Reiki is a Japanese form of energy healing that aims to promote well-being by channeling universal life forces.
Reiki comes from the Japanese words rei, which means “universal life,” and ki, which means “energy.”
The therapy is considered a noninvasive healing art that involves a trained practitioner who serves as a channel of universal life energy.
Reiki isn’t a medical remedy for specific conditions. It’s used to encourage physical and mental healing and whole-body balance. Evidence suggests it may offer health benefits for some people.
Reiki is an ancient healing art with origins in Japanese culture. It has no ties to any specific religious practice, though it is considered a spiritual-based therapy.
Reiki practitioners believe balancing or unblocking energy flow may encourage the body’s natural healing ability.
To balance energy fields in the body, practitioners position their hands slightly over or on your body. Touch isn’t required.
Through positioning the hands, practitioners are said to channel the universe’s life energy into your body.
While many forms of Reiki exist, the original and most prominent one is Usui Reiki. The name comes from its creator Dr. Mikao Usui who is said to have developed the therapy after many years of medical, psychological, and theological learning.
The 5 Reiki precepts
Precepts are rules or principles that guide a practice. For Reiki, Gokai is the name of the mantra that outlines the original Japanese ideals.
Translated from Japanese, Reiki precepts are:
- Just for today, do not worry.
- Just for today, do not anger.
- Just for today, be humble.
- Just for today, be honest.
- Just for today, be compassionate toward yourself and others.
As the precepts come from translated text, the wording may vary from practitioner to practitioner. For example, the fifth precept may also be worded as “just for today, be kind to every living thing.”
Reiki practitioners believe that focusing on these precepts every day may help maintain your sense of well-being.
Reiki healing sessions can vary depending on your goals and comfort level. On average, sessions last between 60 and 90 minutes.
During your first session, you and your practitioner will discuss any challenges you may be experiencing.
“The client typically lies down on a massage table with their clothes on. The practitioner begins by asking if they have any specific areas of focus they would like addressed during the session,” explains Dr. Alice Williams, an emergency medicine physician and Reiki practitioner from Las Vegas.
Clothes always remain on during a Reiki session, though your shoes may be removed so light touch can be applied to the feet.
Once you’re comfortable, your practitioner may begin by stating the Gokai, a Reiki mantra.
“The Reiki practitioner will typically begin by saying the Gokai out loud, to set the intention for the session and to begin calling in Reiki energy,” says Jenna Volpe, a Jikiden Reiki practitioner in Austin, Texas.
After this, the practitioner will work through standard-form Reiki hand positions and movements, usually starting at your head or feet.
Reiki therapy practitioners encourage you to let them know if you aren’t comfortable with physical touch. Reiki can still be applied through close, no-touch hand placements.
Volpe adds, in certain forms of Reiki, sessions involve a touch method called kiko. “The Jikiden Reiki practitioner will also perform a kiko which involves light tapping, patting, and sweeping to clear stagnant energy from the client at the end of the session,” she says.
It’s common for clients to report sensations of intense heat, tingling, or vibration coming from the practitioner’s hands.
Reiki is not a form of massage. It doesn’t involve muscle manipulation or deep pressure. Some practitioners, however, may use Reiki in conjunction with massage techniques.
Similarly, Reiki healing is not labeled as a form of meditation or relaxation technique. It’s an energy art intended to promote bodily harmony.
For many people, Reiki promotes natural states of relaxation or meditation.
“Reiki can help to put the client in a meditative state relatively quickly in my experience,” says Volpe. “While Reiki is not exclusively a relaxation method since it has specific clinical efficacy for other purposes, I would say Reiki is definitely a great relaxation method!”
Because Reiki is intended for the entire mind, body, and spiritual self, practitioners don’t limit what it might be beneficial for.
Reiki isn’t put forth as a “cure,” though. It’s seen as a complementary tool that may help the body achieve a state of optimal balance that encourages natural healing.
Reiki therapy may be used for the relief or management of the following:
- chronic illness
- appetite changes
- shortness of breath
- blood pressure challenges
Reiki benefits may include a variety of mental health challenges, although it isn’t portrayed as a treatment for these.
- anxiety reduction
- depression improvement
- changes in self-esteem
- improved mood
- increase in positive emotions
- improved emotional regulation
In 2021, a systematic review concluded that Reiki is an effective therapy for anxiety, depression, and stress. More large-scale research is still needed.
“I know for me, Reiki has helped me heal my depression, anxiety, and PTSD,” says Sheel Bhuta, a Reiki Master and teacher from Los Angeles. “I started getting Reiki after a survived suicide attempt. I also started when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease which is when I decided to get certified in it myself.”
Reiki holds promise as a therapy supported by research, though large-scale evidence is lacking.
In addition to the mental health studies supporting its use, Reiki’s efficacy was examined in 2019 research. They found Reiki is effective in the management of both physical and psychological symptoms.
Smaller studies in targeted populations have found Reiki beneficial for:
herniated disk pain
- recovery aspects of cesarean delivery
- quality of life among women living with cancer
- recovery after a heart attack and other acute coronary syndromes
Many states view Reiki as a bodywork requiring no certification or licensure.
Other states, like Florida, classify Reiki under the same touch-based therapy designation as therapeutic massage. This means a massage license is required to practice Reiki in the state.
Regardless of legal requirements, Reiki has a training process that moves a practitioner up through several levels to the final title of “master.”
“Anyone who has completed formal Reiki training of any kind will receive a certificate,” says Volpe. “I find that the more practice and experience a certified Reiki practitioner gets, the more effective their Reiki treatment sessions become over time.”
Reiki is an ancient form of energy healing that aims to channel universal life energy into your body to promote natural healing processes.
While large-scale research is limited, a growing body of evidence supports using Reiki for several mental and physical conditions.
While large-scale research is limited, a growing body of evidence supports using Reiki for many mental and physical conditions.