Anmo Gong: The art of self-massage

Most people have never heard of ‘anmo gong’… which is a shame, as it’s one of the most effective methods of self-cultivation and health maintenance that I know.

‘Anmo’ is the old Chinese word for massage (now replaced with ‘tuina’) and ‘gong’ means something like ‘work’ or ‘practice’ (for a more detailed explanation of this word, click here) – So Anmo Gong is the practice of self-massage.

In Japan, this is sometimes called ‘do-in’, or in China, ‘self-tuina’, but these tend to be based on quite simple physical techniques without much internal or ‘qi’ work involved.

Think of Anmo Gong as a kind of Qi Gong using acupressure and self massage techniques. Actually, most T’ai Chi and Qi Gong forms contain elements of self-acupressure in a limited form, but in Anmo Gong you specifically use acupressure as a main part of the practice.

This has many advantages – it’s like being able to give yourself a regular tune-up as and when required. As an acupuncturist, I often teach acupressure to my clients to reinforce the effect of their treatment. It can also be used as a regular practice to maintain health and well-being.

In its simplest form, an Anmo Gong routine might consist of acupressure on just 2 or 3 points. More involved routines would also contain stretches, simple ‘qi gong’ like movements or breathing techniques. Routines can be very structured or may contain more spontaneous elements, where you allow yourself to be guided to do whatever you feel needed at that moment.

This kind of practice can both strengthen and regulate you energy, boost the immune system, and balance the emotions. Depending on the routine, and the choice of points, it can be stimulating or relaxing, strong or gentle, short or long. In fact, there’s no limit to what you do, and you can tailor your practice to your own needs and preferences.

The easiest way to begin is to get a good acupressure book, or consult your local Chinese medicine practitioner for some specific advice. If you’re in the UK, you can also come to one of my Anmo Gong workshops.

Even if you don’t have time for anything else, just using simple acupressure on a single point for a minute or 2 daily can have great benefits – for instance you could use the ‘wonder point’ Stomach36 on the lower leg which has profound health-boosting effects. This is a great way to begin your exploration of self-acupressure and anmo gong.