Originally developed nearly a century ago in Japan, Reiki is a type of bodywork that reduces stress while promoting relaxation, equilibrium and self-healing. Reiki practitioners administer healing by laying their hands on, or just over, certain points on the body, in order to transfer qi — universal, life force energy — through the palms and into the body. Practitioners might also tap gently on certain bodily points, blow air over them, or simply stare at them. Unlike acupuncture, herbs and certain other alternative healing methods, Reiki has no tools or instruments. It is at once gentle and powerful, and is completely non-invasive.
Someone with low or blocked qi might seek treatment from a Reiki practitioner, perhaps for a specific illness or injury. Reiki practitioners believe that when our life force energy is blocked, we are more vulnerable to stress and sickness. Reiki heals these problems at their root by strengthening the qi, thereby helping the body, mind and spirit work together to heal themselves.
For its devotees, Reiki is not just a healing art, but also a spiritual philosophy and a way of life. It incorporates certain Buddhist ideals that modern teachers and practitioners of Reiki still follow as the Five Reiki Principles. These principles are actually universal ideals shared by most cultures and religions across the world, such as the importance of honesty, temperance and gratitude. Since Reiki is not a religion, people from any religious or cultural background can appreciate its principles and benefit from its healing. It is, however, a spiritual practice. At its base, the Reiki way involves kindness, meditation and joy as pathways to happiness and a disease-free life.
Reiki is said to have been developed when its founder, Mikao Usui, attended a Buddhist training in the mountains of Japan, where he experienced a surge of spiritual knowledge through his crown chakra. He called this power Reiki — attunement to the life force energy that flows within the universe and every living being. Usui believed he could use this energy to heal the entire being, and before his death in 1926, he went on to teach Reiki to thousands of people. Today, Japanese Reiki practitioners who trained under the guidance of Usui and his followers form a highly secret society. They rarely share their Reiki knowledge with the outside world.
A branch of Reiki, however, came to Westerners by way of Hawaii, via Reiki master Hawayo Takata. Though Takata was cautioned that Reiki must stay within Japan, she believed it should be shared with others and introduced its healing technique to the Western world. Takata’s influence created some divergence from the original form of Reiki. While Japanese Reiki is said to be a largely intuitive healing art, with only a few standardized points on which practitioners focus during a session, Western Reiki, by contrast, is more formalized and standardized. Western Reiki incorporates twelve standard hand positions, ranging from parts of the head, neck and back, down the torso to the legs. Since the power of attunement is transferred from one practitioner to another, rather than taught, anyone can learn to practice Reiki.
As with many practices considered to be alternative, however, there is some controversy surrounding Reiki. Since the existence of qi has not been scientifically proven, and since few properly conducted research studies have been performed related to Reiki’s healing effects, some scientific groups and doctors of Western medicine caution against the use of Reiki for treatment of more serious conditions, such as heart disease or cancer. Generally, this technique is widely regarded only as a complementary method of healing, to be used alongside medical as well as other alternative treatments.
But people who have experienced its healing effects report incredible results. Most who undergo a Reiki session feel a greater sense of relaxation and wellbeing after treatment. They experience greater clarity and focus in their thinking, and an overall sense of calmness that helps them deal more effectively with life’s challenges. But many people also report great improvement in conditions both chronic and acute, including asthma, headaches, fatigue, depression, broken bones, insomnia and more. It is also said that Reiki improves the effectiveness of other medical or healing treatments by reducing pain and stress, shortening healing times, and creating a general sense of optimism.
For many people around the world, modern life is fast-paced and full of challenges. Certainly, the Western way of life can lead to many types of imbalance, both physical and emotional. Techniques such as Reiki, that seek to promote relaxation and wellbeing, can counterbalance the stresses of our hectic lifestyles. And following the Reiki path of kindness and gratitude can be wonderful soul-medicine, helping us attain long-lasting inner contentment.