Reiki: An Introduction
Reiki is an energy therapy that works with the body’s energy and its own exceptional healing capability. Reiki is a healing practice that originated in Japan. Reiki practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above the person receiving treatment, with the goal of facilitating the person's own healing response. In the United States, Reiki is part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
The word "Reiki" is derived from two Japanese words: rei, or universal, and ki, or life energy. Current Reiki practice can be traced to the spiritual teachings of Mikao Usui in Japan during the early 20th century. Usui's teachings included meditative techniques and healing practices. One of Usui's students, Chujiro Hayashi, further developed the healing practices, placing less emphasis on the meditative techniques. An American named Hawayo Takata learned Reiki from Hayashi in Japan and introduced it to Western cultures in the late 1930s.
The type of Reiki practiced and taught by Hayashi and Takata may be considered traditional Reiki. Numerous variations (or schools) of Reiki have since been developed and are currently practiced.
Reiki is based on the idea that there is a universal (or source) energy that supports the body's innate healing abilities. Practitioners seek to access this energy, allowing it to flow to the body and facilitate healing.
Although generally practiced as a form of self-care, Reiki can be received from someone else and may be offered in a variety of health care settings, including medical offices, hospitals, and clinics. It can be practiced on its own or along with other CAM therapies or conventional medical treatments.
In a Reiki session, the client lies down or sits comfortably, fully clothed. The practitioner's hands are placed lightly on or just above the client's body, palms down, using a series of 12 to 15 different hand positions. Each position is held for about 2 to 5 minutes, or until the practitioner feels that the flow of energy—experienced as sensations such as heat or tingling in the hands—has slowed or stopped. The number of sessions depends on the health needs of the client. Typically, the practitioner delivers at least four sessions of 30 to 90 minutes each. The duration of Reiki sessions may be shorter in certain health care settings (for example, during surgery).
Practitioners with appropriate training may perform Reiki from a distance, that is, on clients who are not physically present in the office or clinic.
A 2002 national survey by the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) on adult Americans' use of CAM found that 1.1 percent of the more than 31,000 participants had ever used Reiki for health purposes. Adjusted to nationally representative numbers, this percentage means that at the time of the survey, more than 2.2 million adults in the United States had ever used Reiki.
People use Reiki for relaxation, stress reduction, and symptom relief, in efforts to improve overall health and well-being. Reiki has been used by people with anxiety, chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, and other health conditions, as well as by people recovering from surgery or experiencing side effects from cancer treatments. Reiki has also been given to people who are dying (and to their families and caregivers) to help impart a sense of peace.
Effects and Safety
Clients may experience a deep state of relaxation during a Reiki session. They might also feel warm, tingly, sleepy, or refreshed.
Reiki appears to be generally safe, and no serious side effects have been reported.