This is what happens to your body when you try a reiki healing session

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I’ll never forget my first trip to Orange County, California. And it’s not simply because of the gorgeous sunsets, sprawling beaches, or my first Disneyland adventure. Rather, it’s because it’s the birthplace of my fascination with and downright adoration of reiki, a form of energy healing.

If you’ve never experienced reiki firsthand, you might think it’s just another woo-woo scheme in the name of self-care. And hey, I get it because I was in that same boat. Having never done reiki, I simply couldn’t wrap my head around how someone touching or hovering over you with their hands could cause any sort of energetic shift. But then I went to Magnolia Wellness in Costa Mesa, and my entire perspective changed—and, in all honesty, my life did as a result.  

But while I could sit here and type for hours detailing all the ways reiki changed my outlook on life and physical feelings within myself, I’ll spare you and get to the why behind reiki and its seemingly-magical effects. To do so, I chatted with a few reiki masters to lay it out for you. Keep reading to discover why you might want to make space on your calendar and book your very own session. 

What is reiki healing?

According to certified reiki practitioner Merle Golkow, reiki healing is geared toward enhancing intuition, restoring balance, and creating a sense of calm and spaciousness. While the benefits are similar to those which you might experience during focused meditation, the beauty of reiki is that the practitioner creates the energy shift for you.  

“A Japanese ‘laying on hands’ technique, reiki is based on the practitioner’s vibration and intuition with balancing a client’s ‘life force energy’ (aka ‘ki’ or ‘qi’),” says Giselle Wasfie, who is certified in reiki healing.  

Before going into the full spectrum of benefits—not to mention how practitioners are able to deliver such effects—let’s take a minute to discuss the history of reiki. The healing practice was founded by Dr. Mikao Usui, a Buddhist monk who studied various types of healing, all the way back in the early 1900s. At one point during his time living in a monastery, Dr. Usui went out on his own to meditate, fast, and pray in a cave for 21 days. There, he discovered Sanskrit symbols (an Indo-Aryan or Indic language) that helped him finally actualize the healing practice he’d been trying to bring to life for so long.  

As certified reiki practitioner and founder of HELLEN, Hellen Yuan, points out, Dr. Usui dubbed the practice “reiki,” because ‘Rei’ translates to universe consciousness or god consciousness in Japanese, and ‘Ki’ translates to ‘chi,’ which means life force energy flowing in all things. “As such, reiki means ‘spiritually guided life force energy,’” she explains.  

After his ah-ha moment, Dr. Usui opened the first reiki clinic and school in Kyoto, Japan, in 1922. There, he trained reiki masters, who continued the training for years to come. Which brings us to the present day—a time in which reiki continues to be alive and well, and, in all actuality, thriving more than ever.  

What are the benefits of reiki?

According to Golkow, who reikis all the crystals in the HIGHBORN line, reiki’s benefits reach far and wide, as it can enhance the benefits of both conventional and alternative medicine without any known risks.  

Feeling fatigued, anxious, emotional, or stricken with grief? Yuan says that reiki can help clear that negative energy to make way for a brighter future. “During a session, there can be times one will receive insights about what is blocking them, which results in clarity for their life and path,” she explains. 

According to a 2010 study, researchers reported that an improvement of physical symptoms and mood when reiki was used on older adults who experienced depression. Plus, in a 2011 study, people stated they experienced a positive increase in their mood after completing six 30-minute sessions over a period of time (between two to eight weeks).

How is Reiki performed?

This can go two ways: reiki practitioners will either directly touch their client’s body or hover above it while they’re sitting or laying down. By touching and hovering, they’re able to release, move, and add energy to each point of the body’s midline energy system, helping to promote balance within the body. 

“The body is surrounded by energy fields, measured in hertz, which blueprint our bodies’ physical and emotional openings,” Yuan says. “We can measure those points to see the strength of each chakra with a tool called a pendulum. Once we measure, you would be able to see with your own eyes the areas of your chakras that are blocked.”  

The ultra-compelling thing about the practice is that it doesn’t always require being in another person’s direct presence to clear the energy. According to Golkow, with proper training, Reiki can be performed on oneself or, with even more training, on others from afar. Which brings us to…  

How is reiki performed from afar?

Living in the age of social distancing and quarantine, now more than ever, people are exploring ways to seek healing despite the distance. While this pertains to telemedicine visits and virtual therapy sessions, reiki is another healing technique that can be accessed without close physical proximity—so long as the practitioner is certified in advanced reiki.   

“In advanced reiki you learn how to energetically bridge to one’s energy, performing distance reiki and tapping into an individual’s energetic field,” Yuan explains, noting that this has been very helpful during this time, as people have needed continuous support. 

In order to provide the support that so many seek, practitioners must find ways to build rapport to set the session up for success.  

“It’s best for the person receiving care to be the most comfortable they can possibly be,” Golkow says. “Having a ‘get to know you’ over the phone or virtual call prior to the healing session allows for a deeper connection to the experience. Though a virtual call has created connectivity especially during a time of social distancing—I would keep in mind these eastern modalities pre-date such technologies.” 

Once the cornerstones of rapport have been placed, the practitioner is able to get to work. Following the initial conversation, Wasfie says she and her client then separate and the patient lays comfortably in their home. “I run a reiki session for them (and their ‘intentions’) from my home, sending the energy and vibrations across space and time,” she says. 

What does reiki healing feel like?

You know the feeling of seeing a clear blue sky after a torrential downpour? Or feeling truly, deeply understood by someone? Or feeling like finally, it just all makes sense? Like you can finally take a breath and move forward with new clarity and perspective? That’s what reiki feels like.   

I’ll truly never forget my first reiki experience. Before it began, my practitioner told me (and the experts I spoke to for this piece later confirmed) that I could expect to feel warmth or light pulsations throughout my body, though she ensured she’d never actually touch me. And, as I mentioned, I struggled to have faith that I’d feel anything at all.   

But then it happened. As I lay on the ground of the small Southern California wellness center, I felt myself floating, bursting, embracing, accepting. It’s what I imagine discovering unwavering faith is like.   

At the time, I was reeling from being in my ex-boyfriend’s new town—the one who I moved across the country to be with. Despite having broken up two years prior, it was surreal to be in the same place as the person who changed my life more than he even realizes; the one I never got closure from.  

Prior to receiving my reiki session, I explored tarot and foot reflexology with two other practitioners. One practitioner after the other was able to pick up on the confusion and hurt that I was feeling, speaking into existence the emotions I hadn’t dared say aloud. By the time I reached my reiki practitioner, I already felt raw. Having told her nothing, she, like the others—both of whom hadn’t spoken with her between the sessions—immediately picked up on my energy and used her powers to deliver a healing therapy that not even months of anxiety and depression medication had been able to compete with.  

And yes, I say “powers,” because, at the end of the day, to have the ability to change someone’s life—to give them a renewed perspective and a calm sense of forgiveness and self-acceptance—that’s powerful.