Nail Bed Lessons

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Nail Bed Lessons

Key Takeaways

  • Sales of wellness nail mats quadrupled in early 2020.
  • Physics and science videos and explanations show that a nail bed isn't dangerous and anyone can lie on one, so long as the bed is made well (all nails are the same length).
  • People who perform and use the nail bed as a trick often use variations to increase the tension, such as a bed sandwich, hammers, and putting weight on the person lying down.

Introduction

The art of laying on a bed of nails rests more on understanding the science of it and on having a well-built bed, than on practicing lying down. It seems most people are able to do this trick without any training due to the way force is spread across hundreds of nails, which explains why there are few actual classes. Performing the trick however can involve variations like nail sandwiches and hammers - though even there it seems the person wielding the hammer is the one who should practice. Hence, below we have provided details on helpful organizations and contacts, some instructive videos, and information about where bed of nails is practiced and who uses the technique.

Organizations and Contacts

  • Steve Spangler is a fairly well-known public speaker or show person for science experiments (he's appeared on Ellen for example, and says he has appeared on television 1,600 times over the past 30 years). His video demonstration of the bed of nails trick focuses on how it works, scientifically, and it appears on other sites as a teaching resource. He is a STEM educator and business person, and he also provides teacher training, professional development, and personalized consulting and training. He can be reached via his manager, at carly@stevespangler.com or via this form. Some of his other bed of nails television appearances can be seen here and here, while this video is the most detailed and instructive for performing the trick.
  • Yoga Desc sells nail boards for therapeutic use - specifically for yoga, sports, and fitness activities. This organization advocates nail boards for strength, awareness, and experiencing new sensations. The site includes instructions for the therapeutic use of nail boards - both standing up, and lying on them. It also describes nail boards as a type of acupuncture or reflexology. The prices of their nail beds vary by size and design, from US$230 to US$300. Contact: mail@yogadesc.com or phone or Whatsapp: +7 977 872-99-42
  • Wellness coach Tanja Djelevic uses a bed of nails as an acupressure tool in her Lifeforce Academy - an 8-week long fitness and wellness program. She doesn't provide pricing on her website, but she can be reached via this form, or Facebook. In this video she uses her bed of nails / acupressure mat for rest and recovery poses.

Training Videos and Practical Information

  • Harvard Natural Sciences Lecture Demonstrations has a small amount of material on the physics of the bed of nails and the details of building one, then how to set up the trick and practice. They also have a video here (technique: a sandwich of two beds, plus hammer).
  • This 5 minute video also explores the science and practice of the bed of nails.
  • This video by Craig Beals from Beals Science is also very instructive. It seems much of the art is more in making sure the bed of nails is adequate. His tips include things like white shirts with blood dots for enhanced impact.
  • This less professional video focuses more on the lying down on the bed (and shows how relatively easy it is).
  • This intense variation of the trick involves skateboarding on a nail board. Rather than being instructive, it is a demonstration of what is possible, and could perhaps lead to other ideas for creative adaptions of the original lying down trick. Similarly, this video demonstrated a bed of nails skate ledge, and this a world record for the number of beds of nails employed.
  • Other helpful information includes this short guide to building and using a bed of nails, and these detail and photo-illustrated instructions to building a bed of nails.
  • These instructions explain (briefly) how to implement the variation with a hammer and the block on the person's chest, and why that too doesn't cause any harm.

People Practicing Bed of Nails

  • Beds of nails are being used by some athletes, and are a wellness trend. The well being tool, which looks a bit different to a nail board (it's more like a yoga mat with plastic shorter nails) became more popular during lock downs, with sales quadrupling in the early months of 2020. The company, Bed of Nails, which focuses on acupressure, has partnered with Play-Ex Sports Professionals so that athletes can access the mats at discounted rates.
  • Beds of nails as a trick are sometimes used by circus performers.
  • While there is no data on who is interested in acupressure and nail beds for well being, women in their 40s are the most common demographic using acupuncture in Taiwan, which is similar in principle.
  • There is little content about magicians using beds of nails in their shows, suggesting it is not very common. This illusionist does use a bed of nails in his routine, but he gets a contestant to lie on it. His trick is that the "bed" of nails that he eventually lays on has just one nail.

Popularity: History, Culture, and Regions of Practice

  • In the 20th Century the bed of nails trick was popular and very common because of the perceived element of danger, though few were ever hurt.
  • However, it is becoming increasingly common knowledge that a bed of nails isn't dangerous, and can actually be relaxing. In 2014, Shakti , one of the biggest manufacturers of nail mats, gathered 3,000 people in a park in Stockholm to use nail mats and sing mantras. Of those, 500 people were so relaxed they fell asleep.
  • People have attempted various records and feats, such as skipping rope on a man on a nail board, riding motorcycles over a person's body on a nail board, chopping melons in half on someone's stomach while lying on a nail board, and so on.
  • But in the early 1900s, Muslim and Hindi fakirs or yogis were the main practitioners. Beliefs that nail mats were curative date back to 400-200 BCE, where they were first mentioned in a Sanskrit poem from India.
  • Nail beds for well being started to take off in the West in around 2010, but Indian practitioners warn against using the tool without being aware of the culture and philosophies that surround it. Indian yogis use nail beds to attain a perfection of mind and body. The beds are now particularly popular in Sweden, where they are both manufactured and researched.
  • Ascetics, in India, are people who live a simple life and abstain in order to have a greater spiritual life. They can be yogis, fakirs, men, women, or from any of the various religions in the region. In the 15-18th centuries, ascetics had armies and controlled territories, and also practiced martial arts. When Britain colonized India, it eventually made ascetics illegal, because they were seen as a threat. Eventually, many ascetics had to beg and put on a show in order to survive. They performed feats like the bed of nails or being buried alive.
  • People who use beds of nails today for restorative purposes, do so with the idea that the pressure from the nails against the skin releases endorphins and causes relaxation. Allegedly, the method stimulates energy and triggers "the body’s innate way of healing itself." The nail bed is meant to be based on similar principles to massage and acupuncture. Like massage, the nails may stimulate the nervous system and promote blood circulation.
  • People are participating in this nail bed trend, where the modern less-torturous looking versions are called acupressure mats or needle stimulation pad (NSP). The mats are also known as shakti mats, and Swedish spike mats, and while they are more common in south-east Asia, they are only just being discovered in New Zealand, Europe, and the US. People say the mats relieve stiffness, and while initially prickly, eventually warm the body and relax it.
  • According to one study, people who lie on shakti mats for 20 minutes experience a slight "reduction in heart rate, blood pressure and alteration of the function of the autonomic nervous system."
  • Google Trends results suggest there is more interest in acupressure mats in India, Mauritius, Nepal, Australia and the Philippines. There were no results for nail beds, suggesting the topic (outside of well being) isn't very popular at the moment.

Research Strategy

In this research, we covered all possible ways that the bed of nails trick could be practiced or learned, including classes, checking online schools such as Khan, looking for information about rehearsing the trick, implementing it, materials, science, and older traditions. Even magic trick schools had little in the way of classes or instructions. Hence, here we have provided the most useful information we could find for performing and practicing the trick. As noted above, the art is in the bed itself, as anyone can lay on it, so long as they relax. We consulted quality online sources for information about the regions of practice and the popularity of the trick.

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