Let’s face it, jumping back into a full semester of in-person classes and rejoining the face-to-face world comes with a lot of stress. We’ve spent most of the past year and a half behind our screens which can make normalcy feel that much more intimidating. There are countless outlets for relieving stress, but one that you may not have considered before is acupressure.
This ancient Chinese practice has been used for centuries and is believed to have numerous benefits for the physical and psychological body. Acupressure mats are widely available but can be intimidating at first glance. The foam mats are covered with thousands of small, plastic spikes resembling some sort of torture device. But rest assured, they are completely safe and offer a wide range of benefits.
What is Acupressure?
Acupressure, though similar to acupuncture, is used to stimulate the skin with small points in a non-invasive way. Similar to acupuncture, it is tied to reflexology — the therapeutic practice of applying pressure to specific points of the body to trigger a healing response. The collective spikes on an acupressure mat target channels within the body that connect to different organs and tissues.
These channels are called meridians and are typically targeted along the back, neck, hands and feet. In fact, there are over 100 meridians on our backs alone! According to ancient Chinese practices, applying pressure to these meridians helps to unblock the flow of energy through the body, resulting in a number of physical and psychological benefits.
Benefits of Acupressure
This healing practice is inexpensive, non-invasive and needle-less, unlike its counterpart, acupuncture. This is perfect for college students looking for a realistic and accessible way to destress and heal. While some believe that the benefits of acupressure come from targeting the same meridians that are targeted with professional acupressure or acupuncture, others believe that the benefits come from the significant increase in blood flow that the mats stimulate. Other benefits include stress and anxiety relief, reduced muscle tension, increased endorphin production (which results in an elevated mood) and more restful sleep. You can even use acupressure to relieve headaches in a holistic way.
Anyone that’s tried an acupressure mat knows the sensation they feel after laying on it even just for a few minutes. After laying on the mat, you’ll feel your muscles begin to warm and relax as your stress is released from the outside in.
How to Get Started
All you really need to get started on your journey to healing is an acupressure mat. VALLEY recommends one like this, but there are dozens online that are college budget friendly. Once you have a mat, you’re ready to try it out! You can lay on any flat surface or use pillows placed under the mat to find a position that is comfortable for you.
Be sure to lay down slowly, being careful to distribute your weight as evenly as possible across the mat. It’s recommended that first-time users begin by laying on the mat for just 10 to 20 minutes at a time while wearing a shirt to lower the intensity of the sharp points. Carefully reposition yourself until you’re comfortable. It’s important to know that it will likely feel a bit uncomfortable for the first few minutes and even the first few times you use your mat.
Once your body is used to the sensation of the points, it will become easier and increasingly more relaxing and effective. When you feel like your body has acclimated to the spikes, try using the mat on bare skin to get the best, most noticeable results. You can even increase the amount of time you spend on the mat to 30 to 40 minutes for a calming experience. Try listening to a guided meditation or some of your favorite music or podcasts to unwind and create a mindful experience for yourself.
The key to success with this healing practice is consistency. Whether it’s the first thing you do when you wake up or the last thing you do before bed, making it part of your daily routine is how you’ll experience the best results. Before you know it, you’ll feel your stress melt away with your new holistic routine!
Have you tried adding acupressure to your daily routine? Tweet us, @VALLEYmag, with your thoughts on acupressure.