People often have heard about Reiki Therapy but do not have a clear understanding of what it is or of what happens during a treatment. Or they may have seen some misrepresentation of Reiki Therapy on television that makes it seem odd. The following information provides a clear, factual explanation of this beneficial therapy.
As defined by the National Institute of Health, Reiki “is a complementary health approach in which practitioners places their hands on or just above a person, with the goal of facilitating the person’s own healing response.” Please note that what happens during a session is guided by the person being treated, not by the practitioner. The practitioner’s role is to actively listen to and interpret the subtle energy cues from the body, inviting feedback from the individual, working in partnership with them.
The research studies on Reiki Therapy verify that it is an effective therapy, safe even for newborn babies. Numerous research outcomes cite that Reiki relieves pain, stress and anxiety; and that it promotes a deep state of relaxation, indicative of parasympathetic nervous system activation. Oncology-focused studies have also shown that it can be helpful for mitigating cancer treatment side effects.
What is theorized about how Reiki Therapy works? The hand positions used during Reiki are unique to this therapy. The majority of these hand placements are located over endocrine gland and nerve plexus areas. This is relevant because the endocrine glands produce 50 different hormones that control major bodily functions; while the nerve plexus are part of the central nervous system, releasing neurotransmitters. These hand placements are understood to guide the body’s awareness to these key areas, inviting internal regulation or homeostasis. This also explains why Reiki Therapy may be particularly beneficial for endocrine imbalances.
It has also been theorized that the pattern of the Reiki hand positions correlates with the pathway of the tenth cranial nerve, the Vagus nerve. This is the longest cranial nerve, the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system. The activation of the parasympathetic nervous system during Reiki Therapy may explain the reduced levels of stress and the deep state of relaxation often reported in research studies.
In addition, physics has identified the “observer impact” effect, which theorizes that the mere act of observation influences the outcome of an experiment. During Reiki Therapy, both the practitioner and the person experiencing treatment are actively observing what is happening. This increased awareness may also have an impact.
Online images can give an incorrect impression of Reiki Therapy, often using inaccurate pictures showing massage therapy. Reiki Therapy treatment is always done with the person remaining fully clothed, covered by a sheet and blanket. Positioning for treatment varies based on the individual’s needs and comfort level: on a massage table; in a recliner or upright chair; or in a hospital bed. Music is optional during sessions, based on each person’s preference. Many people enjoy quiet music during sessions while others prefer the stillness of silence.
A full treatment usually lasts for 45-60 minutes. A minimum of three sessions, one or two weeks apart, is recommended to start. Reiki Therapy is gentle in action, requiring three or more sessions to initiate the desired changes towards one’s goals.
The individual should inform the practitioner of their preference for hand placement on or off of the body. Reiki Therapy works equally well either way. I have found that a combination of both light touch and slightly off of the body feels comfortable for most people.
During Reiki Therapy, treatment usually starts at the head area and moves downward to the feet. However, this may vary based on input from the person being treated. The standard treatment protocol is:
The movement of energy that occurs during a Reiki Therapy session is similar to the flow of breath in and out of the body. The body’s subtle energy may be experienced as a drawing into the body in some places, like an inhale, or it may be felt as a discharge or release off other areas, like an exhale. Or people may experience feelings of warmth and coolness.
After the practitioner has completed the session, that individual’s self-guided work continues. People describe this as a sort of internal “re-calibration” that they may feel for hours or even for several days after their session. This clearly demonstrates that it is the wisdom of their own body/mind that directs their Reiki Therapy experience.