What is Reiki?
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by "laying on hands" and is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words - Rei which means "God's Wisdom or the Higher Power" and Ki which is "life force energy". So Reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy." A treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you. Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing. Many have reported miraculous results. Many hospitals and healthcare systems have Reiki Practitioners on staff to help patients feel more at ease when dealing with treatments or stress.
What is the status of the research?
While the debate on how best to study integrative therapies such as Reiki is gaining steam, research attempts have been and continue to be made. Nonetheless, research into Reiki is just beginning. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has completed five studies looking at Reiki's ability to benefit people with diabetes, advanced AIDS, prostate cancer, fibromyalgia, and stress. Other published studies have looked at the effect of Reiki on measures of stress hormones, blood pressure, heart rate, and immune responsivity, and on subjective reports of anxiety, pain and depression. The studies to date are typically small, and not every study is well designed. However, some of the stronger studies support the ability of Reiki to reduce anxiety and pain, and suggest its usefulness to induce relaxation, improve fatigue and depressive symptoms, and strengthen overall wellbeing. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews contains a review on the use of touch therapies (including Reiki) for pain and a protocol for use of Reiki for psychological symptoms. It is this evidence that has lead many healthcare systems to incorporate Reiki into their systems of care. Reiki has been increasingly offered as part of workplace wellness programs to address burnout and improve skills in healthcare and other industries, as well as in university wellness centers.
How does Reiki relate to other integrative therapies?
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) describes Reiki as a complementary and alternative medicine practice that uses energy fields, or biofields, to affect health. Energy biofield therapies generally reflect the concept that human beings are made up of electrical energy, which are believed to surround and interpenetrate human form. Energy therapies, such as therapeutic touch and Healing Touch, are believed to balance these subtle energy fields.
Reiki practice is extremely passive. The Reiki practitioner's hands are still for most of the treatment, moving only to change hand placements. The Reiki practitioner is neutral, making no attempt to fix the recipient or to change the biofield. Additionally, the practitioner does not in any way control Reiki energy; she/he merely rests her hands lightly on the body (or just above the body if needed, for example, in the presence of an open wound or burn).Reiki energy in the practitioner's hands arises spontaneously in response to the individual recipient's need for balance at that particular time. In this way, each Reiki treatment is automatically customized to the immediate need of that particular recipient, even though the practitioner may use the same sequence of hand placements for each treatment. Reiki is optimally given in a full treatment format but can also be administered in abbreviated treatments to a specific area or areas of the body. In urgent situations, even moments of Reiki touch can be soothing.
What does the session consist of?
A complete Reiki session is offered to a fully clothed recipient who is lying on a treatment table or sitting comfortably supported in a chair. Most commonly, Reiki is offered through light, non-invasive touch with the practitioner's hands placed and held on a series of locations on the head
and front and back of the torso. The placement of the hands should never be intrusive or inappropriate, nor should there be any pressure. Additional placements on the limbs can be done as needed (for example, if there is an injury or surgical scar), and some practitioners routinely do so. The Reiki practitioner can hold her hands just off the body if needed (for example, in the presence of an open wound or burn), and some practitioners always offer Reiki in this way.