Reiki (pronounced "ray-kee") is a therapeutic technique in which healing energy is channeled, or conducted, through a practitioner's hands into the person receiving the treatment. It is believed that Reiki brings the body into emotional and spiritual balance, supporting the body's natural ability to heal itself.
The name Reiki comes from the Japanese rei, meaning "universal," and ki, meaning "energy." Reiki's "universal energy" is equivalent to the vital life force, or qi, in traditional Chinese medicine, and to prana in Ayurvedic medicine. Those who practice Reiki assume the existence of this invisible energy, which is believed to radiate through all life forms.
Reiki's origins are unclear, but it is thought to derive from the healing practices of ancient Tibetan monks. In the early 1900s Reiki as we know it was introduced in Japan by Mikao Usui, a religious scholar and teacher who had studied healing in Tibet. Usui named the therapy Reiki and developed the Usui System of Reiki Healing, which is considered by many to be the foundation of the therapy today. Usui's system was brought to Hawaii in the 1930s by Hawayo Takata, a Japanese-American woman who had received the esteemed degree of Reiki Master from one of Usui's disciples. After teaching it there for years, she brought the practice to the mainland U.S. in the 1970s.
How Does Reiki Work?
Proponents of Reiki believe that when one's ki is blocked, sickness can develop. By gently laying hands on a person, a Reiki practitioner helps to break up blockages, allowing healing energy to again flow freely through the person's body. While evidence of Reiki's health benefits is mainly anecdotal, some researchers feel that the deep state of relaxation a Reiki session induces may trigger the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers.
Those who have undergone Reiki treatments report that it clears the mind and creates a heightened sense of awareness. By helping some people to release pent-up emotions, the therapy may also serve to relieve stress, often an underlying cause of illness.
Health Benefits of Reiki?
Reiki should not be regarded as a substitute for conventional medical care. However, many practitioners and patients have found the therapy to be an effective adjunct treatment for relieving the pain of such chronic diseases as arthritis and multiple sclerosis. A small preliminary study showed that Reiki was useful as an adjunct to opioid therapy in the management of pain.
Because it is noninvasive, Reiki may also help to treat conditions where touching the body could be painful–in severe burn cases or in those recovering from surgery, for example.
By clearing energy blockages and helping a person feel more invigorated, Reiki may also relieve depression and other emotional problems. In addition it has been found to be useful in reducing stress in those being treated for cancer and AIDS.
What Can I Expect From Reiki?
Receiving Reiki is a gentle, soothing experience (some people even fall asleep during a treatment). Because it is a spiritual tradition, before beginning a session, the practitioner may spend time in quiet contemplation or meditation, thinking about the universal life force that will be channeled into you. The treatment process is considered a healing experience for both the practitioner and the client, and the practitioner often feels recharged and refreshed after a session as well.
During a Reiki treatment, you typically lie fully clothed on a padded massage table in a warm, comfortable room. The practitioner may first "scan" your body for energy blockages by moving his hands a few inches above it. A good practitioner, it is said, can readily find blockages because his hands feel hot or tingly as he encounters them. Any areas where there are blockages will then be a focus of the treatment.
Whether or not there are blockages, the practitioner typically begins by placing his hands lightly and systematically at various places along the body, including the abdomen, legs, back, and feet. This gentle touch is maintained for three to five minutes at each place (and up to 20 minutes if there is a problem), as the healing energy is channeled.
A thorough Reiki session usually lasts between 60 and 90 minutes. For stress reduction, one or two Reiki sessions are usually enough. As an adjunct therapy for chronic conditions, long-term treatment may be recommended.
Cautions about Reiki
- Reiki does not cure disease and is not intended to be the primary treatment for any health problem, but rather is a complementary therapy meant to support other treatment that is ongoing.
- Reiki is not recommended for broken bones, acute pain, or any condition requiring immediate medical attention.
- A responsible Reiki practitioner will never discourage a client from seeking medical care.
Choosing a Reiki Practitioner
There is no national or statewide licensing for Reiki practitioners, although many who practice it may be licensed as physical therapists or massage therapists. Ask your physician, a friend, or a trusted bodyworker for a referral to a Reiki practitioner.
Traditionally, training in the Reiki method spans three degrees. You can progress from one degree to the next according to your own rate of inner growth.
First degree. First-degree Reiki practitioners have completed approximately two days of training, typically during a weekend seminar. The training involves learning the history of Reiki, as well as becoming individually "attuned" or "initiated" to the healing energy. This involves receiving four "attunements" from the Reiki Master (these adjust the vibrations of the Reiki student, so that more energy can flow through the body). Students are also taught the basic Reiki hand positions for treating the whole body. After being given first-degree training, students are able to do Reiki on themselves and others.
Second degree. This training, also about two days in length, is available to those who have been practicing Reiki at the first-degree level for at least three months. Second-degree students are taught special techniques for enhancing the level of energy transferred and are trained to transmit healing energy long distance (called Distant Healing) to family and friends. Second-degree students are also taught how to contact the subconscious (called Mental Healing) in themselves and others.
Third degree, or Reiki Master. This training takes about a year and is available to people who have been practicing second-degree Reiki for at least one year. Those trained at this advanced level are qualified to teach Reiki to others and are expected to make a commitment to do so.