Advocates describe reiki as an “energy healing” practice that emerged in Japan in the late 1800s.
Practitioners say the no-touch or soft-touch therapy works on the chakras, or the energy fields, around the body.
For decades, reiki has come under fire from critics who dispute its validity, often because any claimed effectiveness has been difficult to prove scientifically.
However, its popularity, or at least its curiosity value, has never waned and a Google search of the term this week returned 83,300,000 results.
How does reiki work?
Sydney-based reiki practitioner Frances Frey, of Think Maven, agrees it is a difficult therapy to explain but believes those who try it experience a healing that is unique to them.
“It is a relaxing, often spiritual experience that heals by the practitioner connecting with a person’s energy field. When a client opens themselves to that, it can heal on an emotional, physical and spiritual level,” Frey said.
Casey Cheah from Melbourne Reiki and Wellness agrees.
“When your energy is low, you are more prone to stress, poorer mental health or fatigue,” she said.
“Reiki releases the energy block that makes you more susceptible to those things and induces a calmer more peaceful feeling. It’s like clearing stagnant water to get fresher cleaner water flowing again.”
Both Frey and Cheah said while reiki often attracts bad press, attitudes are changing, with some hospitals and other care settings in the US adopting it.
“As a complementary therapy to medical treatments, particularly in cancer wards, it can relieve stress, and is a great support to other healings or practises,” Frey said.
Cheah said because reiki “can do no harm” it can be used by anyone in any situation to help with healing and removing anxiety.
“I think more people know about it now. Documentaries like Heal and Goop on Netflix have got people talking about reiki,” she said.
Wendy Joy Smith, founder of Australian Reiki Connection, an association for reiki practitioners, said the “idea of reiki is simple, yet complex”.
“Healing is to make whole, whatever that may mean to you; it is an individual thing,” she said.
“How does one describe in words how a rose smells, or how an orange tastes? Reiki is the energy of creation; allow it to create the words for you.”
What happens during reiki treatment?
For those interested in experiencing a reiki treatment, you’ll often be required to lie on a reiki table or sit in a chair while the practitioner places their hands on or just above the body in a sequence of motions. There is no physical manipulation as in massage.
A reiki session usually lasts between 60 and 90 minutes, and practitioners say clients report feeling a tingling sensation, warmth or cold, a slight twitching, or sometimes nothing.
Both Frey and Cheah said they take a holistic approach to a session and combine reiki with life coaching, talking with clients first to establish areas to focus on.
Frey said clients lie down and she urges them to try not to chase their thoughts, similar to meditation.
“They find it incredibly relaxing – it’s kind of like warm sunshine on you on a cold day – a gentle warming,” Frey said.
Cheah said everyone experiences a reiki session a little differently.
“Sometimes people fall asleep, but that is good – it shows they are relaxed and open to the energy release.”
Is reiki right for me?
Cheah and Frey said each person must decide for themselves whether reiki is a suitable treatment.
“I think people are called to it,” Cheah said.
“Someone who is maybe stressed, anxious, or low in energy hears about reiki or reads about it and it sparks something in them, and they want to try it. Being open to it is vital.”
Frey said nothing can go wrong in reiki so recommends for people to “experience it and see if it works for you”.
“Go with an openness. At the very least you will enjoy a relaxing 60 minutes,” she said.
It is worth noting the Australian Reiki Connection’s code of ethics insists its members advise clients that reiki is not a cure but “a complementary therapy” and should recommend clients to “seek treatment or continue treatment by qualified practitioners for any medical condition”.