Reiki Healing

Relaxed woman with closed eyes receives non-contact Reiki healing

Reiki Healing

Reading time: 8 minutes


Reiki healing is a form of energy healing. It can be seen as similar to the laying of hands as practiced by Christian faith healers, but it is not connected to any specific religion. The name comes from a combination of two ideas “rei”, which is god’s wisdom and “ki”, which is our life force. Both healers and receivers describe the experience as generally calming and often pleasurable.

Reiki healing is practiced by thousands of masters around the world and many claim it is easy to learn. It may even be unfair to say that it is something one can learn. Instead, it can be seen as an ability that gets passed on, not taught.

Full Explanation of Reiki Healing Terms: Qi or Prana, Meridians or Nadis, and The Chakras

Practitioners of reiki healing generally believe that all living things have a life force or essence and that our bodies have a specific energy system. This energy, or ki / chi (or prana in Hindu traditions, or qi in the Chinese traditions), flows through our bodies in pathways called either meridians (in the Chinese tradition) or nadis (in the Hindu tradition) and meet in major energy nodes called chakras. It is believed that this energy gives life to our general biological systems.

This energy is highly connected to our thoughts and emotions, both positive and negative. When we are full of ki / chi, we can often feel full of life and vitality. It can even manifest itself as confidence. We get ki from the world around us, from a meditation practice, rest, or from the nutrients of the food we eat. Conversely, when we are low in ki / chi, we can feel sluggish and weak and are more likely to get sick.

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Sometimes negative thoughts, emotions, stress, or experiences can cause disruptions in our energy system and these disruptions can manifest themselves as ailments in our physical bodies. The general idea of reiki healing is that you bombard these blockages with positive energy until they break up and leave the body.

Nadis and chakras for energy flow
Energy flows through our bodies in pathways called meridians or nadis and meet in major energy points called chakras.

Although many energy healers use similar methods and philosophies to help their patients, reiki healing is a unique method that practitioners claim is more effective than other forms of healing.

The primary idea is that a healer does not cure the patient, but functions as a channeller of energy. So in a way, both the healer and the patient are receiving beneficial healing in the process. The healing is not aimed at a specific place, but instead the energy is directed and it thus heals what needs the most attention.

The positive energy is the only one that flows, instead of the healer removing or absorbing the negative. Therefore this is a safe method with little risk of sharing negative energy or karma. The practice is also based on a series of symbols that help practitioners know the more healing and energizing paths of the ki / chi.

Reiki Healing, an Ancient Japan Technique for Modern Times

Although many claim that reiki healing has a been practiced in Japan well before, the accepted originator of our current model of reiki healing is often listed as Japanese mystic Mikao Usui, who upon having a deeply spiritual experience while fasting upon the mountain of Kurama Yama near Kyoto, developed his own method of reiki healing called Usui Reiki Ryoho, forming his own healing society. He passed away in 1926, but his teachings lived on through a training method he developed.

Portrait of Mikao Usui
Japanese Reiki Master
(1865 – 1926)
Reiki is Love, Love is wholeness, wholeness is balance, balance is wellbeing, well being is freedom from disease.

His work was continued by Chujiro Hayashi, who revolutionized many of reiki’s practices himself. He helped bring the practice to America by training a woman, Hawayo Takata, who formed her own reiki healing clinic. After being declared a traitor to the Japanese government for not revealing tactical information about Hawaii, he commited ritual suicide (sepukko) and his wife, Chie Hayashi ran the clinic until it closed down.

The reiki healing society had created enough disciples that Mikao Usui’s style of reiki did not meet its end. The mastery of reiki healing spread slowly, but now it’s practice is so widespread that there are thousands of reiki healing masters around the world. It has since branched off into various other forms including but not limited to Tibetan Reiki, Karuna Reiki, and Holy Fire Reiki.

What Happens at a Reiki Healing Session?

In a typical reiki healing session, the patient is usually asked to lie down, often on a massage table. Sometimes, it is even combined with actual massage. The healer will hold his or her hands over the patient and begin to channel energy into them, often starting with the head. Some healers claim that they can scan the body to find specific areas where the vital energy is blocked.

Usually, the healer will move their hands slowly up and down the body to help move the energy. Despite the fact that most healers practice in close vicinity of the patient, it is believed that particularly strong healers have the ability to treat patients from far away in a method known as “distance healing”.

Reiki healing session
During Reiki healing, the patient usually lies on a massage bed fully clothed, while the healer heals without physical contact.

Even practitioners of this type of healing are not 100% of the deeper meaning of HOW reiki healing works, just that it does work.


Science has not been kind to reiki healing. This is not to say that there have been no studies that prove its effectiveness. It is an oft-studied healing method, namely because it is one of the most widely accepted in the world. Reiki has been through numerous clinical trials comparing it to placebos.

There have been studies over the years that have shown that it does help people in a positive way, but they are oft-criticized. In properly designed double-blind clinical trials, there has been little evidence of it being effective. A literature review of many of the main studies was conducted in 2008 by M.S. Lee et al, but unfortunately, they concluded that there seems to be no verifiable proof of its efficacy on a variety of ailments including depression and pain.

Reiki Healing or Just a Placebo?

One of the most convincing studies was when a group of “sham healers” and actual reiki healers were asked to administer healing to chemotherapy patients. By “sham healers” I mean people who had no training in energy healing, they merely pretended to do it by holding their hands above the patients. The promising news is that the patients assigned to the real reiki healing group reported a statistically significant feeling of well-being and comfort.

Unfortunately for believers, the people in the sham healing group also showed statistically significant effect in the same areas. The researchers concluded that potentially the main benefit from a reiki healing practice is the comfort it gives, but the same kind of comfort can be given by quality one-on-one time between the nurse and the patient. Still, this does show that it can have a positive effect. It can be argued that the “sham” healers may have been inadvertently utilizing energy healing, just to a lesser extent.

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Despite the studies, it would be unfair to consider it a completely useless form of treatment. Naturally, it would never have gained the popularity it has if it had not given anything positive to people. Testimonials attest to its benefit. Even respected research organizations such as Cancer Research UK recognizes that reiki healing does have a small positive benefit. They suggest that it can help diminish some of the fear and anxiety of having such a deadly disease, can help cause deep relaxation, reduce stress and tension, and make people feel generally better. These things won’t cure cancer, but they can help make the more intense treatments such as a chemotherapy and radiation therapy more manageable.

Granted, they argue that this may be a result of somebody generally taking time to care for patients and give them attention, but this cannot do harm as long as patients do not forgo scientifically-backed treatments because of their reiki regimen. It is recommended that it remain used as a complementary form of medicine, not a medical treatment in itself.

Should We Take Reiki Healing Seriously?

It seems to be widely accepted that reiki treatment can be a relaxing experience and may aid in reducing stress, especially for people dealing with chronic disease. Studies have shown that cortisol can have a negative effect on our health including weakening our immune system and any treatment that reduces cortisol levels or stress can be considered beneficial.

There has not been much scientific evidence supporting that there is a vital energy force. There have been some that argue that there have been auras and other fields of energy that surround living things, but many scientists argue that it is electromagnetic radiation. It can possibly be argued that electromagnetic radiation is the vital life force.

There have been studies that show that energy healers may not actually have the ability to sense or influence energy fields. One of the most notable was conducted by the 11-year old Emily Rosa as a school science project. She designed an ingenious study where she stood behind a screen, where a number of energy healers stood with both hands raised. To randomize where she put her own hand, she flipped a coin. She placed her hand close to the healers (they could not see her) and asked if they could find her hand. Theoretically they would be able to tell where she placed her hand by feeling the energy. According to her results, the healers did no better than anyone else. Some healers in the past have refused to participate in similar controlled studies, and there is a chance they were not intimidated or threatened by this girl’s study. Emily was the youngest person at the time to have a scientific study published.

Reiki healing can be a difficult thing to research. It is difficult to design double-blind studies that measure the effects of reiki and since the vital energy is considered unmeasurable and beyond the true comprehension of even its practitioners, it seems unlikely that healers and believers are likely to change their minds any time soon. Yet, given the positive testimonials and the few studies that have shown a positive effect, reiki healing remains an intriguing thing to be studied. Also, since it doesn’t cause any harm, there is no reason, outside of its cost, to disregard it completely.

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