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Reiki's Healing Touch

This noninvasive alternative medicine can alleviate a wide range of ailments.

Who says that hands alone can't heal?

Undergo reiki, and you may see the possibilities of touch, from offering deep relaxation to restoring your energy.

Reiki originated in Japan, but there is not one definitive story of how this alternative medicine was developed.

Most believe Mikao Usui, a Japanese physician and monk, started the practice in the mid-19th century after a period of isolated meditation.

The word

reiki

derives from

rei

, meaning universal life or spirit, and

ki

, or energy. Also known as

qi

or

chi

, this energy is believed to exist in all living beings, and has been addressed for centuries through traditional Chinese medicine and practices like

acupuncture. Allegedly, qi's flow can be interrupted by negative thoughts and feelings; the blockage can then manifest itself in physical health problems.

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But by placing their hands on or near a patient's body, reiki practitioners can manipulate this energy. Many positive effects -- including reducing stress and chronic pain, improving mental clarity and lowering one's heart rate -- are often reported.

Reiki can be practiced anywhere -- hospitals, alternative medicine clinics, spas or private homes. The sessions usually range from about 30 to 90 minutes. While the process itself is spiritual, it is important to remember that reiki is not a religious practice. It is also noninvasive, and very safe.

Usually the patient is fully clothed, and can either lie down or sit in a chair, whichever is most comfortable.

The hands are the sole instruments of this medicine, and they can be used on many parts of the body including the head, chest, abdomen or back for a few minutes at a time. If a patient is suffering from headaches or a cold, for instance, the practitioner may place his or her hands near the back of the head.

Most reiki does not involve actual touching, though. The hands are held at a distance, usually a few inches or more, from which the practitioner proceeds to manipulate the patient's energy. One of the most important aspects of the practice is the intent and a mindset of both people.

After the session, most patients feel very refreshed and some experience a warmth or tingling sensation.

Traditional symbols (Sanskrit-derived Japanese characters) can also be used during reiki sessions to increase the flow of qi and bring the patient to a higher level of awareness. Advanced practitioners can also meditate on them, through drawing, visualizing or saying them out loud.

Choku rei

, for instance, is the power symbol, which is used to increase energy significantly.

Sei he ki

can be used for emotional and mental healing. With this symbol, practitioners can help alleviate depression and anxiety, as it may enable patients to connect with their subconscious mind and heal from past trauma.

Evaluating the Practice

Reiki is also referred to as a complementary and alternative medicine. Few of its results have been scientifically proven, so it should be used together with, rather than in place of, conventional medicine.

There has been some evidence, however, noting its benefits. According to a study by the Cross Cancer Institute, 20 cancer patients who experienced reiki had a significant reduction in pain.

A separate study published in the Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine Journal tested reiki on 120 chronically ill patients suffering from pain, depression and anxiety; their physical ailments included headaches, arthritis, ulcers, asthma and hypertension. The patients experienced 10 30-minute treatments, two times a week, over a period five weeks. The trial concluded that reiki did have some lasting beneficial effects on pain and mental state.

The Next Level

If you want to learn the practice yourself, there are several training sessions, such as those from

Reiki New York. For $165, students learn about reiki's history and proper hand positioning, and receive a certification to become a reiki practitioner.

Although the practitioner's relationship with clients is essential in reiki, it's also important to stay connected with the experts. By joining the

Reiki Council, it's possible to find a reiki community where you can speak to and learn from other practitioners.

The International Center for Reiki Training, a nonprofit organization, is another rich source for all types of reiki practice.

The next time you're feeling under the weather, consider reiki. You might be surprised at the benefits of this gentle technique.

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