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Have you tried those spiky yoga mats, aka the bed of nails? If so, you may have noticed that they are made of SPIKES and spikes do not always feel good! Even the sight of them in their hundreds may evoke fear. (Which is why they often come in deceptively gentle colors and why the spike pods are called “rosettes.”)

But anyone who can tolerate the bed of nails for a few moments—and the sensation does indeed become tolerable—is well rewarded.

Not while lying down, but, you know: when they get up.  

What explains this phenomenon? What is it about those sensations that feel good only after you stop? Is this just one more piece of evidence that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? 

According to Traditional Chinese medicine, the plastic spikes stimulate acupressure points along the body’s energy meridians. As the points are massaged, energy is unblocked and begins flowing more freely. Good feelings follow!

The meridian system—in my limited understanding—isn’t a 1:1 overlay with the circulatory system. In Western terms, what happens on the spikes is a boost in circulation, which can ease muscle tension and release endorphins (so if you don’t like chocolate, try spikes!).

Me, I keep looking for the things that feel good while I’m doing them, not just after I stop. But there is something inevitable about the dance of contraction and expansion.

There is also something about extremes. Stepping into a near-freezing ocean is not a feel-good thing, but when you step out again? The moments after a cold plunge are incredible. It’s a euphoria volcano.

It’s the best thing you’ve ever done! And you never want to do it again. 

But like the bed of nails, or like pigeon pose—or anything else that makes you feel like a coward before and a hero after—pretty soon you’re back for more.

If you dare: Acupressure Mat and Pillow Set. Here’s an excellent cheat: put the bed of nails on your actual, much softer bed, and in that way dial back the pressure. You still get the massage effect, but you can stay on the mat longer. And it feels good while you’re doing it, not just after.

What about you? Tell us some things that, at least initially, feel good only after you stop doing them. And, maybe more important, how do you get yourself to do them? 

These are my burning questions. I look forward to your burning answers!

Image: Ascetic Princess with Snakes in a Wilderness: Asavari Ragini, from a Ragamala, c. 1650, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchase and partial gift from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection; Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2018.190. Used with permission.

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About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew. Her new book is Meals at Mealtimes. What a concept!


  • Running. It takes quite a while to build up the capacity and endurance to make running “easy.” But once you achieve that comfort it doesn’t hurt either during or after. The achievement is 90% psychological. And once you know how it feels you can run even after long periods of not running with much less pain.

    • I need a tv program to distract me as I walk thru my pain of walking a mile or two on a treadmill. It always feels good to stop!

  • Using the roller to stretch my back, reverse the hunch I’ve been doing all day. Painful at the time but when you roll off…bliss

    • Winter swimming. Yikes! at first, then good. The benefits outweigh any discomfort, and you are out in nature with friends. Nice!

  • I love cold water (the super-duper OPPOSITE to hot flashes). I dip in and out of cold water until eventually it feels good WHILE I am doing it. I’m not sure if it feels like self-care to me if it doesn’t feel good at some point doing the process – 0% feel-good-during doesn’t quite work for me.

  • any firm of exercise really, always feel better after than the thought of it before. however, I have a ‘bed of nails’ and when I have a sciatica attack it’s one of the few things that truly helps! really…

  • It sure doesn’t feel great when my massage therapist digs into a knotted muscle but a few hours – or even a whole day – after it feels amazing!

  • What feels good after I stop doing it? Laundry. Post-laundry euphoria is a great feeling! Also, seaming a sweater, although that doesn’t really feel bad while doing it; it’s more just the thought of doing it that’s daunting, not the process itself.

  • I workout 6 days a week. Nothing feels as good as when I’m done. I schedule it in my Evernote. My goal is to be a healthy old person.

  • PLEASE, no more snakes!!! It ruined the aesthetics of this beautiful [iece.
    Never do I feel good after snakes!

  • My mat arrived yesterday. OWWW, yeah. Thanks Max.

  • Pebble mat. Every night before bed we walk the pebble mat (plastic “pebbles” on a fabric back.) It took a while before my feet stopped feeling tortured. Acupuncture points are stimulated, as the mat above. Some nights can be painful and others, just pressure but afterwards feels so good, as you said! Why I’m a forever fan: years ago I was dealing with left over soft tissue pain from a car accident. Time had passed and I thought I’d have it for the rest of my life. The pebble mat was a gift for my husband’s high blood pressure (research based.) After two weeks of short daily mat walks, my pain was gone. THAT was totally unexpected. I told no one for another two weeks. The relief incredible. That was twenty years ago. I’m 72.

  • My grandpa’s hugs! When I was a young girl, we would see grandpa only once or twice a year. He was a big man (or maybe it was just that I was little), and he gave the very best bear hugs you could ever wish for. He would pick me up off the floor and give me a big, loving squeeze. As I used to tell him, “It hurts SO GOOD!!” And it felt even better after, when he would put me down and I would let out a big sigh, “AAAHHHHHH!” Such loving times <3

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