Any yoga-pant wearing, spiritually attuned, healthful Gwyneth Paltrow type will, of course, already be well-versed in the art of reiki. Not one of them? No, me neither. But for a while now, I’ve wondered whether they’re privy to a secret source of zen that I’ve simply bypassed on account of not really knowing what the deal is?
Obviously, if there’s some stress-relieving action to be had, we want in and it feels like more of us are up for getting our enlightenment on and tapping into a potential font of calm to ward off anxiety.
So, reiki: I’ve heard great things. I get the impression it involves meditating, maybe a foot rub and a shed-load of healing energy? Friends tell me, they’ve left sessions feeling like entirely new women – lighter, calmer and more refreshed – which sounds exactly like my kind of party. So I took it upon myself to try it out for myself and discover more. Here’s what you need to know about reiki…
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What is reiki?
Simply put, reiki is a Japanese form of alternative medicine called energy healing. It is performed by a trained healer, who uses their palms and hands to transfer a “universal energy” into you to promote emotional or physical healing.
“Reiki is a natural healing method that works through the channeling of energy from the universe into the body,” explains reiki master and founder of healing brand The Calmery, Sushma Sagar. Pronounced ‘ray-key’, it comes from the Japanese word meaning “universal life-force energy”. “It’s a balanced energy flowing through the therapist which brings about healing in the recipient, regardless of whether we call ourselves therapists,” says reiki master and healer Reeya Avani.
While it may initially be hard to wrap you mind around, Sushma says the idea is far less controversial than it was in 2002 when she first learnt. “For a start, we now say ‘complementary therapies’ because they are a complement to western medicine that only deals with one part of the whole. There have been so many clinical studies that have proven the positive effects of reiki, that you can now find it on the NHS in several hospitals in the UK, which certainly has an effect on the overall attitudes towards the modality,” she adds.
What are the origins of reiki?
The idea of beneficial energy is as old as the earth itself. “Healing with energy is one of the oldest forms of medicine that exists – it predates any western medicine and has been documented in ancient texts from China, India and Egypt for example. Shamans also use energy medicine to heal and it is believed by many that Jesus was a master energy healer,” says Sushma. But the modern form we recognise today is a little more recent. “It was developed by a Japanese buddhist called Mikao Usui at the turn of the 20th century,” says Reeya.
Where does the name reiki come from?
“Split into two parts, Rei has meaning including: spirit, soul and universe; and Ki means energy. Together they encompass soul energy, or spirit energy,” explains Reeya.
How does reiki work?
Ultimately energy is manipulated and shifted to improve our wellbeing – this can include our mindset as well as how we feel physically. “It works to restore the body’s natural energy flow, by channelling energy that exists in the universe. This energy is an intelligent force, which both helps you to release heavy vibrations (usually in the form of emotions such as stress, grief or upset) from your body so you feel lighter, then gives you a boost of positive energy,” says Sushma. “It can help on several different levels. It can speed up recovery that may be needed in the physical body if we are sick, it can support us in our minds and emotions so that we may feel stronger to cope with life and it can comfort us spiritually by giving us a feeling of oneness or connectedness, when we feel alone. Everyone can benefit from Reiki because we are all beings made of energy,” explains Sushma.
Unlike western medicine where you present a problem and you’re prescribed a solution, reiki is much more reactive and tailored. “It is drawn through the indirect amount of energy needed by the patient, and not what the therapist thinks they need,” explains Reeya. “How it works from a biological perspective is still being discovered, but recent scientific studies (as reported by the UK Reiki Federation) have indicated that reiki healers have shown to emit electromagnetic and bio-magnetic type energy from their hands. This energy has further shown to induce current flows in the tissues and cells of individuals the practitioner is practicing Reiki on,” Reeya says.
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What happens during a reiki treatment?
Your experience will be totally individual, but the set-up is pretty similar to going for a massage. “Everyone’s experience is going to be unique to them, there is no ‘right’ way to experience it. During a session, you will lie fully clothed on a bed, whilst a practitioner will place hands above or on you in various positions,” explains Sushma.
“I developed my very own personal healing framework with three distinct phases,” Reeya tells me. “First is guided meditation, then it’s body scanning and energy detection and finally it’s chakra rebalancing and healing,” she says.
“Body scanning involves the practice of the healer using their Reiki skills to effectively scan the person’s seven chakras, the entire body and their energies. I use this technique with a fine-tooth comb, detecting and picking up even the slightest variations. This helps me to focus on the right areas, right from the very beginning, and I then use my skills to narrow down and identify root causes to those energy imbalances, or blockages as they are commonly referred to,” Reeya says.
“Once blockages and imbalances have been identified, chakra re-balancing and healing takes place. This stage involves focusing on the chakra blockages,” adds Reeya. “I either place my hand on the area or areas I need to work on, or, I hover my hands over that area. The reiki energy is then applied through my hands into the person, and I use specific hand movements to “balance the chakras”, remove blockages and complete the energy healing process,” she adds.
What happened when I tried reiki?
Intrigued, I went to visit Reeya at her space in central London’s St James’s Square, to give reiki a spin myself. Despite being apprehensive – I’m not sure how much I believe in energy and auras – it was definitely enlightening. Reeya made me feel at ease immediately. She talked me through what reiki is and what to expect, and took some time to get a bit of background about my daily life, stress levels and general health. Though not all reiki masters do this, she also incorporated crystal healing into the session, asking me to pick out a couple of (ethically sourced) crystals that I was most drawn to, before explaining the properties of each.
To begin, I was asked to lie back on a bed (the kind you get at the doctors or at a massage), the lights were turned down and Reeya began to guide my breathing, instructing me to inhale and exhale at different intervals. She asked me to imagine standing barefoot in a forest with the earth and the roots beneath me. After getting over my initial awkwardness, I could feel myself beginning to relax and loosen up and sink into the process.
For the reiki itself, Reeya placed her hands on my “chakras” (my head, between my brows, my chest and my stomach), holding them there gently for several minutes. It was long enough for me to catch myself drifting off with someone else’s hands on my head and stomach and feel weirdly comfortable with it. Wherever she placed her hands felt warm and reassuring, and for someone quite uptight, it felt surprisingly comforting and relaxing.
What does – or should – it feel like?
This can totally depend on your mood going in, your openness to the experience and how long you’ve been doing it. “Most people will feel sensations such as heat or tingles in their body. Some people may feel emotional as they release ‘stuff’ and others may feel so relaxed they go to sleep. For the most part, it’s usually a very pleasant experience and you will emerge feeling like you had a lovely refreshing nap, even though you were aware of everything that happened,” says Sushma.
“Sometimes people feel lightness or lightheadedness like something has been removed, or a floating-like feeling. Some will experience hot or cold flushes. Some feel heavy and drowsy. The releasing of toxins is an integral part of healing,” Sushma adds.
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How does reiki make you feel afterwards?
How you feel after a reiki session will depend entirely on your own energy blocks as well as the areas your reiki healer has chosen to work on. You may feel relaxed, or you may notice a new sense of clarity and calm over a stressful situation. You may even feel very emotional.
After my own treatment, Reeya correctly summarised that I suffer from a sore stomach when I’m stressed, noting that she’d found blockages in my sacral chakra (located just below your naval) and recommended some breathing exercises to help clear them away. She asked whether I’d seen anything in my mind during the session.
In truth, I think I’m a bit of a spiritual novice, and naturally skeptical. While some people experience spikes of emotion and even visions, I saw mostly black, with spots of yellow and orange light scattered through (which might have had more to do with the lamp). But, the ball of stress I’d brought with me in my chest and stomach felt lighter. Undeniably, I felt far calmer when I left, than when I’d come in. Even if you don’t feel overcome with energy or emotion, at the very least, it’s a relaxing and uplifting experience. Not a bad outcome for an hour or two of your day.
How long does a reiki class normally last?
The good news is that you can fit reiki sessions in like you would an exercise class, since they’re usually between one to two hours. “It depends on the individual; your first session will typically take around two hours, and follow on sessions up to an hour and a half,” says Reeya. “If I have the time available I will happily go over, otherwise I try to keep it within the two hours. My approach has never been to charge by the time (one hour time slots has been very common in the industry). Each one of my clients’ needs are different and therefore the one hour norm just doesn’t work for the process I use,” she says.
How to prep for a reiki treatment?
There’s not a lot of prep to do before a session. “I recommend that you wear comfortable clothing, avoid strong stimulants before and afterward the healing (such as alcohol and drugs) and stay hydrated,” Reeya says.
How to find the right reiki master for you?
As with any therapist, there will be some you connect more with than others. “It’s a very personal thing,” says Sushma. “All healers have their own style and sometimes you just have to try someone out, a bit like choosing a hairdresser or masseuse. See if you can have a quick chat and consider if you feel comfortable with them. Do they make you feel safe in their hands? Use your intuition on this. Above all, check out reviews, look for a personal recommendation from someone you trust if you can,” she says.
It’s worth also checking the UK Reiki Federation database: “they set the standard of practice for Reiki in the UK. Their database of reiki professionals will have passed the requirements to be listed on their platform,” adds Reeya.
What qualifications does a reiki master need in order to practice?
It’s worth asking your therapist what qualifications they have. “Formal qualifications such as passing Reiki Level 1 allow you to practice on yourself and friends and family. With Level 2 you can practice professionally, and with Master Level or Level 3, you can teach and attune others,” explains Reeya. But complementary skill sets can help. “I would recommend qualifications in human anatomy (or at least a deep understanding of it) and accompanying qualifications like crystal healing and acupressure will strengthen energy and physiological understanding,” Reeya adds.
How much does reiki generally cost?
Prices will vary depending on location and experience. “Currently my fees are £145 for a reiki session, which for London is a ballpark average,” says Reeya. However, “it depends very much on where you are and how experienced your healer is. On average for a session you will pay more than the going rate for a massage in that location,” says Sushma.
So there you have it – a crash course in reiki. Regardless of whether you understand or believe in energy forces, many find it to be a relaxing and uplifting experience and a helpful way to unwind. Some have even credited the practice with warding off illness or health problems by drastically reducing stress. The only way to know for sure? Try it and see.
I visited Reiki master and healer Reeya Avani at her Mayfair practice.
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