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What is Reiki?

The translation of Reiki is universal (rei) life energy (ki), also known as bio-electric energy, which exists in all living organisms. Over time physical and emotional trauma contribute to blockages or weak flow of this energy throughout the body. Reiki works with energy pathways in the body similar to acupuncture meridians to dissolve any blockages that can contribute to pain and inflammation and improve overall balance and well-being. Practitioners are trained to find these blockages and apply Reiki to assist the body in correcting the flow of energy. In medical studies, it has also been found it activates the parasympathetic nervous system which allows the body and mind to heal itself. It is a useful modality that complements and supports traditional medicine practices by promoting self-healing, strengthening the body’s own capacity for repair and restoration. Reiki is not massage, rather it is gently guiding the energy through hand positions or with the hands above your body. Contrary to popular belief, Iit is not affiliated with any religion or religious practice.

Reiki may be helpful with the following:

Aids relaxation, reducing tension and promoting calmness

Stress/Anxiety/Fatigue and some symptoms of depression

Post surgical recovery by speeding healing

Chronic pain and some acute pain



Inflammation and arthritis

High blood pressure


Improving quality of life for those with chronic health conditions or cancer

May help with side effects of medications and medical treatments including cancer

Digestive problems

Stimulating the immune system

Self growth

There is some anecdotal evidence it may help with sports and exercise injuries.

For more information please see the following resources:

Reiki Research Archives - IARP

Journal of Evidence-based Complementary & Alternative Medicine review of 13 separate studies finds that 8 studies show Reiki is more effective than placebo and says, “it has potential for broader use in management of health conditions, possibly in post-operative recovery.” “Reiki is better than placebo in activating the parasympathetic nervous system, as measured by reduced heart rate, reduced blood pressure, and increased heart rate variability. For patients with chronic health conditions, Reiki has been found to be more effective than placebo for reducing pain, anxiety, and depression, and for improving self-esteem and quality of life. According to the neurovisceralintegration model and the polyvagal theory, these effects are due to higher parasympathetic nervous system activity, mediated via the vagus nerve.”

“This understanding suggests that Reiki has the potential to provide valuable support for a broad range of chronic health conditions. However, there is no justification to regard Reiki as a cure for any health condition. Instead, Reiki should be regarded as a complementary therapy that can be implemented alongside all other medical and therapeutic techniques.”

“Further research is recommended to help optimize the application of Reiki for specific health conditions and to examine the benefits arising from provision of multiple Reiki sessions over an extended period of time.”

Historical Background on Reiki

The practice of laying hands has been around for thousands of years. The beginnings of modern Reiki however, were founded in Japan in 1922 by Mikao Usui, also known as Usui Sensei. He was born in 1865 in Taniai, Japan and was descended from a family of samurai. He was a hard working student and well versed in many subjects including medicine, psychology, martial arts, poetry, metaphysics, in addition to Buddhist and Christian scriptures. There are many variations on the story from there, but it is accepted that he found in his studies of religious scriptures that hands on healing could be achieved by cultivating a certain level of mindfulness. His search took him to Zen practices and he mentored with a monk at a Zen temple. Usui Sensei immersed himself in these studies and practices, and the knowledge of how to activate this healing energy came to him as an epiphany experience while meditating on Mount Kurama. He immediately started healing himself and others on his travels, including his mentor, who he found on his return had taken to bed with severe arthritis. After greatly improving the man’s condition, the monk encouraged Usui to use what he discovered. In the beginning, to encourage interest, he used a unique marketing strategy that consisted of holding a torch outside his dojo during daylight hours even though many thought he was crazyHe received great acclaim throughout Japan, especially after rendering assistance to victims of the 1923 earthquake in Kanto. He trained over 2000 students, and 21 master teachers.

One of these teachers, Chujiro Hayashi, a retired naval officer and medical doctor, is the source of the hand positions we use today. He was also the master who taught Mrs. Hawayo Takata, a woman from Hawaii of Japanese descent, who is credited with bringing Reiki to the West. While on vacation in Japan in the 1930s she suffered from severe abdominal pain and was diagnosed with tumors, gallstones, and appendicitis, so surgery was recommended. She asked if there was an alternative and the surgeon referred her to a Reiki clinic, where she stayed for several months recovering. During her first treatment she felt so much heat from the energy that she jumped up and started searching the practitioners’ kimonos. She was sure they were hiding electrical devices in the sleeves. It is said that Dr. Hayashi fell off his stool as he was laughing so hard. Ms. Takata later returned to train as a Reiki practitioner, but did this against many odds, as the attitude of the times was that it is just not done to train a woman or an outsider. Initially, Dr. Hayashi turned her away, so she used the rules of Japanese society to achieve her aims, returning to the surgeon to ask for a recommendation letter. Because the surgeon’s social standing was higher, Dr. Hayashi could not refuse this request or he would be considered persona non grata. Dr. Hayashi then said that because she was not nearby, she was required to stay in Japan for a year and volunteer at his clinic for practice. She would not be put off though, and decided to sell her house to stay in Japan and learn. Without her, this technique would not be practiced around the world. Even in Japan, Reiki likely would have faded into the annals of history, as most practitioners went underground in the aftermath of World War II, due to sanctions the U.S. government placed. In fact, it went so underground that it had to be reintroduced to Japan in the 1980s with Western techniques. The original style practiced in Japan is now only taught in a closed-door secret society called the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai.