What Is Reiki And How Does It Work? (2023)

Reiki may sound “new age” to some, but it’s anything but new. In fact, it’s a form of energy healing with roots in ancient cultures. Reiki uses what’s known as universal life force energy—ki or qi—to improve people’s lives and ailments.

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What Is Reiki?

The term “reiki” comes from the Japanese words “rei,” meaning universal, and “ki,” which means vital life force energy that flows through all living things. Some practitioners describe reiki as acupuncture without the needles.

Reiki is a complementary health approach in which practitioners place their hands on or just above different areas of the body. It’s based on an Eastern medicine belief that living beings have energy fields that support their health and vitality.

Energy blocks, on the other hand, impede innate flow of energy, causing not only health problems, but also negative life circumstances like financial troubles or relationship problems, according to belief. Energy blocks of any living being can be treated, according to belief, which is why some practitioners also work on animals and plants. Reiki practitioners focus on sensing energy blocks and moving the energy for the greatest good of the client.

(Video) What is Reiki | Living Healthy Chicago

The History of Reiki

There are at least 30 slightly different branches of reiki, but Usui is by far the most popular form. Usui is the method practiced and taught in Japan as early as the 1900s by Makao Usui, who is credited as the founder of modern reiki.

Usui reiki came to the West via Hawaii in the 1930s thanks to a Japanese-American woman named Hawayo Takata. She traveled back to her native Japan to seek healing for her own physical and mental ailments, including a lung condition, asthma and a nervous breakdown after the death of her husband. One of Makao Usui’s students, Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, taught reiki to Takata. Her healing experience was so profound that Takata returned to Hawaii and became the first person to teach reiki in the West.

However, due to the abundance of anti-Japanese and anti-Asian sentiments in the United States around World War II, Takata shied away from using the name “reiki” and instead referred to her establishment on the island of Kauai as a “healing studio,” according to researcher Nat Newton, Ph.D., a Usui reiki master in Orange County, California.

“Takata modified some of the teachings for her English-speaking students and ended up training 22 students in reiki as we know it today,” says Newton. Today, thousands of people worldwide are trained in Usui and similar reiki methods.

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(Video) What is Reiki Healing And How Does Reiki Work?

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What to Expect During a Reiki Session

While reiki can easily be done in just about any setting, a typical reiki session takes place in a relaxing environment or treatment room, akin to massage therapy. Newton holds some of her reiki sessions in well-ventilated outdoor spaces. Meanwhile, many reiki practitioners do remote healing where they aren’t even in the same building as the client.

In a typical treatment room setting with a reiki practitioner and a client, the client begins face up and fully clothed. They might briefly discuss their ailment or situation they hope to heal. The session might begin with a brief meditation, and then the practitioner uses various hand movements to lightly touch or hover over various parts of the client’s body while they are face up and face down. Throughout the session, the practitioner focuses specifically on their intent for healing.

“We usually think about activating whatever is in the highest good for the client,” says Newton. “Sometimes we’ll visualize the client as healed. But always we’ll set a positive intention for whatever they need at the moment that would serve their highest good. We don’t know what that is and don’t presume to know. We let reiki do what it needs to do.”

A typical session lasts 30 minutes to an hour, and a client-practitioner discussion uses a good amount of that time, according to Newton. “After the session, I always spend time talking to my clients about what came up for them and perhaps also what I intuited,” she says.

Potential Health Benefits of Reiki

Promotes Relaxation

The most well-documented benefits of reiki revolve around the relaxation response, which practitioners say invokes the body’s natural healing process.

Dr. Rachel Lampert, M.D., a professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, and her colleagues studied 37 patients after having a heart attack. The patients were randomized into three groups: patients who simply rested, those who received a single session of reiki treatment from a nurse trained in reiki and those who listened to relaxing music. The researchers measured activity of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which regulates heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and digestion.

Lampert’s team zoomed in on heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of the pattern of heartbeats that’s controlled by the ANS. The higher the HRV after a heart attack, the better the outlook for the patient, explains Lampert.

In the Yale study, patients who received reiki had a higher HRV and improved emotional state. “Our study was a very nice demonstration that doing things that are relaxing has benefits,” says Lampert. “We showed increased activity of the healthy arm of the nervous system.”

(Video) What is Reiki? | A Short Film

Boosts Mood and Sleep

Researchers at Harvard Medical School followed 99 patients at multiple sites to determine the effects of a single reiki session. The study—a single arm effectiveness study published in 2019 in theJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine—found statistically significant improvements in anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as pain and nausea.

Additional research suggests reiki helps with depression and insomnia. A 2012 study in theIndian Journal of Positive Psychologylooked at 40 women who suffered from depression and anxiety. Half of the group received a reiki treatment twice a week for 10 weeks and the other half received no treatment. The women who received reiki saw significant improvements in both their depression symptoms and sleep quality.

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Eases Physical Pain and Improves Quality of Life

A range of studies address reiki’s role in pain alleviation after knee surgery, the restoration of range of motion in injured shoulders, post-cesarean section recovery, hypertension management and the improvement of quality of life for patients with rheumatoid arthritis or patients undergoing various cancer treatments.

Portuguese researcher Zilda Alarcao and her colleagues looked at the impact of reiki treatment versus sham or fake reiki in two groups of patients with blood cancer. Each group contained 58 patients who received an hour-long treatment once a week for four weeks—either someone trained to administer reiki worked on them or someone pretending to do reiki (sham reiki) spent an hour with them.

The researchers found the patients who received real reiki showed significantly more improvements than the other group in general, physical, environmental and social dimensions of quality of life using the Portuguese version of the World Health Organization’s Quality of Life survey (WHOQoL-Bref), a well-regarded research tool that measures pain and other quality of life issues after undergoing an intervention. They published their results in 2016 in theEuropean Journal of Integrative Medicine.

Risks and Side Effects of Reiki

Multiple studies report no adverse effects of reiki, likely because it’s a noninvasive treatment. Practitioners note clients usually report feeling relaxed after a session, but some feel energized. Depending on the nature of the problem, Newton says some clients also may feel more emotional or have other intense feelings in the days or weeks following a session.

While there is a professional code of ethics that governs reiki practitioners, there are no licensing boards like there are for doctors, nurses or even hair stylists. Reiki “master” is the highest level of training, but there’s a wide range of training and expertise among practitioners. To ensure the best result, practitioners advise clients to do their homework—ask a practitioner about their training and credentials, but also find someone you connect with and trust.

One potential risk is that clients can misunderstand the role reiki should play in a treatment plan. The code of ethics of the Reiki Alliance, a professional reiki association, clearly states that reiki practitioners work as a complement—not a replacement—to the medical care a patient receives. Reiki is also not a practice intended to instill doubt in other medical treatments and interventions. Clients are strongly discouraged from viewing reiki as a substitute for medical doctors, surgery, therapy or prescribed medications.

Clients should also be aware that while reiki—like yoga or meditation—may have roots in spiritual practices from long ago, modern reiki is not a religion. Practitioners and clients come from all walks of life and belief systems. Receiving reiki is not intended to interfere with or change a client’s spiritual or religious beliefs.

Reiki Caveats

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, reiki has been “studied for a variety of conditions, including pain, anxiety, and depression, but most of the research has not been of high quality, and the results have been inconsistent.”

Naturally, scientists who study reiki beg to differ with that assessment. They say institutions simply need to catch up with the rapidly evolving science. “At this point, there are probably 60 or more published studies that I can point to that show reiki’s benefit, and yet there’s still this persistent myth that no credible science backs reiki,” says neuroscientist Natalie Dyer, Ph.D, president of the Center for Reiki Research, a nonprofit that aims to advance the scientific knowledge and study of reiki.

Dyer acknowledges, however, that some studies have lacked rigor and some have not found statistically significant benefits with reiki. She calls for more high-quality research to understand the practice, how it works and its limitations.

In the Yale study of reiki following a heart attack, researchers note that it’s “unknown whether the beneficial effects of reiki treatment over music stem from the presence of another person, the presence of a person with healing intention, the light touch technique, or a combination of factors.”

(Video) What an in-person Reiki session looks like: Full 30-minute example

Like any intervention, reiki practitioners warn it isn’t a cure-all and shouldn’t be viewed as such. But it’s deemed safe and potentially effective enough that a considerable number—15% and growing—of U.S. hospitals offer reiki healing specifically. Leading institutes like Yale, Harvard, the University of Minnesota, the University of Arizona, UCLA and others offer reiki as a complement to medical interventions.

The Average Cost of a Reiki Session

Costs for reiki sessions vary nationwide, but expect to pay about what you’d pay for a massage. In a major metropolitan area, you might pay $80 to $150 for a one-hour reiki session.

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How to Find a Reiki Practitioner Near You

Professional associations are a great way to locate reiki practitioners and teachers who take the practices and training seriously.The Reiki Alliance, theInternational Reiki Associationand theInternational Association of Reiki Practitionersall offer online tools for locating a practitioner in your area.


Friedman R, Burg M, Miles P, Forrester L, Lampert R.Effects of Reiki on Autonomic Activity Early After Acute Coronary Syndrome.J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010;56(12):995-6.

Baldwin AL, Vitale A, Brownell E.The touchstone process: An ongoing critical evaluation of Reiki in the scientific literature.Holist Nurs Pract.2010;24:260–276.

Dyer NL, Baldwin AL, Rand WL.A Large-Scale Effectiveness Trial of Reiki for Physical and Psychological Health. 2019:1156-1162.

Assefi N, Bogart A, Goldberg J, Buchwald D.Reiki for the Treatment of Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Controlled Trial.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.2008;14(9):1115-1122.

Salles LF, Vannucci L, Salles A, Silva MJPD.The effect of Reiki on blood hypertension.Acta Paulista de Enfermagem. 2014;27(5):479-484.

Alarcão Z, Fonseca JR.The effect of Reiki therapy on quality of life of patients with blood cancer: results from a randomized controlled trial.European Journal of Integrative Medicine. 2016;8(3):239-249.

Bondi A, Morgan T, Fowler SB.Effects of Reiki on Pain and Anxiety in Women Hospitalized for Obstetrical- and Gynecological-Related Conditions.Journal of Holistic Nursing. 2020.

Shirani N, Abdollahimohammad A, Firouzkouhi M, Masinaeinezhad N, Shahraki-Vahed A.The Effect of Reiki energy therapy on the severity of pain and quality of life in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A Randomized clinical Trial Study.Med Sci. 2014;23(96):205-210.

Buyukbayram Z, Saritas SC.The effect of Reiki and guided imagery intervention on pain and fatigue in oncology patients: A non-randomized controlled study.Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. 2021;31:1-5.

(Video) Reiki Master Explains What Reiki Is and Its' Benefits!

Baldwin AL, Fullmer K, Schwartz GE.Comparison of physical therapy with energy healing for improving range of motion in subjects with restricted shoulder mobility.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013.

Fleisher KA, Mackenzie ER, Frankel ES, Seluzicki C, Casarett D, Mao JJ.Integrative Reiki for Cancer Patients: A Program Evaluation.Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2014;62-67.


What are the five principles of Reiki? ›

The 5 reiki principles, and how to incorporate them into your life
  • 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. ...
  • Just for today, I will earn my living honestly.
6 Mar 2020

What do you feel when you get Reiki? ›

As Reiki energies flow between the practitioner and the recipient during the Reiki session, the two bodies may respond or react with particular sensations. Those sensations are nearly always pleasant. You may feel heat, warmth, cold, subtleness, steadfastness, or forcefulness.

What is the power of Reiki? ›

Reiki is a natural and simple healing method that allows you to absorb more life force energy. The Reiki method vitalises your life force and balances the energies in your body. This natural healing energy flows in a powerful and concentrated form through the hands of the Reiki Therapist.

Do you touch during reiki? ›

Most commonly, Reiki is offered through light, non-invasive touch with the practitioner's hands placed and held on a series of locations on the head and front and back of the torso. The placement of the hands should never be intrusive or inappropriate, nor should there be any pressure.

What religion uses reiki? ›

The information supplied thus far regarding the origin of Reiki and its founder suggests that Reiki is linked to Buddhism.

Do you wear clothes during a Reiki session? ›

You can wear whatever clothes you like. I often opt for workout clothes or something I can fall asleep in. Most people remove their shoes. You remain fully clothed during the treatment.

How long does Reiki last for? ›

A typical reiki session lasts between 20 and 90 minutes.

Can Reiki be done without touching? ›

Yes. If you prefer a non-touch Reiki treatment, Distant Reiki is a safe and effective way for you to feel better and gain holistic balance. Distant Reiki has exactly the same benefits as in-person Reiki. Learn more about how you can be supported from the comfort of your home or office here.

What problems is Reiki used to treat? ›

Reiki has been studied for conditions like pain, anxiety, and depression. It's a complementary treatment, which means you use it along with proven traditional medical treatments. It doesn't cure or get rid of any health conditions by itself.

What should I know before my first reiki session? ›

Give yourself at least 30 minutes prior to the session to sit and reflect. Check in with how your body is feeling and take note of any emotions, thoughts, or physical sensations you are experiencing. Take some time to breathe and tend to whatever your body's needs might be on that given day.

What does the Bible say about energy? ›

The first verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1 tells us that God has created everything – including all matter and energy. This means that God can't be identical to the universe, nor can He be identical to any aspect of the universe. Since energy is part of the created universe, we must conclude that God can't be energy.

Who benefits Reiki? ›

The health benefits of reiki
  • Bring on a meditative state.
  • Foster tissue and bone healing after injury or surgery.
  • Stimulate your body's immune system.
  • Promote natural self-healing.
  • Relieve pain and tension.
30 Aug 2021

Can anyone use Reiki? ›

Reiki is easily learned and practiced as self-care by anyone who is interested, regardless of the person's age or state of health. Children can learn to practice, as can the elderly and the infirm. No special background or credentials are needed to receive training.

How many principles are there in reiki system? ›

The philosophy of Reiki is rooted in five principles. These principles provide guidance for healing and balancing your Reiki energy.

What are the 5 reiki symbols? ›

That being said, here's a breakdown.
  • Cho ku rei: The power symbol.
  • Sei he ki: The harmony symbol.
  • Hon sha ze sho nen: The distance symbol.
  • Dai ko myo: The master symbol.
  • Raku: The completion symbol.
  • How to use multiple Reiki symbols at once.
8 May 2018

How can I practice reiki by myself? ›

Hand Positions
  1. Hand Position 1: Begin your reiki self-treatment by gently placing your hands together in a prayer position in the middle of your chest, just below your chin. ...
  2. Hand Position 2: Gently place both hands on top of the head. ...
  3. Hand Position 3: Gently place both hands over your eyes.
20 Mar 2019

How long do the benefits of Reiki last? ›

In a pilot study of 16 cancer patients, participants in the Reiki group showed significant improvements in quality of life. They had less tiredness, pain, and anxiety scores compared to the rest-only (control) group. Furthermore, these beneficial effects remained for at least 1 week after 5 Reiki sessions [11].

Can Reiki be done without touching? ›

Yes. If you prefer a non-touch Reiki treatment, Distant Reiki is a safe and effective way for you to feel better and gain holistic balance. Distant Reiki has exactly the same benefits as in-person Reiki. Learn more about how you can be supported from the comfort of your home or office here.

How many levels does Reiki heal? ›

There are typically three (sometimes four) levels of reiki training—each one is centered on "attunement" (a ceremony of empowerment), education, and practice. Attunement is what makes reiki unique from other forms of healing touch and energy work.

Do you wear clothes during a Reiki session? ›

You can wear whatever clothes you like. I often opt for workout clothes or something I can fall asleep in. Most people remove their shoes. You remain fully clothed during the treatment.

Can anyone Reiki? ›

Reiki is easily learned and practiced as self-care by anyone who is interested, regardless of the person's age or state of health. Children can learn to practice, as can the elderly and the infirm. No special background or credentials are needed to receive training.

What is holy fire Reiki? ›

Holy Fire Reiki is a new way to transfer the healing energies of Reiki. In the Reiki I class the student is connected to universal healing energies where the Holy Fire Placement (attunement) is given. In the first week, the student is taught how to give a basic Reiki session, including learning the hand positions.

How do you know if you would be good at Reiki? ›

5 Signs You May Be Ready to Practice Reiki
  • You love yourself, and appreciate all beings. ...
  • You believe in alternative healing. ...
  • The “unexplained” moments are welcome to you. ...
  • You trust in something greater. ...
  • You are ready for your life to change.
11 Dec 2014

How many chakras are there in Reiki? ›

The seven chakras (numbered according to the chakra system) are located at the following points of the body, along the line of the spine: base of the spine. lower abdomen/lower back (below navel) solar plexus (between the navel and base of sternum, which is the central vertical bone in the rib-cage)

What can Reiki be used to treat? ›

People use Reiki to relax and strengthen their wellbeing; reduce pain, anxiety, and fatigue; help manage symptoms; reduce side effects of medications; and support recovery after injuries or surgery.

Can Reiki help anxiety and depression? ›

Research shows that reiki primarily helps in the reduction of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as relief of chronic pain — the last of which can bring on anxiety and depression, or make episodes worse.

How long does it take to learn Reiki? ›

How long were the classes? Eight to twelve hours for First degree and another eight to twelve hours for Second degree training allows time for both instruction and actual practice in class. Classes offered in a 2-3 day format provide more practice time.


1. Reiki Course Level 1 (1h and 38 minutes) With Cert./Diploma + Attunements (see description)
(International School Of Reiki Free Reiki Course)
2. Freeing The Mind - What Is Reiki ??? A Basic Introduction
(Freeing The Minds)
3. Pseudoscience Debunked: Reiki
(David Pakman Show)
4. How Reiki Works
5. How to Tell if Reiki is Working
(Mainstream Reiki)
6. What is Reiki Healing?
(Be The Change Yoga)
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