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What Is Reiki and How Can It Help You Relax and Restore More?

A gentle form of energy healing typically performed via light touch or hovered hands, Reiki can help the body relax, release tension and stuck energy, and stimulate its natural healing processes.

A client rests on a massage table as a Reiki practitioner gives them a session.

Admittedly, Reiki can sound a bit "woo woo"...but it's quickly become one of my favorite healing modalities to receive and share. In this gentle form of energy healing originally from Japan, an "attuned" practitioner directs Reiki, also known as "universal life force energy," to a recipient.

This energy is the energy that makes grass grow and the sun shine and that animates our lives. We all have this energy within us, yet at times we might become depleted, have blockages, or otherwise be in need of healing or restoration.

Reiki healers typically channel energy to recipients via hovered hands or light touch on a series of points on the front and sometimes back of the body. It can also be transmitted remotely (which I, personally, have witnessed works wonders, although I do prefer the power of hands-on touch!).

Sometimes the modality is integrated into another practicefor instance, I offer it in my restorative yoga classes. Others blend it with massage, sound healing or other art.

What Are Reiki's Benefits?

Reiki is a gentle healing modality and is said to "go where it needs to go." There are no side effects or risks.

In my experience receiving and giving Reiki, as well as a host of studiesfrequently in hospital settings, where Reiki has been shown to have an array of powerful positive outcomesthis practice can:

Enhance relaxation and lower stress

Release tension of body and mind

Decrease pain (my Restorative & Reiki students often report their shoulder or back pain is decreased after class)

Shift stuck energy

Kick-start the body's natural healing

Shorten healing times

Reduce symptoms of anxiety and burnout

Here are a few studies on some of these impacts.

What Can I Expect During A Session?

When receiving a standalone Reiki session, the recipient usually rests on a massage table, while the practitioner moves through a set of Reiki hand placements, from head to toes, for 60 to 90 minutes. Sometimes the healer will integrate guided meditation, breathwork, sound healing or other elements to help the recipient shift further into rest-and-digest (relaxation) mode.

It's common to feel tingling or warmth during Reiki. Sometimes people see bright colors or other images, or have stronger sensations, for instance of energy moving around or emotions rising and falling.

Some people just feel comforted by the light touch or hovered hands. My Reiki teacher often likens it to receiving a big hug. I love it because it feels like being cared for, like how Mom used to rub your back when you were little and got sick or sad.

At the end of the session, a practitioner might ask the client if they'd like to debrief and swap what they sensed in the session and areas of particular note. (There is typically a startling amount of overlap!)

Reiki can also be shared remotely, over the phone, Zoom or just via intention. This seems like it wouldn't be effective, but I've had surprising results with my clients and my teachers all swear by it.

Interested In Learning More?

Explore Reiki practitioners in your area via Googling, using the International Association of Reiki Professionals directory (note that many wonderful, gifted healers are not part of this listing/organization, though) or asking around at your local alternative health clinic or yoga studio.

There are great Reiki meditations, courses and live classes on the terrific Insight Timer app, my favorite meditation app. (Free, or you can pay for enhanced features and content.)

If you're in the DC area, I teach a weekly Restorative Yoga & Reiki in Northern Virginia and also offer private sessions.


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