Most of us are big fans of wireless connections. They let us plug in wherever we find ourselves, access all kinds of information and interact with others more efficiently. But what many of us don’t realize is that a similar invisible connectivity is in place in our bodies—a wireless energy matrix whose circuits flow in and around us. This energy field has a significant impact on our health, and getting it up to speed can make us feel rejuvenated, invigorated, healthier—like we’ve given ourselves a reboot. Enter energy medicine, a blend of healing touch and heightened consciousness whose practitioners define health as an unimpeded energy flow; illness occurs when that energy gets blocked. This type of work “can make an amazing difference in healing,” says Santa Fe, N.M.-based holistic physician Larry Dossey, M.D., author of The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things (Three Rivers Press) and other books on healing. “The components of compassion, caring and love are a very important part of what happens,” he adds. During a session, a practitioner usually touches you lightly while you lie on a table fully clothed.
No one knows exactly how these methods work, but a surprising amount of research supports their efficacy, particularly their ability to reduce pain and anxiety. In fact, conditions with a mind-body component stand the best chance of benefiting. Here, some of the most popular techniques and what to expect from each.
In a typical reiki session, the practitioner lightly touches your head and torso in a specific order. “Reiki doesn’t aim to diagnose or treat, but simply to bump up one’s own ability to self-heal,” says New York City reiki master Pamela Miles, author of Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide (Tarcher/Penguin); she calls it “a gateway to wellness.” The Journal of American Cardiology recently published a study showing that reiki had a positive effect on people suffering from severe chest pains or heart-muscle damage. Reiki is available in about 15 percent of hospitals nationwide as a standard part of care, and there are plenty of private practitioners as well.
When to try it Miles says a number of small studies show that reiki can improve blood pressure and heart rate and reduce anxiety and pain.