Body & Fitness

Hands-on healing

A look at Japanese reiki therapy

Double olympic-medal winning cyclist Hayden Roulston put reiki in the headlines last month when he credited the complementary therapy with helping him regain his health after being diagnosed with a serious heart condition. But what is reiki, and what does it actually involve?

What is reiki? It’s a healing therapy that is similar to the “laying on of hands” in faith healing. Simply put, the idea behind reiki is that when a practitioner gently places their hands on various parts of your body, it makes you feel deeply relaxed. When your body is in this state, its natural healing abilities are given a kick start and work on any health issues you may have.

Reiki was developed in Japan in 1922 by oikao Usui. After three weeks of fasting and meditating on oount Kurama, he claimed he’d received the ability of “healing without energy depletion”. The name reiki (pronounced ray-key) comes from the Japanese words rei, meaning spirit or universal power and ki, meaning life force energy. (Ki is also known as chi in some cultures.)

Reiki enthusiasts believe we all have a life force energy or ki running through us, and if this energy is low, or has been disrupted in some way (such as by negative thinking), then we are more likely to get sick or feel stressed. They say that when a practitioner places their hands in certain positions, the reiki life force travels from them into the client, helping the person’s ki to flow properly. Because our ki responds to our thoughts and feelings, it’s going to be in a much healthier state if we’re feeling relaxed and positive.

Although reiki is often thought of as a way of treating stress-related conditions because it helps you to relax, advocates say it can also be used to help with physical and medical conditions ranging from heart disease to recovering from injury. It’s not touted as a cure but, according to anecdotal evidence from practitioners and clients, some conditions seem to clear up after treatments.

There is no scientific proof that reiki can treat health problems. A recent review of nine studies into reiki, carried out by two UK universities, found there was insufficient evidence to indicate reiki was effective in treating any medical conditions. The only benefits it might have were “placebo effects”, according to the review.

However, some people swear by it to help with a range of complaints as well as general wellbeing.

How does it feel to have reiki? Auckland reiki practitioner Jackie Segers offered me a reiki session. She first tried reiki at 21, after going through a traumatic time when both her parents died within a short time of each other. She found reiki gave her strength and a sense of calmness and security she was unable to get when she tried other therapies.

A practitioner for nearly 12 years, she says, “When we are calm we can connect to our own inner resources. Reiki can expand your selfawareness and your ability to cope.”

For my session, I lay on a treatment table in a darkened room while gentle music played in the background. As well as keeping my clothes on, I was also partly covered by a blanket.

Jackie began by gently placing both hands on top of my head and holding them there for a few minutes. She then gradually moved down my body. I could feel warmth from her hands – although as the session progressed and I became more relaxed I wasn’t always aware what part of me she was touching. It was very relaxing – in fact, I nodded off!

Afterwards I felt very tired and needed an early night. I didn’t notice any difference in the minor health niggles I had at the time but I did find I was far less stressed about an upcoming event that had been giving me a few sleepless nights. I slept very well after the reiki session.

Jackie normally suggests clients have three initial sessions fairly close together and the frequency of any following sessions depends on what their needs are. She says there’s no such thing as a typical client or problem.

She treats all kinds of cases, from people with terminal illnesses (reiki can help with pain as well as fear of facing death, she says) to pregnant women. She says some of her pregnant clients have reported having easy labours and calm, peaceful babies.

other reiki practitioners I spoke to say feedback they’ve had from clients, or results they’ve noticed themselves, include:

  • No longer needing pain relief after an ankle injury.

  • Reduced hayfever symptoms.

  • Quicker than usual recovery after having surgery.

  • Improvement in symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder.

  • Better bladder control in a woman experiencing leaks when exercising.

  • Reduction of stress-related problems such as anxiety attacks and rashes.

For more info on Jackie or reiki therapy, in general, visit or

Did you know … Some people who have had reiki treatments report a variety of sensations, from heat and tingling where they are being touched to seeing colours, but others say they felt nothing special.

** 5 things you may not know about reiki …

1. It’s a non-invasive therapy in which the practitioner puts their hands very lightly on the patient’s body or holds them slightly above it. There is no manipulation or deep pressure.

  1. While reiki is spiritual in nature, it’s not a religion and you don’t have to be religious for it to be of benefit. You don’t even have to believe in it – practitioners say it can work whether the client believes it will or not.

3. Reiki can be used in conjunction with other treatments, both orthodox and alternative. It may help people to recover more quickly from treatments and in some cases, to need less pain relief. A reiki practitioner should never tell you to stop other treatment because you’re having reiki.

  1. You don’t have to be sick to have reiki – it can help with general feelings of wellbeing and help you to feel calm and positive.5. **The ability to give reiki is passed on from a teacher to a student during a class in which the student becomes “attuned” and learns about the positions in which to place their hands while giving it.

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