What is reiki?

what is reiki image of woman performing reiki on faceReiki (pronounced RAY-key) is an ancient, holistic healing modality that balances the human energy field. It can help balance and harmonize your emotions, alleviate chronic pain, reduce your stress levels, improve your sleep, and boost your overall sense of well being.

The term “reiki” can refer to the practice or to the energy itself.

More specifically, reiki is most widely said to be an ancient Japanese energy healing system from the 1800s. This Japanese word can be translated as “universal life energy,” where rei means “spirit, soul, universal, all-knowing,” etc., and ki means “vital energy.”

However, this practice isn’t unique to Japan. Ancient Egyptians practiced reiki as a means of balance and healing, as have (and do) other cultures.

The practice of reiki allows a practitioner to channel vital energy for the purpose of helping your body heal itself on a mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional level.

The goal is to help maintain or achieve homeostasis, to improve your body’s ability to heal, to heal faster, and/or to heal more effectively.

Is there proof that reiki works?

Yes. Like many, I didn’t know what to think about reiki when I first discovered it. It’s funny how often we believe we need to “see” something with our physical eyes before it holds credence.

We know that scientists measure, and have measured, the human energy field for decades. Below, I present both scientific and anecdotal evidence that reiki works to reduce pain, help cure disease, reduce stress and anxiety, and more.

Scientific Evidence for Reiki

Reiki Reduces Burnout Among Community Mental Health Clinicians.

Here, burnout is defined as “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.” In this study, some healthcare workers received reiki from a trained therapist vs. other workers “treated” by a random faker who mimicked the process. The true Reiki session had immediate positive and significant effects on the healthcare workers’ burnout symptoms, to include heart rate variability, cortisol levels, body temperature.

Biological correlates of Reiki Touch healing

This study shows that a single 30-minute reiki session significantly reduced systolic blood pressure and anxiety.

Reiki Is Better Than Placebo and Has Broad Potential as a Complementary Health Therapy

Eight studies demonstrated reiki to be more effective than placebo, further determining it to be a safe and gentle complementary therapy that activates the parasympathetic nervous system to heal body and mind. They determined that reiki has potential for wider use to help manage chronic health conditions and accelerate recovery after surgeries.

Using Reiki to manage pain: a preliminary report

A study was carried out on 20 participants experiencing pain at 55 sites. The pains originated across various areas, for a variety of reasons, to include cancer. Reiki therapy was shown to cause a highly significant reduction in pain following the treatment.

Many other studies can be found online and in books that prove reiki to be an effective, safe, and gentle complementary treatment for a wide variety of maladies.

Baldwin, A.L. and G.E. Schwartz. 2006. Personal interaction with a Reiki practitioner decreases noise-induced microvascular damage in an animal model. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 12(1):15–22.

Baldwin, A.L., C. Wagers, and G.E. Schwartz. 2008. Reiki improves heart rate homeostasis in laboratory rats. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 14 (4):417 – 422.

Baldwin, A.L., A. Vitale, E. Brownell, J. Scicinski, M. Kearns,. and W. Rand. 2010. The Touchstone Process. An Ongoing Critical Review of Reiki in the Scientific Literature. Holistic Nursing Practice 24(5):260 – 276.

Crawford, S. E., V.W. Leaver, and S.D. Mahoney. 2006. Using Reiki to decrease memory and behavior problems in mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzhemier’s Disease. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 12(9):911 – 913.

Dressin, L.J. and S. Singg. 1998. Effects of Reiki on pain and selected affective and personality variables of chronically ill patients. Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine 9(1):53 – 82.

Friedman, R.S.C., M.M. Burg, P. Miles, F. Lee, and R. Lampert. 2010. Effects of Reiki on autonomic activity early after acute coronary syndrome. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 56:995 – 996.

Shore, A. G. 2004. Long term effects of energetic healing on symptoms of psychological depression and self-perceived stress. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 10(3):42 – 48.

Vitale, A.T. and P.C. O’Conner. 2006. The effect of Reiki on pain and anxiety in women with abdominal hysterectomies. Holistic Nursing Practice 20(6):263 – 272.

Wilson, L.M. and A.L. Baldwin. 1998. Effects of environmental stress on the architecture and permeability of the rat mesenteric microvasculature. Microcirculation 5(4):299–308.

Anecdotal Evidence for Reiki

The below aren’t studies, but real-world accounts of the healing reiki has inspired, from people in their own words. These were all originally published at the International Center for Reiki Healing.

Reiki Protected Me from Being Infected with COVID-19

Reiki Heals Broken Arm

Reiki Lowers Blood Pressure

Reiki Heals Colon/Intestinal Perforation

Reiki Heals Psoriasis and Ovarian Cyst

Reiki Heals Tumor

I’ll be honest:

If I hadn’t personally experienced and seen all that I have in my life, to know, with zero doubt, that experiences like these are possible, I’d wonder. It can also be more difficult to digest when you’re reading the words on a screen.

What’s more, mainstream medicine and media in the U.S. don’t widely publicize studies like these. Instead, they favor prescription drugs and surgery as the answer to our ailments.

Western medicine is amazing at remedying acute illnesses.

But prevention and resolution of chronic ailments and dis-ease are where they fall short.

Of course many of us are curious about modalities that seek to address the actual root cause of dis-ease in non-mainstream, non-invasive, and inexpensive ways. All we typically see are techniques that address symptoms only, by using chemicals and surgeries.

So I present this guide to answer the question “What is reiki?”, and to describe how reiki practice works, with examples. The intent is to give you enough information to decide whether to try reiki as a means of complementary therapy on your own personal healing journey.

How does reiki work?

Simple Answer: The reiki practitioner is a conduit for reiki energy, which assists in your healing.

Detailed Answer: Once channeled or directed, reiki energy flows from the practitioner to the auric (energy) field and bodily cells of the recipient.

In addition, it’s taught that that energy flows into the client’s chakras (or “energy centers”), to energize your bodily systems and the organs related to those systems.

Note that it is reiki energy, not the practitioner’s own energy, that flows for the healing, unlike in other energy healing modalities, like Quantum Touch® or qi gong.

That’s good for two reasons:

Reason 1: You can receive as many treatments as you need from your chosen reiki practitioner (as her schedule permits), and she will never “run out” of energy to deliver to you. (If your practitioner’s energy is “depleted,” she has been improperly trained/attuned.)

Reason 2: When I perform your reiki treatments, we don’t trade, use, or otherwise feed off of each other’s energy. You won’t absorb any personal challenges I may be working on resolving, and I won’t take on any of yours.

Instead, a reiki practitioner is a conduit whose body has been trained and attuned to channel and allow this healing “source” energy to flow through him or her to you.

Learn more about the ways reiki can help heal here.

How do distant reiki treatments work?

You might be wondering, “If reiki flows through my practitioner to me, can distant treatments still work?

Excellent question. In short, yes. This is because energy transcends time and space.

Have you ever called someone, and they told you, “I was just thinking about you!”

That’s an example of energy at work, although a different sort. 😊

As to “how” distant treatments work, it depends on the type of reiki being used. There are many ways to channel reiki to a client, from using an item as as a surrogate, using a photo, video, cupped palms, by phone, or simply visualizing.

For the Usui-Gray system (one of the systems used at Energetic Harmony), I use the same intentions, hand positions, and process I’d use if you were in front of me. The only difference between in-person sessions and distant or absentee sessions is that your physical body is not present.

Personally, I most often use a surrogate, visualization, and direct energy to you via video sessions. But phone and sleep sessions (where you’re asleep and I perform your treatment during a pre-scheduled, agreed time) are also available.

With distance sessions:

  • Because it’s not limited by distance, reiki energy flows just as it would in person.
  • You receive exactly the same time and attention as in-person reiki treatments.
  • You need not worry about COVID safety measures, sanitation procedures, or putting yourself (or others) at increased risk.
  • You can save time spent on travel and setup, so can fit reiki therapy into your day more easily

Most of my clients have had only distance sessions.

Those clients that have had in-person sessions with other reiki masters share that my treatments feel just as powerful. 

Clients who have had both in-person and distance sessions with me only do sometimes notice a slightly less intense sensation during sessions. And afterward, they’ve reported very similar or same benefits as their in-person sessions.

In either case, do remember that what we feel during session isn’t necessarily an indicator of whether or how much it’s working .

What kind of reiki do I receive at Energetic Harmony, and why?

Although there are many different kinds of reiki, for the purpose of this guide, I’ll be discussing the Usui-Gray Integrated System of reiki healing.


Reason 1: This was the only base version of the original Usui reiki system I found initially that didn’t leave me with many questions.

I’ve learned that my mind is about 50/50 in intuitive vs. systematic/scientific balance. :}

The Usui-Gray system satisfied not just my intuitive, healer’s brain, but also my “sciency” need to understand processes, reasoning, and specifics, like the rationale behind hand positions and procedures, timeframes, how the energy works, and proven studies.

Reason 2: This ancient Japanese healing art and oral tradition was rediscovered by Sensei Mikao Usui, starting around the 1920s. As with all things passed along orally, elements easily get lost in translation the further we stray from the original source.

As with anything I learn, it’s my objective to stick as closely as possible to the original source of knowledge to ensure that my understanding and capabilities are as fluent as possible before branching out.

If I couldn’t explain a topic fluently to a novice, my own confidence in my abilities would suffer.

But when I understand the “hows” and “whys” behind what I’m doing, I’m much more competent at helping you in your own healing and understanding. So it was important for me to begin with the Usui-Gray system as I embarked on my studies to learn “What is reiki?” And, “What are the best ways I can use it to help others?”

Back to Mikao Usui. 

Mikao Usui Sensei taught reiki to Dr. Chujiro Hayashi in Japan. 

It is said that Dr. Chujiro Hayashi taught Usui’s method to Hawayo Takata. 

It is said that Mrs. Hawayo Takata then introduced Usui’s method to the U.S., teaching it to John Harvey Gray and his late wife, Beth Gray, in 1974. 

In the years that followed–under Takata’s direct supervision, and with her agreement and blessing–John Harvey Gray then created the Usui-Gray Integrated System of reiki healing.

Why is this lineage important?

Well, it’s commonly known that Hawayo Takata taught the original, “Mikao Usui” method of reiki healing to a total of 22 reiki masters. 

And John Gray is stated to be the third or fourth Master she taught directly.

According to the book, Hand to Hand, Takata resided for weeks in the private home of John Harvey Gray, even teaching many classes from there. During the same time period, John was developing the Usui-Gray Integrated System, and transferring it from verbal to print as a step by step method students could easily follow.

From his Mastership in 1976, he continued teaching until transitioning to spirit at age 93 in the year 2011. He was, at the time of his passing, the longest-practicing Reiki Master in the West.

Before transitioning, he taught Lourdes Gray, his 2nd wife, going on to teach the Usui-Gray Integrated System together for 20+ years. Lourdes now carries forward what’s said to be the original method (at LearnReiki.org)… and it is my immense honor to study under her direct tutelage.

In the discussion of the authentic Usui system of reiki, I’d be remiss to not also mention Phyllis Furumoto, Hawayo Takata’s granddaughter. 

In Hand to Hand, John Gray described how 17 of the 22 Masters trained by Takata met in Hawaii not long after her transitioning in 1980: “[The Masters] acknowledged Phyllis Furumoto, Takata’s Granddaughter, as the new leader of the Reiki movement.” He states further that, “Her main function, as she sees it, is to be the cohesive center for Reiki as it has come to the West.” 

Phyllis served as such from UsuiShikiRyoho.com until her own passing in 2019. Now her successor, Johannes Reindl, runs the Reiki Alliance, an organization created for Masters that can trace their lineage back to Hawayo Takata.

Choosing the Usui-Gray System over Usui Shiki Ryoho through the Reiki Alliance does not speak at all to the quality and accuracy of the latter system. My choice was a matter of personal preference, as I described. Although I plan to continue to educate myself on this fascinating healing art far into the future, I really connect with the technical, practical, and thorough aspects of The Usui-Gray Integrated Reiki System.

If you’d like to learn more about it, I strongly recommend, Hand to Hand: The Longest Practicing Reiki Master Tells His Story. It delves deeper into reiki’s history, gives a fundamental explanation for the science behind it, offers personal stories of its effectiveness in practice, and outlines the exact rationale behind the different hand placements and techniques used.

Does reiki open me up to evil forces?

When we’re dealing with pure reiki as taught by Sensei Mikao Usui — nothing added onto it, no other modalities, and no embellishments — spiritual protection is built into the process.

Can I overdose on reiki?

No. For more on how reiki works…

It’s actually your body that controls the flow of energy during your reiki sessions, not the practitioner, and not the energy itself.

So, your body draws in–through the practitioner’s palms (primarily) and fingers (secondarily)–the precise amount of energy it needs.

I’m not pouring random amounts of energy into your body and hoping for the best. Because your body is the one controlling the flow, and drawing in the energy… it only takes what it needs and no more.

So there’s no such thing as “overdosing” on reiki.

Can reiki help me heal specific symptoms?

There have been countless stories about reiki being integral to the healing of many people’s bodies and minds.

I feature many reiki testimonials from my clients here.

However, as with any other treatment, there is no guarantee that reiki can or will definitely “cure” any ailment. Reiki is a complementary therapy–to be used in conjunction with the other (hopefully holistic and natural) ways you’re caring for your body and mind.

With that said, reiki is a system of “laying on of hands” in distinct locations on the body, its energy centers, or its aura (“energy field”). While it’s been known to be useful to the client regardless of where a practitioner places her hands, I like how the precision of the systems that I use do allow for more targeted treatment.

What do I mean by “targeted”?

A “targeted treatment” just means that I’m aware of any challenges you may be trying to resolve, and I’m being sure to focus the energy in the best places for it to be able to help you.

Basically, if you tell me your shoulder hurts, I can additionally treat your shoulder.

However, just like you cannot resolve chronic issues with symptom-based treatment in Western medicine, it’s taught that reiki is no different.


If you go to your physician with shoulder pain, he gives you pain medication. Although it takes the pain away, at least for a while, the drug doesn’t address the CAUSE of that problem. It only BLOCKS your body’s ability to feel pain. Your brain is still sending signals that pain is happening, but you’re no longer aware of them. Problem *not* solved.

So I’m not advocating “spot treatments” with reiki either.

It is my firm belief that it’s the West’s stubborn fixation on individually attacking symptoms, irrespective of the imbalances that cause those symptoms, that keeps us sick in the first place.

Per the Usui-Gray Integrated Reiki System, Takata teaches that, “If you treat only the afflicted area of the body, you may alleviate symptoms temporarily… but permanent healing will not take place unless you treat the cause.

Same as with Western medicine. Right?

We must perform the full reiki treatment (all hand positions or all energy centers) for it to assist in a full recovery. It’s just that supplementing this full treatment by focusing specific, targeted energy on the body parts thought to be most likely causing a problem may resolve the clients’ symptoms faster.

Bear in mind that, as a reiki practitioner, I am not able or attempting to diagnose your condition. I can only adjust your treatment to areas that make the most sense for the matters you’re dealing with.

Is my reiki practitioner healing me?

No. Remember that I, as the reiki practitioner, am simply a conduit for the life force energy. Your body is drawing the energy it needs and is in control of the process at all times. So when a healing is effectuated, it’s your body doing exactly what it is biologically designed to do — heal itself. Reiki energy can help it be more efficient at doing so.

What will I feel during my reiki session?

As with other treatments, this is solely dependent upon your own body, how it experiences the reiki energy, and even your level of sensitivity to the energy.

You may feel nothing at all. You may feel warmth, a sense of relaxation, a pleasant, easygoing sense of floating, tingling, coolness… or something else. You might have vivid visualizations, as if a movie were playing in your mind, but you’re still awake. Just know that if you don’t happen to feel anything during some treatments, it doesn’t mean that the treatment isn’t working.

In any case, please allow me to gently remind you that results are more important than physical sensations felt during treatment. Perhaps compare how you feel before and after your sessions.

Do you feel less stressed, and more at peace?

Less anxious or worried and more content?

Do you feel a bit less pain or muscle tension?

Do you feel looser, have a more positive outlook?

A good rule of thumb may also be to consider the type of person you are the most: kinesthetic (experiences life through sensations), auditory (experiences through sound), or visual (through sight).

You may be more likely to experience physical sensations if you’re a “touchy-feely” person, or you’re highly in-tune to your bodily sensations. You might have vivid visions if you’re a very visual person. Etc.

Just keep in mind that the long-term goal of reiki is for your overall well-being, so try not to be overly-focused on physical sensations experienced during your treatments.

What will I feel after my reiki session?

Again, this is solely dependent on your body, your openness to the treatment, as well as the matters your body-mind needs to resolve.

Many clients and receivers of reiki tend to feel a strong sense of well-being, contentment, happiness, and relaxation both immediately after the treatment, and in the days and weeks that follow. For many, it’s the start of a very transformative awakening that empowers them to make significant life improvements over time.

Others may experience some of the same or similar feelings or challenges they had before treatments began.

Are there any negative side effects of reiki?

What you’ll experience following your reiki treatment is again solely dependent on your body, and what it needs to resolve.

There may be healing reactions that may feel “negative,” but these are cleansing responses.

For example, if you’ve ever done a true full-body detox, (like a juice cleanse with supplementation), you can have noticed effects like slightly increased visits to the bathroom, thirst, a temporary headache, more mucus passing, or irritability. Still, others may have experienced the opposite, or something completely different during their full-body detox.


Just as how “side effects” of full-body physical detoxes vary by person, the potential effects of full-body energetic “detoxes” also vary by person.

All depends solely on what YOUR energy field is attempting to resolve.

Reiki is a very cleansing energy. Remember that it works on all levels: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.

So you may find yourself being cleansed of negative emotions, beliefs, and “holding patterns” that no longer serve you. In order to be cleansed, these may come to the surface so that they can finally be released, once and for all.

Even in these cases, you may find yourself acting differently in a very positive way — drawn to healthier behaviors, foods, and life choices.

You might experience temporary physical detox effects, similar to those you might have when doing a physical cleanse, as I mentioned above.

Just know that any uncomfortable or annoying reactions are temporary. If you do experience any at all, they would be a result of the release of old, stored-up toxins from your body, mind, and energetic fields as they strive toward homeostasis (the ideal state that allows your body to heal itself).

This is good news!

It means that the energy and your body are clearing the “junk” to prep for your mind and body healing.

However, I always ease my reiki clients into the more powerful energies to eliminate or at least greatly reduce, the potential for any undesirable reactions. See the treatment page for more info.

Can reiki help chronic illnesses heal?

Reiki is a mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical healing modality. So, both acute and chronic states of “dis-ease” that fall into either of those four categories may be helped by your reiki treatments.

Examples include things like depression, anxiety, low self-worth, lack of spiritual direction, chronic pain, growths, cuts, burns, breaks, stroke recovery, lowered blood pressure, faster recovery from surgeries, and more.

Please remember that reiki is a complementary therapy, to be used with the proper medical care, not in place of it.

How do I know when/if reiki is working for me?

As long as you’ve made yourself open to the treatment, and to the healing, the healing energy of reiki will improve some aspects of your mental, physical, emotional, and/or spiritual state.

It’s when you become attached to a particular outcome that you aren’t as open as possible to experiencing the full benefits of treatment, which can cause it to work less well for you.

Consider this:

When you’re in a mindset of criticism, dissatisfaction, and anxiety, you’re subjecting your body to mental, physical, and emotional stress.

Remember that your body can’t tell the difference between physical stress and emotional. It is all equally as damaging.

You can see now why being in this or a similar state may prevent the reiki treatment from having an effect, or from working as well as it otherwise would.

You may be helped by reading stories of others or my own reiki clients who’ve experienced major body-mind changes as a result of reiki therapy. But the best thing to do is to release your attachment to any specific outcome and trust that the energy is always working exactly as it should for your best and highest good–even if you believe it should be doing “something else.”

Consider too that you may not feel or see results right away.

For example, there are many types of prescription drugs, naturopathic supplements, physical therapies, and even herbs that require us to wait a certain number of days, weeks, or even months before we can consciously begin to notice the benefits. Reiki may work similarly for you in your case, depending upon your unique makeup.

In Summary…

Reiki therapy can serve as a potent addition to your healing arsenal. I strongly recommend using it to complement the other healing work you’re doing on the body and mind levels.

Consider regular walks or short exercise sessions, meditating, eating better, getting better/more rest, seeing a functional medicine doctor for help healing chronic imbalances, getting a tarot card reading for better insight and direction into your next best steps, working with a coach to heal from trauma and uncover your calling, or an assortment of other strategies.

There are a number of things you can do to contribute to your total wellness. Reiki treatments may serve as one tool in the toolbox, but an immensely powerful one.

Be well. As always, I’m rooting for you.