When people hear “energy healing,” they may be immediately turned off. After all, energy medicine sounds a little bit woo-woo—the type of treatment that involves mystical claims and a founder who climbed a mountain and starved himself for 21 days. But despite its seemingly supernatural origins, reiki is taken seriously by some first-rate academic health centers.
13 peer-reviewed studies on reiki meet rigorous scientific criteria, including four randomized double-blind clinical trials and five pilot studies with humans and two with rats. When viewed collectively, they provide strong evidence that reiki is more effective than a placebo for reducing stress and increasing relaxation and well-being.
Reiki can help to relax the body and mind, which in turn can allow your natural ability to heal itself to take center stage. It also gives your body a break from the constant fight-or-flight state of the stress response, which can cause a variety of ailments and even lead to disease.
One study showed that patients receiving a single Reiki session experienced significant reductions in anxiety and blood pressure. In another, participants who received reiki during a colonoscopy experienced less pain and required fewer analgesic drugs than those who did not receive reiki.
Reiki Healing practitioners say the treatment can address a variety of conditions and help support patients receiving standard therapies. For instance, reiki may help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer, as well as relieve pain caused by herniated discs or joint problems. It may also enhance the effectiveness of a variety of medications, including antidepressants and statins for heart disease.
Reiki is a noninvasive form of energy healing that practitioners describe as an “energetic massage.” The practitioner places their hands on or over areas of the body that are considered to be energetically blocked. The patient remains fully clothed during the session, which typically lasts about 60 to 90 minutes. A session may also involve the placement of crystals on or around the body that are said to improve the energy flow.
Reiki Healing has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and pain in some studies. It has also improved mood and sleep. A small 2016 study found that reiki was effective in improving the quality of life for cancer patients. In one of the few randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of reiki to date, reiki was significantly more effective than placebo for both state and trait anxiety. However, the sample size was very small and the placebo group was not matched as well, which may have reduced the effect size.
Another study that compared reiki to a control treatment found that reiki was effective in decreasing pain, nausea, and anxiety during the surgery and post-surgery for people who had knee replacement surgeries. The study also found that reiki increased relaxation and decreased the need for analgesic medications.
Many people report feeling relaxed and energized after a reiki session. They may also experience a sense of well-being or spiritual awakening. Research is still needed to better understand how reiki works, but some researchers are optimistic about the benefits of this alternative treatment.
Reiki practitioners say it can treat many health problems, including pain, anxiety, and depression. It is often used along with conventional treatments like surgery and medication. But it isn’t proven to cure illness, and experts don’t know how it works.
During a session, the recipient remains fully dressed while the practitioner places their hands on or just over different body parts that are thought to be hubs for energy. The practitioner decides how long to leave their hand in each spot based on what they’re feeling through their palms. Sessions last about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
Some studies have found that people who receive reiki experience reduced heart rate and anxiety. Others find that their chronic illnesses, such as back pain and asthma, have eased. But clinical trials are limited and lack rigorous methodology, making it difficult to tell if reiki is truly effective.
For those who haven’t experienced a major health improvement, it isn’t uncommon to feel more emotional or have other intense feelings in the days and weeks following a session, Newton says. This is because reiki treats both the physical and mental aspects of a person, she notes.
If you’re thinking of getting a Reiki treatment, choose a practitioner with training from a reputable source, Miles says. Look for one who’s certified and has practiced for at least three years. Also, be aware of the potential side effects: It includes short-term upset stomach and light-headedness.
Reiki is an alternative technique that involves laying on a treatment table with your clothes on. A practitioner will place their hands on or just above different body parts that are considered hubs for energy and leave them there for up to 15 minutes, adjusting how long they remain in each spot based on what they feel is happening with the recipient’s body. The practitioner may use music to set the mood and dim the lights.
The Reiki practitioners who do the work say they are helping to facilitate our natural ability to heal ourselves. They’ve been able to help people overcome chronic health issues, such as cancer, as well as reduce stress and anxiety.
Some researchers have found that reiki is effective in treating conditions such as pain relief after knee surgery, the restoration of range of motion in injured shoulders, and the management of hypertension. A study published in the March-April 2017 issue of Holistic Nursing Practice found that patients undergoing knee replacement surgeries experienced less stress, pain, and anxiety after receiving three or four reiki treatments during their hospital stays than those who didn’t receive any reiki.
Reiki is a complementary therapy, meaning it works along with proven traditional medical treatments. It should never be used as a substitute for medical care, though some practitioners offer sessions that are covered by insurance. It’s also a good idea to discuss your reiki sessions with your doctor to ensure they’re safe for you.
Reiki practitioners say they channel energy from the universe to heal. But the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says most medical research on reiki isn’t high quality and doesn’t clearly show it’s effective for any health-related reason.
But it may help relieve pain and relax your body, making you feel more balanced. A few studies have shown that reiki can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate. And it might also help ease depression, insomnia, and other mental disorders.
The therapy isn’t designed to replace traditional medicine. But it’s often used alongside medications and can boost your sense of well-being and confidence that you can manage your condition. That’s important because chronic pain can have a big impact on your quality of life.
During a session, the practitioner places her hands on or over your head, neck, and shoulders. Then, she moves her hands to different parts of your body as needed. For example, if you have neuropathy, your practitioner might focus on your feet or hands.
One study compared the effects of real reiki with a placebo. Researchers monitored 21 healthcare professionals with burnout (a work-related mental illness characterized by emotional exhaustion and a lowered sense of accomplishment). Participants in the real-reiki group had a more positive shift to the parasympathetic, or rest-and-digest, component of their nervous systems than those in the fake-reiki group. They also had lower levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.
Another small study found that reiki can decrease neuropathic pain in people with diabetes, though results varied. But the researchers note that the low number of participants and the short duration of the study make it hard to conclude.
Whether in person or long distance, there’s no wrong time to receive reiki. But there are a few important considerations that can help make the session more beneficial. Ideally, clients should come to the session fully hydrated and ready for relaxation. Caffeine and other stimulants should be avoided a few hours before the session, as they can cause the heart rate to increase, thoughts to speed up and essentially take away from the experience.
It’s also recommended to not talk during the session, as it will disrupt the flow of energy. While this may seem counterintuitive, it allows the client to truly enter into a state of meditation. Many people find that they fall asleep during the treatment, which is perfectly fine! It is another sign that the body is deeply relaxed.
Once the session has ended, it’s a good idea to take some time to consciously reflect on what happened and how it may have affected your life. It’s helpful to take a few notes or do some journaling as well, so you can look back and see any trends over time.
It’s also a good idea to set aside some regular time for self-treatments. A few 20-minute sessions each day is a great way to get started, but you can also treat yourself for longer if that works better with your schedule. Just try to keep the treatments consistent and in the same place each time, if possible.
Sri Yogi Anand is an ordained Yogi, Yoga, Mindfulness, Meditation and Spiritual Master. He is a Software engineer, musician, writer, orator, and founder of Adwait Yoga School.
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