Historians estimate that the Chinese began practising acupressure over 7000 years ago, but it wasn't until about 2000 years ago that people in what is now India started using acupressure mats – more commonly known to us as the ‘bed of nails’.
There is a lot of mysticism around the bed of nails and what they were used for. Contrary to popular belief, those Indian yogis weren’t doing it as some kind of pain tolerance stunt, but actually as a meditation aid! These yogis (mostly in the Himalayas) found that the physiological change the body underwent on nail beds aided their meditation practice. By getting through the initial feelings of discomfort it helped to cultivate resilience, and eventually eased the body and mind into a place of stillness.
Swedish yogi Om Mokshananda came across the bed of nails during his time spent practicing meditation in the Himalayas. Having tried and experienced the benefits of acupressure there himself, he revived the benefits of this ancient technology for a modern world by starting work on developing this principle into the Shakti Mat as we know it today.
Om introduced the Shakti Mat to his native Sweden, and at the forefront of wellbeing, Scandinavians enthusiastically embraced a new natural approach to recovery and wellbeing. And Om also found a way to give back to the amazing land that had conjured up the initial concept of the bed of nails – in 2008 he started work on setting up Shakti Mats’ charity workshop in Varanasi, India.
Meanwhile, the Shakti Mat was continuing to grow ever more popular. After a chance encounter with Om, and blown away by the concept and ethics behind the Shakti name, Kiwi students and childhood friends George and Jon, then 21, decided to bring the Shakti Mat to New Zealand in 2014.
In the early beginnings George and Jon sold Shakti Mats to chiropractors and yoga studios, at markets, and even went door-to-door knocking… It was a slow start and a steep learning curve, but gradually an increasing number of people experienced the Shakti Mat for themselves, and the benefits of the mat became more widely spoken about. People started telling their friends about this strange spiky mat that helped with relaxation, and the Shakti Mat gained credibility across New Zealand.
And as the number of Shakti advocates grew, so did their visibility – Shakti users were posting pictures and glowing reviews of their Shakti Mats on social media, and George and Jon could no longer keep up with posting each Shakti Mat by hand themselves. In March 2016 the pair made the decision to take on their first full time staff member – George’s Auntie Sue.
With increasing visibility and steadily growing demand for Shakti Mats from an ever more health and ethically conscious world, Team Shakti grew too big for Auntie Sue's living room and moved into a larger office in Christchurch. Meanwhile, production at the Varanasi workshop was humming along.
In line with Shakti Mats’ namesake – Shakti, the divine feminine power – Om wanted to find a way to support women. Therefore only women are employed at the workshop, as in India women often have difficulties in finding work that can be combined with their responsibilities within their household.
The incredible women who work at Shakti Mats’ charity factory are supported with good pay, good hours, meals, medical care, sick pay, and a safe and happy work environment. Shakti Mats are proud to produce the majority of our products here.
Now both 24, George and Jon run Shakti Mats from Christchurch, New Zealand, alongside a closely integrated team of 10. The young team and super relaxed work environment make for an awesome culture, and the Shakti team back the strong ethics of Shakti Mats with enthusiasm and hard work in return.
Going forward Shakti Mats anticipate increasing the distribution of Shakti products in Europe, and are also currently working to expand our charity workshop to support more women through this endeavour. This year Shakti Mats will also engage in other charitable initiatives in the Varanasi region.