Reiki is a hands-on healing alternative spiritual practice. It may be a helpful complement to traditional therapies in assisting with various conditions.
History of Reiki
Reiki has its roots in Japan, as it was developed by Mikao Usui, a Buddhist, in 1922. It is sometimes called “palm healing” or “hands on healing”, and it is considered both an alternative and an Oriental medicine. The idea behind Reiki is that universal energy (“reiki”) is transferred as “qi” (life force or vital energy) via the palms of the hands. Patients can then achieve balance and heal themselves. Interestingly, the literal translation of reiki is “mysterious atmosphere”. There are two branches of Reiki: Western and Traditional Japanese. The Japanese tend to use a more “intuitive sense of hand positions”, whereas the Western method uses “systematized hand placements”. In terms of training for Reiki practitioners, both forms have “First, Second, and Master/Teacher” levels. There are also Five Reiki Precepts, or principles, which derive from the Five Commandments of Buddhist teachings “against killing, thievery, sexual misconduct, lying, and intemperance”. Reiki is a holistic therapy, meant to help clients heal on every level: spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental.1 It was brought to the US in 1937 by Hawayo Takata. As of 2007, “1.2 million adults and 161,000 children received one or more sessions of energy healing”.2
Outside of Japan, there are three levels of training. Western Reiki treats the entire body. It focuses on “meridian energy lines and chakras” over the entire body. The first course (first degree, Shoden) is to teach the basic procedures and theory. Students learn where to place the hands, and they can perform Reiki on themselves and others. In general, this course lasts a few days. The second degree (Okuden) focuses on the use of symbols to “to form a temporary connection between the practitioner and the recipient”. The student can then do the work from a remote location, not physically with the client, as a form of “distant healing”. In Japan, this can take decades of practice. Most students do not achieve third degree (Shinpiden) to become a Reiki Master/Teacher. There is a lot of variation in the cost, duration, and methods of training, although some countries are trying to standardize the practices.3
Typically, a Reiki practitioner will have the recipient relax on a table. The client remains clothed, in loose clothing. The practitioner puts their hands on the patient in various positions, sometimes even hovering the hands over the body instead of making contact. The entire treatment can last about 45-90 minutes. Western Reiki generally has 12 hand positions over the entire body, but some use the intuitive, Japanese, approach. The Japanese approach also tends to be localized. Clients report feeling “warmth or tingling” and relaxation, well-being, and some “emotional releases”. It is thought that Reiki can help “stimulate the body’s natural healing processes”. There is a Center for Reiki Research, which is meant to promote “scientific awareness of Reiki” and compiles current published research. Reiki is offered in some hospitals, hospice programs, and medical clinics.4 Some reports from patients, nurses, and doctors have noted that Reiki can reduce stress and the amount of pain medication needed, and it can help the healing process and improve appetite and sleep. It can also assist with the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.5 Reiki practitioners typically will not recommend Reiki as a substitute for other traditional and complementary care. They will encourage clients to seek medical consultation for serious conditions. Reiki, therefore, is considered more of an adjunct therapy.6