Reiki's Healing Touch

Photography by: Monica Hellstrom
Reiki's Healing Touch

Most days are a bit hairy for Arleen Lemus, who juggles a full-time job with the time-consuming avocation of traveling to dog shows with her two purebred collies. Usually, the aches hit her right in the shoulders. To feel better, Lemus performs reiki ("ray-kee"), an energy-flow technique that invigorates, reduces stress, and develops the body's ability to heal itself. "I sit quietly, do a little meditation, and then use reiki to place my hands on the problem area," says Lemus, who lives near Victorville, Calif. "It makes the pain go away." She's even used it calm her canine contestants.

What Is Reiki?
ITS NAME A BLEND of rei (divine, universal higher consciousness) and ki (life energy; chi or qi in Chinese), the technique is beneficial for your everyday aches, pains, and stresses, says William Lee Rand, president of the International Center for Reiki Training in Southfield, Mich., and a practitioner for 25 years.

When your life energy dips too low, you become vulnerable to stress and illness. The practice of reiki involves the transmission of what Rand calls "spiritually guided force" to bolster your body's energy and healing ability.

A Buddhist lay priest named Mikao Usui discovered this life-force energy in the early 1900s after much study and meditation; he found that directing it promoted mind-body unity and enhanced his healing powers. The practice made it to Hawaii in the 1930s and started to become popular in the West in the 1970s.

The idea is to channel the flow of energy. To begin, the practitioner commonly sweeps his or her hands across a client's body to identify troubled areas, then directs more focused attention to the head, face, front and back torso, knees, and feet.

"Reiki is administered similar to the way massage is done, but with no manipulation of tissues," Rand says. "There is a light touch or no touch."

Many practitioners utilize the chakra system, which comprises seven major points along the body's midline corresponding to specific organs, glands, and functions. (See "Chakras 101" on page 60.) When a reiki practitioner, or master, places his or her hands over a client's energy centers in a gesture of assistance, the result is often a feeling of warmth, a surge of energy, a sense of relaxation--or all three.

Rev Up Or Relax
ENHANCING YOUR LIFE energy flow can revitalize appetite, soothe tension, help lower blood pressure, and improve other health problems. Some observers attribute this to the placebo effect, yet studies published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and elsewhere have found that reiki lessens psychological depression and self-perceived stress, affects the autonomic nervous system's regulation of heart and other functions, and can reduce anxiety and blood pressure.

"Reiki is great for giving yourself energy and getting focused for the day," says Jessica Miller, a practitioner in Southern California, "but the uses of reiki are limited only by your imagination." In clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, reiki is under study for the complementary treatment of fibromyalgia (a disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue), prostate cancer, AIDS, and risk factors for heart disease.