What Is Reiki (and Will It Help Me Relax)?

woman doing reiki treatment

Alternative therapies like healing crystals, breathwork and meditation have officially gone mainstream, with everyone from celebrities to your favorite yoga teacher to your Aunt Jeanine touting their benefits. And whether or not you subscribe to them, there’s no denying that we could all use a little help in the relaxation department. Here’s what you need to know about reiki, the latest trending treatment that’s designed to soothe stresses away.

What is Reiki?

Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is a type of energy therapy that was founded in Japan by Dr. Mikao Usui in 1914 (although some argue that other forms of reiki have been around for much longer than that). The practice aims to decrease stress and increase relaxation by transferring energy through the practitioner's palms to their client (hence why it’s also known as hands-on healing).

How does it work?

According to practitioners, physical or emotional pain can cause energy blockages in the body. Reiki helps to remove these blockages so that energy can flow more smoothly throughout your system (similar to the thinking behind acupuncture). The idea is that by improving your energy flow, you’ll feel more relaxed, experience less pain and boost your well-being. 

So, what happens during a reiki session?

Think massage, minus the rubbing. “Clothing is worn during all reiki sessions, and you usually lie on a massage table with a blanket or light sheet on top of you,” Lisa Levine, reiki master and founder of holistic healing center Maha Rose tells us. Soothing music or a guided meditation may be played. (So far, so relaxing.) Then, the practitioner will commence the session—either by lightly placing their hands on specific areas of the body, or holding their hands a few inches above the body. They’ll continue to do this for several minutes on each area, transfering healing energy to the spots that need it the most. Sessions usually last around 60 to 90 minutes.

Anything else?

The International Association of Reiki Professionals want you to know that “reiki is not a cure for a disease or illness.” But many people say that it helps them feel less stressed and calmer. “Most people feel very relaxed after a session, with some saying they felt warmth or waves of energy,” Levine says. But having someone rest their hands on (or hover them above) your body for over an hour isn’t for everyone. Into alternative healing, not squeamish about being touched and curious about a new way to de-stress? Hey, give it a go. But if just the thought of a crowd is enough to make your skin crawl, then maybe this isn’t the treatment for you. Don’t worry—there are other ways to unwind if you’re so inclined.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...