Although many of the purposes of self-massage are obvious, from the viewpoint of Qigong its functions are both wider and more profound. Let's review these purposes so that you will have a clearer understanding of the "why" of this practice.
1. To remove any stagnation of Qi and blood and to increase their circulation. We have explained this goal already in our discussion of massage. One of the main goals of self-massage is improving the Qi and blood circulation in the whole body especially the head, eyes, ears, and scalp.
2. To lessen pain and discomfort due to injury, and also to speed up the healing process. This refers to injuries where there is no break in the skin, such as bruises caused by being struck, and swollen joints caused by improper posture during sports or exercise. When this kind of injury occurs, blood cells accumulate at the site of the injury and create a bruise. In addition, the injury causes over stimulation of the area. This, in turn, results in the accumulation of a great amount of Qi, and a localized increase in temperature. These effects are all part of our body’s natural, automatic reactions, and serve to keep out invading bacteria. However, the over stimulation of the area causes pain and discomfort. This can be reduced by quickly smoothing out the Qi and blood circulation. This will also insure that the cells receive the proper amount of fresh blood and Qi which they need to make repairs. Of course, you have to make sure that you do the massage very carefully. For example, if a bone has been cracked or broken, you must make sure that the massage does not interfere with the healing process. In this case, you should immediately find a healing professional.
3. To maintain and to improve smooth Qi and blood circulation in the internal organs. This is one of the main purposes of self-massage. When the internal organs fail, people get sick and even die. Therefore, keeping the internal organs healthy and functioning properly is one of the major subjects of Chinese Qigong. The key to doing this is maintaining the smooth circulation of Qi and blood. Self-massage accomplishes this in two ways: using the hands to massage the internal organs, and using body movement to exercise the internal organs. In fact, internal organ massage (Nei Zang An Mo) has proven to be very effective in treating almost every type of internal organ problem.
4. To help you understand your Qi body and physical body better. People usually get sick because of their unhealthy lifestyle and bad habits. It is very easy for the mind to ignore the body when it complains. In fact, most of the time our minds and bodies are acting independently, and they do not communicate and cooperate with each other smoothly and harmoniously. To be effective in self-massage, you must first learn to understand your body, and you must learn to use your mind to move your body in the most efficient way. Furthermore, you must learn to use your mind to feel the Qi in your body and to lead it. When your Qi body and your physical body are unified, they will be able to act together as one body.
5. To help you learn how to diagnose yourself. After you have unified your Qi and physical bodies, you will know yourself better, and you will be able to feel or even see any problem in your body. If you can feel or see a problem, then you will know how to correct it. Self-massage gradually teaches you how to see within your body and diagnose yourself.
6. To teach you how to massage others. Massage is done through feeling and mutual mental-correspondence between you and your partner. In Qigong An Mo, you merge with your partner so that you feel what he/she is feeling. Through physical touch and mutual Qi correspondence, the Qi is re-balanced. Self-massage teaches you how to regulate your mind and breathing, and also teaches you how to use your mind to lead the Qi to nourish your own body.
For example, when you feel uncomfortable somewhere in your body, you may massage the area either with your hands or with certain body movements. In order to make the massage effective, you must also use your mind to deeply relax the massaged area, which will allow the Qi to circulate smoothly and deeply. In addition, you can also use your mind to lead the Qi to the massaged area. Only when you combine both the external massage of your hands or body movements, and the internal massage of your concentrated mind, can the massage be truly effective. This means that when you practice self-massage, not only are you training the physical massage techniques, but, more importantly, you are also practicing how to use your mind to feel inside your body and make the massage more efficient. Once you have mastered the techniques of self massage and are familiar with how Qi feels then you will be able to communicate with other peoples bodies with your mind and your feeling for Qi, and massage them effectively. Massaging yourself is the best way to gain experience before massaging others.
You can see that there are two sides to self-massage: the ability to sense what is going on inside and move the Qi there, and the physical techniques. The internal side is Yin and the external side is Yang. When the Yin participates the external Yang massage can reach deep and be effective. Without the Yin, the massage will remain superficial.