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What is Reiki?

By Lauren Del Sarto

Reiki is a complementary health practice that uses universal energy to enhance the body’s own ability to heal itself. The use of universal life energy as a healing force has been practiced throughout the world for centuries and is referred to as Qi in China, Prana in India and Ki in Japan.

Reiki practitioners believe that human energy flows through meridians (or pathways) in the body that can be sensed by trained individuals. A disturbance in the flow of this energy may be caused by physical illnesses or negative emotions. Reiki practitioners aim to channel life energy to problem areas to enhance healing or overall well-being.

Reiki Masters are believed to have ascended to higher ‘levels of attunement’ to the universal life energy. There are three levels of training (Levels I, II and Master), but no formal regulation of the practice.

Treatments involve the systematic placing of hands directly on a clothed patient or held one to two inches above the skin varying positions for approximately 2-5 minutes each. Positions and timing will vary based on the energy flow sensed by the practitioner. Treatments usually last 30, 60 or 90 minutes.

Patients report different sensations during Reiki sessions such as warmth, tingling, sleepiness, relaxation, or invigoration. Practitioners have reported tingling in their fingers, heat, cold, or pulsing while administering Reiki, which they accredit to the energy flow.

It has been proposed that Reiki can lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system and endocrine (hormonal) systems, stimulate endorphins, or affect skin temperature and blood hemoglobin levels. However, these properties have not been clearly demonstrated in scientific studies.

According the Center for Reiki Research, approximately 75 hospitals, medical clinic and hospice programs now offer Reiki as a standard part of care. Julie Motz, a Reiki trained healer, has worked with Dr. Mehmet Oz at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. Motz uses Reiki and other subtle energy techniques to balance the patients’ energy during operations. She has assisted Dr. Oz in the operating room during open heart surgeries and heart transplants and reports that none of those treated experienced the usual postoperative depression. The bypass patients had no postoperative pain or leg weakness, and the transplant patients experienced no organ rejection.

The National Institutes of Health’s Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has funded five studies on the effectiveness of Reiki for conditions such as fibromyalgia, pain, cancer, depression, and overall well-being. Although some of the studies suggest that Reiki may help reduce symptoms, others find no clinical benefits, underlining the need for additional research to validate Reiki’s effectiveness for therapeutic purpose.

As with any treatment plan, it is important to inform all your health care providers about therapies you select.

Resources: 1) National Institutes of Health Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov; 2) Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin RL. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007 (361KB PDF). CDC National Health Statistics Report #12. 2008.; 3) vanderVaart S, Gijsen VM, de Wildt SN, et al. A systematic review of the therapeutic effects of Reiki.Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2009;15(11):1157–1169; 4) International Center for Reiki Training: Reiki in Hospitals by William Lee Rand. Reiki.org; 

One Response to “What is Reiki?”

  1. lsarto says:

    The following was submitted to Desert Health as a proposed correction to our editorial:

    I am sorry that you printed misinformation about Reiki. I have been a Reiki Master since 1993, have an official lineage that goes back to Usui, that can be checked, insofar as the Masters are still able to be found. I have not in all the materials i have been given by my Master, some that go back to Ms. Takata, from the original Reiki out of Japan, to Hawaii, seen any information that states: “Reiki practitioners believe that human energy flows through meridians [or pathways] in the body that can be sensed by trained individuals”. Furthermore, Reiki is not a “training” it is an attunement.

    I see that you sourced many places at the end of your article “What is Reiki?” in Desert Health March /April 2013. ergo it is not possible for me to see from where you got what i see as mis-information, or to see from where the source was gotten, etc. Perhaps i am incorrect, but my Master, in 1993 never gave me any information such as this. Pure Traditional Usui [the original teacher of modern Reiki], Reiki is very simple and has no dogma, just traditions.

    Bernandine Zennie

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