through the Don Valley Trail System. After the first few days, I hardly noticed a difference. The mat’s thorny surface forms a groovy, psychedelic design that appears so friendly and soothing. Surely, I was doing something wrong.
Many years ago, I visited Woodstock, New York. The town celebrates peace, free love and rainbow tie-dye. The sidewalk traffic moves much slower, and the smell of frankincense fills the air. They know how to relax.
I spoke with Angela Fu, a clinical doctor for Toronto’s Total Wellness Centre, a place that specializes in acupuncture and other Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments. As she explained, patients must relax before any treatment. “Stress will undo any of the health benefits of acupuncture or acupressure,” said Fu. “The only way the body can heal is by first completely relaxing.”
“You don’t want to stress out before you lie on that mat,” she told me. “And try not think about anything for a while afterward—this is what we say at the Centre. Just be. Allow your body to rebalance itself.”
I listened, and it worked.
The Yantra Mat draws from the principles of acupressure, a technique where specialists apply pressure, using fingers or elbows, to targeted points along the body. It has similar effects to acupuncture, without the use of needles.
“In Chinese medicine, we believe that when people aren’t feeling like themselves, it’s mostly due to blockages in certain organs. So needles or other forms of pressure are applied to specific points on the body to helps reopen those valves and promote good blood flow—one of the essential signs of good health,” says Fu.
If you can’t make it to see a specialist (or needles just give you the heebie-jeebies), give the Yantra Mat a try.
It could be one of the quickest paths to instant relaxation out there. The plastic thorns in my side generate a wonderful, warming sensation after the first few minutes. That must be the good flow that Angela Fu was telling me about.
Some say the benefits are in my head. But I think any relief experienced by my gray matter warrants recognition. It’s definitely worth the under-$60 price tag.