The Basics: Reiki, meaning “the free passage of universal life energy,” is a Japanese alternative healing practice based on the transference of energy from person to person. During a session, a trained Reiki practitioner places hands on or slightly above a client to transfer positive energy, which supports the body’s own healing processes.
“Reiki helps balance the mind, body and spirit, and encourage a sense of wellness,” says Kimberly Fleisher, a Reiki Master and director of The Reiki School + Clinic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “It creates a space for someone to engage their own inner resources and press their own reset button.”
A Reiki session does not involve diagnosis, so you won’t experience a treatment entirely tailored to your specific health concern. “Regardless of symptoms, Reiki treats the whole body,” says Fleisher. “As [Reiki teacher and author] Pamela Miles says, ‘Reiki doesn’t treat disease, it treats people.’”
A typical Reiki session takes place on a massage table, where the client remains fully clothed. A Reiki practitioner stands beside the table and begins with lightly touching the client’s head, continuing a series of hand positions down the body, spending several minutes on each area. An average session lasts 45 to 60 minutes.
If you’re coping with an illness or stress, Reiki sessions on a daily basis or several times a week can be beneficial. Once balance has been restored, Reiki works preventatively and can be practiced monthly or every six weeks. You can also train to self-practice Reiki.
Scientific Support: Whether Reiki actually provides healing energy or works through relaxing touch isn’t known. But there is some research on the alternative therapy’s healing potential. A 2010 International Journal of Behavioral Medicine study of biofield therapies including Reiki found strong evidence that the treatments reduce pain in the general population and moderate evidence of pain reduction in hospitalized and cancer patients.
The study also suggested that these therapies ease anxiety and agitation in those with dementia. Another 2010 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that Reiki improved the emotional state of patients and increased heart rate variability—a stress recovery measure—in patients hospitalized with acute coronary syndrome, a heart problem marked by chest pain due to reduced blood flow to the heart.
Complement to Western Medicine: With no known contraindications and no diagnosis involved, Reiki is a promising complementary practice for patients receiving Western treatments. Reiki has the potential to strengthen the body’s innate healing ability, without causing interference.
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