It bears an exotic name, and for those more accustomed to traditional medicine, its “light touch” methods and holistic philosophy might seem even more foreign. But for the growing number of local practitioners of Reiki (that’s RAY-kee, meaning “life force energy”), this age-old form of Japanese healing couldn’t be simpler or more natural.
I am one of those practitioners. I was a skeptic when I stumbled onto Reiki several years back. After a series of health crises, including a surgery with significant blood loss, I found my energy chronically low and my immune system compromised. My doctor advised me to try Reiki to complement my more traditional treatments. But when I looked into what Reiki was — a seemingly minimalist practice in which the practitioner “lays hands” on or around the body — I was uncertain it would be for me.
It had a strange name and kind of a loosey-goosey feel to it, I thought. But if a doctor had recommended it, perhaps there was something to it.
My first Reiki session completely defied my expectations. The Reiki master used light hand gestures over my body to sense and redirect the energy in and around my body. Without manipulating or applying any pressure, the practitioner was able to produce tangible results.
I could feel physical sensations; I could feel a comforting heat pulsing through my body. There was a huge sense of peace and relaxation.
As I returned for more sessions, my stress levels dropped, my pain was reduced, and my fatigue began to subside. It was then I decided to study Reiki Level 1 Certification.
So how does it work?
Reiki balances what’s known as the client’s bio-plasm (i.e., energy) for the purpose of returning to wellness. Treatments also induce a relaxation response in the subject that enables the body to heal itself.
The subject lays on a massage table while the practitioner senses the body’s energy by placing hands on or above the body.
A series of hand placements are made, sometimes using other complementary movements akin to patting, smoothing or combing the energy field.
Many of the hand placements are based on the chakra system — centers in the body where different types of energy are focused.
Subjects often experience a heightened sense of mind-body awareness, a feeling of energy flowing through their bodies, or an emotional release.
Others describe feeling that a higher power is supporting them.
For the receiver of the Reiki treatment, nothing is required except openness to treatment and healing.
I am comfortable with various levels of belief — from those who are skeptical, to those who are firm believers in the efficacy of energy work.
Reiki’s applications are wide-ranging. Its methods can be used as a complementary treatment for physical symptoms such as chronic pain, headaches or irritable bowel syndrome. But it also promotes spiritual, emotional and mental well-being.
Some people find relief through Reiki when they are simply feeling unsettled or stuck in unhappy life situations. While many Reiki practitioners don’t claim to “cure,” Reiki supports wellness, can result in an alleviation of symptoms, and is often used in conjunction with more traditional medicine for physical ailments, and psychological or psychiatric counseling for emotional and mental issues.
I began taking Reiki classes from a Japanese-American Reiki master, and I was quickly practicing on myself. After becoming a Reiki master, I opened my own practice in Naperville, LightWorks Energy (lightworksenergy.com), at Thrive Integrative Wellness Center. I now teach Reiki classes.
Class participants learn the basics of Reiki, including its history and how to practice Reiki, and they have the opportunity to practice on fellow students.
Those who complete the one-day course are certified to practice on themselves and others in a non-professional capacity, and they can go on to become professional Reiki masters through two additional classes, which I also offer in sequence.
As the word has spread about Reiki in the suburbs, I have seen a noticeable shift in attitudes.
Whereas people once gave me a blank stare when I mentioned my work, today I find more and more people familiar with the practice and eager to experience the healing and affirmation it provides.
In many ways, Reiki has become “the new yoga.”
There’s something to be said for the power of connection and human touch. I look forward to the day when people won’t think twice about using Reiki to care for themselves and others, because Reiki — that energetic life force — is in all of us.
Isabel Andrews practices at LightWorks Energy in Naperville. She also will teach Reiki I on June 15 at the Clarus Center in Warrenville. Visit www.lightworksenergy.com to learn more.