Bodywork 101: What Is Reiki?

This ancient healing practice can increase energy as well as ease pain, anxiety, and stress


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Are you stressed, irritable, and low in energy? In today's fast-paced world, unfortunately, few of us can escape these all-too-common symptoms of daily living. In response, more and more people today turn to exercise, yoga, meditation, or other healthy choices to help them feel better.

Another healing practice that's is getting significant attention these days is Reiki (pronounced ray-key), a laying-on-of-hands energy-healing technique developed in Japan in the late 1700s. Practitioners claim that Reiki gives you needed energy to help end disease, pain, anxiety, and stress, along with other physical and emotional problems.

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Rei in Japanese means "spirit," and ki means "life-force energy." Together, they can be read as "spirit life led force energy." Reiki has also been described as a form of Shinto/Buddhist Quijong. A Reiki practitioner usually gives treatments by placing his or her hands on a client's body with an intention to heal. There are eight to 12 hand placements on both the front and the back of the client. Very little pressure is applied, and there is no rubbing that may be normally associated with a massage. The ki energy flows through the practitioner and is drawn in by the recipient. Deep relaxation and relief of pain often follow.

"Most disease stems from poor diet and stress," says Isis Ward, a Reiki master and holistic practitioner residing in New York City. "Reiki obviously can't help with your diet, but it relaxes your body and channels energy to help your body in its own healing process."

A typical Reiki treatment lasts approximately one hour. The client remains fully clothed, and the session can take place with the client lying down or sitting in a chair. Expect to pay between $50 and $100 for one session. Reiki requires more mental or spiritual input from the client than with other therapies. If you aren't open to receiving the healing energy, some Reiki practitioners believe you won't perceive any benefit.

"You might not perceive it immediately," says Ward, "but the healing does happen. Maybe you'll notice it a few days later, when you realize you're more relaxed and feeling better. It's a hands-on healing, but it doesn't require a lot of manipulation, because the changes are happening on an energetic level."

"Reiki requires more mental or spiritual input from the client than with other therapies."

So how can you find a Reiki therapist? For the most part, you can skip the Yellow Pages. Most Reiki therapists advertise in New Age publications or can be found through holistic health centers. And many wellness and yoga centers are also starting to offer Reiki or will post flyers from local Reiki therapists.

Shopping for a Reiki healer is much the same as looking for any other product or service. For example, you should know that a reputable Reiki therapist will have trained under the guidance of a Reiki master and possess both theoretical knowledge and the experience that comes from many hours of case studies. A therapist should not claim to diagnose or treat illnesses, but rather should aim to re-energize the body so it heals itself.

As with any healing practitioner, you should be comfortable with the Reiki therapist, says Ward. "You should never turn yourself over wholeheartedly without taking your own intuition into account," she says.

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