Reiki healing is perhaps the most well-known energy therapy technique around. Learn more about how Reiki works, its benefits, and how it compares to our approach.
If you’ve ever heard of energy healing, odds are the technique you heard about was Reiki. Popularized by celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz, the hundred-year-old practice seems to have captured a special place in the hearts and minds of many. It’s gained such fame that many use the term synonymously with energy healing!
Truthfully though, Reiki is just one of many techniques within the universe of energy therapies and healing. And while it’s gained popularity since its inception in the 1920s, widespread use is still relatively low.
How I Learned to Read Energy
It took a long time to achieve the specificity in reading energy that I have today.
I was sensitive to energy beginning in childhood. Growing up, I familiarized myself with my own energy and the energies of the world around me.
After college, I met Lisa, one of the great loves of my life and a practicing nurse. She helped me decipher the energies of the body, developing an understanding of energy signatures and how they correspond to tendon, bone, nerves, and other tissue, along with health, inflammation, and other states. Together, we developed my first energy healing techniques for chronic pain, hives, and more.
Since then, I’ve added blind testing to my practice, studied physiology, and further developed my ability to understand the body’s energy.
For instance, a study published in the Global Advances in Health and Medicine journal reported that over 3.7 million US adults “have ever” gone to an energy healing practitioner in their lives. Within that statistic, 1.6 million adults reported seeing a practitioner within the past year.
While these might seem like large numbers, 1.6 million adults is only 0.5% of the population at the time.
But with so much interest in the practice, we thought it would be worthwhile to do a deep dive into Reiki, the research behind it, and how it compares to our approach here at Healing Lab.
A Brief History of Reiki Healing
The practice of Reiki dates back to 1922. Its creation is credited to a Buddhist priest named Mikao Usui, also known as Usui-Sensei. As reported by the International Association of Reiki Professionals, the story goes that Reiki’s origins began with Usui going on a spiritual journey.
He traveled to Mount Kurama, a sacred mountain north of Kyoto, Japan, where he fasted and meditated for three weeks. On the morning of his 21st day of self-reflection, Usui shared that he experienced something remarkable. As Sanskrit symbols appeared to him and helped him uncover the principles of Reiki, he felt his energy restored and his hunger dissipated.
Usui opened his first Reiki clinic and school in Tokyo in 1922, where he taught numerous practitioners who would ultimately ascend to the level of Reiki master. Several of these masters proved essential to the practice’s spread around the world — for instance, Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, a former naval officer who opened a clinic in Tokyo. Hayashi developed the practice of Reiki through the addition of more specific hand positions to channel energy through the body.
One of Hayashi’s students who proved quite influential in Reiki’s expansion was a Japanese-American woman named Hawayo Takata. Takata had been experiencing numerous health issues and was passionate about healing through holistic pathways. After experiencing Reiki healing for herself and training with Hayashi to become a Master, Takata brought the practice home with her to Hawaii and opened her own clinic. From there, Reiki spread rapidly beyond Japan throughout the West.
Today, Reiki is used worldwide in both holistic and clinical settings to complement traditional medicine, offer relief, and promote healing.
What is Reiki and How Does it Work?
The Japanese word “rei” is typically translated into “God’s wisdom” or “universal.” “Ki” translates into “vital life energy,” as in the energy that flows through every living thing in the universe. Reiki healing’s meaning can be best understood as a “universal life force” or “spiritually guided life force.”
Reiki is all about cultivating harmony and health throughout the body. Rather than doing the healing themselves, Reiki practitioners act as a channel between the client and a universal source of healing energy.
In a session, practitioners will hover their hands over or gently place them on the client in several positions. Their hands serve as the conduits for the energy, guiding it through the client to help remove energy blocks that may be prompting dis-ease.
What is Reiki healing good for?
Reiki has traditionally been used for a variety of conditions and goals. Practitioners and advocates for Reiki suggest it may be used for:
Cardiovascular health and blood pressure
Decreasing pain levels
Relieving stress-related conditions
*More on what the research says about Reiki’s benefits below.
How to Become a Reiki Healer
Students train by tuning into and learning to recognize their own energy and the energy of others, in addition to practicing five principles to maintain harmony in their system.
(Reiki clients are encouraged to practice these five principles to actively participate in their healing and promote health from within.)
What are the 5 principles of Reiki?
Just for today, I will not worry.
Just for today, I will not be angry.
Just for today, I will do my work honestly.
Just for today, I will give thanks for my many blessings.
Just for today, I will be kind to my neighbor and every living thing.
*These are the generally accepted English translations of the original Japanese principles.
The most essential part of Reiki training involves a process called “attunement.”
During attunement, a Reiki Master connects the practitioner with the universal source of energy. Without this attunement, practitioners may draw from their own energy when working with clients, which can deplete their energy and lead to ill health.
There are three levels of Reiki healing certification:
Level I Reiki — a student goes through the attunement process and can channel universal energy in person to their clients.
Level II Reiki — a practitioner’s attunement and training is strengthened so they are able to channel energy at a distance.
Level III Reiki / Reiki Master — a practitioner attains the level of Master and can attune and initiate other students with the universal energy source to practice Reiki.
If you want to work with a Reiki practitioner, it’s important to ensure they’ve gone through attunement and are connected to universal healing energy. While there isn’t a standardized certification process, you can review registered Reiki professionals with the International Association of Reiki Professionals.
Reiki Healing Benefits: The Research
If you’re wondering about the researched benefits of Reiki, you’re not alone.
Studies (discussed below) have found Reiki to benefit:
Reductions in stress
Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response)
Decreases in anxiety and depression
Less pain (some evidence)
Reduced stress-related symptoms
Of course, research is still ongoing and individual results can vary, and more studies are needed to assess the exact nature of these benefits.
But for now, let’s take a quick look at some of the high-quality studies that have been published to date.
A quick note
In many studies we’ll discuss, researchers compare a real Reiki treatment to a fake Reiki session. Why?
By comparing a real and fake energy treatment, researchers are able to better understand whether the results come from a participant’s expectations (placebo) or the energy work itself.
Put another way, if a participant feels results after a fake treatment, it suggests that the results had to do with their expectations. This is taken into consideration when analyzing the true effectiveness of the real energy treatment.
A Review of 13 Studies on Reiki for Stress, Pain, and Chronic Conditions
This review of reiki healing, published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, set out to review the high-quality, peer-reviewed clinical studies on Reiki up through 2016. Specifically, researchers examined studies that compared Reiki to fake energy treatments with at least 20 participants. Of the 13 studies they found that met their criteria, 8 found that Reiki positively impacted participants beyond placebo.
The most significant results of Reiki were for stress and stress-related conditions.
One study explored the effects of Reiki healing vs. simply resting and relaxing group on 66 patients with high blood pressure. They found that while blood pressure decreased for all groups, it decreased most for the Reiki group.
In a study on rats, head researchers Baldwin and Schwartz explored whether Reiki could reduce the effects of loud-noise-induced stress. Researchers divided rats into three groups: those given loud noise and Reiki, those given loud noise and fake Reiki, and those exposed to loud noise alone.
Reiki or fake Reiki was provided 15 minutes a day for 21 days. The experiment was repeated three times, then again using different Reiki practitioners. Researchers found less stress-related damage to blood vessels in rat’s stomachs for those who’d received Reiki than for fake Reiki or no Reiki.
Heart rate and blood pressure
In a follow-up study, Baldwin compared the effects of Reiki vs. fake Reiki on heart rate and blood pressure for rats exposed to loud noise. Using transmitters implanted in the rats, researchers found Reiki lessened both the average resting heart rate and the stress-related increases in heart rate when exposed to loud noise. Blood pressure was not significantly affected.
Reiki seems to show strong potential for shifting the body to a parasympathetic (relaxed) state. The evidence was less conclusive regarding its potential to help with pain.
Reiki for pain
For instance, two studies covered in the review — one for patients with diabetes-related neuropathy and another for fibromyalgia — found that Reiki had no more effect than fake Reiki on relieving pain. Additionally, both did little to lessen pain.
One study did suggest that Reiki may benefit mood and pain for chronically ill patients, though. Researchers compared the effects of Reiki to fake Reiki, progressive muscle relaxation, and a control group for 120 patients. They found that more than all other groups, Reiki healing led to the most reductions in pain, state anxiety, and depression.
This is just a brief review of some of the high-quality research out there. These studies suggest that Reiki could serve as a helpful complementary technique to reduce stress-related symptoms and promote wellbeing. Only time and more research will tell just how impactful Reiki healing could be for benefiting our health and wellbeing.
Reiki vs. The Healing Lab Approach
One of the factors that sets Healing Lab apart from Reiki and other healing techniques is how we apply energy. While Reiki healing draws energy from a universal source and applies it generally to promote health, we do things a little differently here at Healing Lab.
Just like a doctor wouldn’t prescribe one general “wellbeing” pill for all diseases, we take a more specific approach to the energy we channel. With our client’s permission, we first explore the energy signatures of different tissues throughout their body. Then, we suppress or promote energy signatures we’ve come to identify with different health states, such as inflammation, chronic pain signaling, new tissue growth, and healing.
This is the key feature that sets us apart at Healing Lab. With this approach, many of our clients have reported drops in pain by up to 3-4 points by the end of our session, alongside improvements in range of motion and the ability to get back to the activities they love most.
If you’re struggling with chronic pain or arthritis, we’d love to explore whether Healing Lab could be right for you.