Any wellness fan who knows their rose quartz healing crystals from their turmeric lattes will be well-versed in the art of reiki. For the uninitiated though, the spiritual practice can seem a little new-age.
Many A-list celebs like Halle Berry, Ellen DeGeneres and Gwyneth Paltrow are said to have turned to reiki healing in recent years, and with a general curiosity shift towards natural and alternative medicine, it’s a wellness trend that’s on the rise.
What is reiki?
Reiki is a type of therapy which proponents believe can channel the energy that courses through your body in order to heal it.
The practice is believed to have originated in Japan, where it was founded by Tendai Buddhist Mikao Usui. In fact, the word ‘reiki’ itself comes from the Japanese words ‘rei’ (which means universal) and ‘ki’ (life energy).
"During a session, the reiki practitioner places the palm of their hands gently over different parts of the body," says reiki healer Leah Larwood, who adds that during lockdown, many people have been learning reiki as a form of self-treatment, while social distancing measures are in place.
"Moving their hands from the crown of the head slowly down to the feet, the aim is to stop at the seven different chakra positions to unblock any energy flows."
Larwood says reiki uses a very light touch and you're fully clothed the whole time, often with a blanket over you. Crucially, there is no massage or extended physical touch involved.
While the practitioner holds their hands lightly on or over the body, the transfer of energy takes place. Similarly to acupuncture and acupressure, the practice is all about freeing up the movement of energy in the body.
"It leaves you with an incredibly refreshing and grounding feeling, which can linger for days," says Larwood, who adds that some people will feel sensations – such as heat or tingles – during the practice.
In reiki, people believe that energy can stagnate in the body after physical or emotional trauma, such as grief or a major operation. According to masters of the treatments, this stagnant energy can turn into blockages, which can potentially cause illness.
What are the benefits?
Reiki’s advocates say it can treat many physical and emotional conditions, from chronic pain to depression and anxiety. Naturally though, there is scepticism around reiki, as it’s hard to scientifically prove its effectiveness.
That said, many people have anecdotally found benefits in the relaxing practice, particularly when it comes to mindfulness and emotional health.
"Reiki can help you to respond more calmly and with greater clarity to life’s challenges. Whether it’s work-related stress, relationship troubles or general anxiety, you can find a sense of peace and harmony within you," says reiki practitioner and crystal healer Sara Doone.
"I find that the practice can support me when making positive life choices, helping me to connect with my inner knowing, offering insight and understanding as to what is truly best for me," she adds. "When you’re suffering from uncertainty, making choices can seem impossible – practising reiki may help you to see things from multiple perspectives."
Many people find that reiki can really help their energy levels and a treatment leaves them with a sense of deep relaxation, Doone adds. And, whether you believe in energy forces or not, it’s generally considered safe, and there shouldn’t be any side effects.
"For me, after a session, I feel as though I’ve had an extremely relaxing and long massage; I feel lighter and more in the present moment," says Larwood.
"Feeling these new sensations in the body may feel unusual at times, but it’s all perfectly natural. All you need to do is lay back and relax into it. "