What It Is, How It’s Done and How It Might Benefit You.
If you’re starting to think about your health in a holistic way – where you recognize that the mind, body, nutrition, and some say spirit are all connected – then you may have heard of Reiki. It’s practiced in some hospitals, and it can also be taken to a very spiritual place. So, what in the world is this very intriguing technique and is it something that we should be exploring in terms of our health? I, for one, wanted to find out, so I went to Reiki Master teacher Deborah Dixon to get some answers. In addition to having her own private practice called Subtle Wellness , Deborah conducts trainings at Duke Integrative Medicine. In this Q&A, I share what she had to say about the many benefits of Reiki and why it might be worth exploring further as yet another tool to have in our healthy living toolkit.
Peppermint Tea & Me: What is Reiki?
Deborah Dixon: Reiki is explained a lot of different ways. It’s usually explained as a simple stress reduction technique and as a technique that channels universal life force energy or animating life force energy. It’s talked about as energy medicine or as vibrational medicine because it raises the vibration of a person. While Reiki as a hands-on healing practice already existed in Japan, the practice as we know it was developed in the 1920s. It arose from the spiritual awakening of Dr. Mikao Usui. What he brought to his hands-on healing was unique, and that has become what we know around the globe now as Reiki.
PTM: Is Reiki Based in Science?
DD: To say that it’s science-based is a little bit of a stretch because it didn’t originate or evolve from any kind of scientific inquiry. However, we know now through science and research that we can use science to understand that Reiki is working and that it’s having a physical, mental and emotional impact. However, to explain it in terms of science is a little more difficult. Quantum physics probably gets the closest.
We can look at it in the way we maybe look at light, the way we look at vibration, but I don’t think that science is able to fully explain it yet. The best roadmap will be neuroscience and how it’s been evolving since the middle of the 20thcentury to explain how embodied and contemplative practices like meditation and mindfulness can impact the body. In that way, we know that Reiki engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is then a cascade of benefits to the body and mind. So, it’s interesting. There’s a lot of science there, but there’s also a sort of mystical core behind it.
PTM: Is Reiki considered to be a type of alternative medicine?
DD: While it is used in hospitals and clinical settings, I think it’s usually referred to as a complementary modality or an alternative modality. You may hear it referred to as energy medicine, bio-field techniques and bio-field medicine. For me, as a practitioner and teacher, I shy away from talking about medicine and healing and using those terms with it simply because it’s not licensed in any way. It’s totally a complementary, adjunct therapy. Those of us who practice it do not diagnose or prescribe in any way. I personally like to keep the medical terminology out so as not to mislead people. Some of us look at it more as spiritual healing, metaphysical healing and like to keep it there.
PTM: How is Reiki done?
DD: It is usually done with light touch. The client is fully clothed, often reclining, like on a massage table, but it can be done with the person sitting in a chair. It can also be done at a distance because it doesn’t have to involve touch.
You can send Reiki to a different location, and it can be sent back in time. You can do that by sending it to periods in your life, where you’ve had distress and trauma. Sometimes that’s harder for people to wrap their mind around. If you’re into quantum physics, sometimes it’s not that hard. It’s odd, what seems like the most “woo woo” sometimes is the part that’s backed up by science a little bit more because there is the idea that there’s an intelligent part of us that’s existing outside of time and space.
I think ultimately, the advances in neuroscience are going to help us understand it better. Because what’s happened to us in our life is stored in our body. It’s stored in our nervous system. So, when people are working with trauma, they’re releasing a tangible thing that’s residing in their body. In Reiki, we’re working with that energy.
PTM: So, the focus is the energy and not necessarily the touch part of it?
DD: There is a lot of warmth in my hands. It’s easy to think that it’s body heat and that it’s moving from my physical being to your physical being, but it’s more energy than we know – even when we’re in person. When I do a distant session, I’ll feel the energy in my hands, the same as I do when I’m in person. Many people will find it very similar to doing an in-person session.
To be honest, all these years, I never offered distant Reiki professionally. I focused on what was easy for people to wrap their mind around. But I did distant all the time with other Reiki people and sometimes with people that would request it and were students. It’s really just been the last year that I’ve done so much professionally because of the pandemic. People have actually accepted it better than I would have thought. I definitely had clients who I thought, “That’s going to be a hard one for them,” but trying it, it’s really just like an in-person session. The proof is in the energy and the experience itself.
PTM: Are there specific points that you focus on?
DD: There are some lineages, particularly in Japan that do not have prescribed hand positions. That came up early on in the development of Reiki in certain lineages with a clinician wanting to have practitioners at every bed and wanting to have something more systematic. At that point, it became a full body treatment that involves the hand positions that move from the head to the feet. It doesn’t necessarily have to go that way, but it usually does. You’ll find that when you do energy work that you feel the person’s energy field moving down that central column. If you’re familiar with the chakra system, it’s moving down the chakras. Some medical people will practice Reiki focusing on the glands, which actually match up with the chakras. So, regardless of what direction you’re going with it, you’ll often find that people have their hands in those same places.
PTM: What are the benefits of Reiki physically, mentally and emotionally?
DD: The benefits of Reiki can be numerous. Because it engages the parasympathetic nervous system, it’s a stress-reduction technique. Stress reduction reduces the heart rate and increases digestion, lowers respiration, and truly, it’s that reset. Reiki, like meditation, like yoga and other mindfulness and body practices, it pulls us back into that part of the brain that is safe and relaxed and at rest. It’s the calm mind. It’s order, it’s ease, it’s that sense of wellbeing. I’ve literally had people sit up from the table and say “Oh! Everything seems okay.”
You’ll also find a lot about it reducing anxiety, being good for insomnia and it’s excellent for burnout. A lot of nurses practice it, not just on the patients but on each other for burnout. Reiki is also good for pain management and increasing circulation, and it’s really good with chemotherapy. These are things that have been researched. Those of us who practice it, oh my goodness. We see amazing things happen. If you keep showing up for that practice, you’ll see shifts in all sorts of physical issues.
PTM: How long does it take to see the benefits of Reiki?
DD: The benefits of Reiki can be seen or felt immediately, but it often can take weeks or months. I’ve seen people immediately have sort of a bounce-back from things like depression, but not always. There’s been research with depression where people receive Reiki once or twice a week for six weeks and that was sort of the sweet spot. I would say that if people come weekly or bi-weekly, that is really transformative. It’s very individual. When clients come, I always tell them that it’s a craving. They’ll know if this is doing something for them, they’ll know when to come back because it is very individual.
PTM: What kind of training is required for Reiki?
DD: It’s very easy and accessible for everybody. It’s important to know that there’s no official oversight or licensing for Reiki whatsoever because that can be a little confusing when you’re looking for training. You’ll see things about certifications and licensing but those are just what individual teachers and companies are creating. The foundational levels are level I and level II. Level I focuses on self-practice and clearing. Level II goes a little bit further into those techniques and introduces distant work and working with others. It’s usually after Level II training that people might choose to practice professionally.
PTM: So, someone could do Level I and be able to do it on themselves?
DD: Yes. Self-treatment and self-healing and self-clearing are the foundation of the practice. That begins in Level I. No matter how far you go or how long you practice, that’s still the foundation of it. That’s where you get your mojo – from that work on yourself and the clearing of yourself. Then you can add working on others or other things. People Reiki many things. They’ll work with their animals, they’ll work with plants, and they’ll work with food.
PTM: If someone is considering Reiki for the first time, what should they look for in a practitioner?
DD: I would say that it’s very individual, but the main thing is to see if you feel good with the person. If you resonate with the person. Talk to the practitioner first. If I were to ask a question, I would ask, “How often do you do self-treatments or how many clients do you have a week?” That goes to the idea that it’s the practice that makes the practitioner. A person could have a gazillion certificates, and they could be a Reiki master for 10 years, but if they haven’t done it this month, then their session may or may not be good.
I have Level I practitioners that at first, they are not natural. They come out of it saying, “I don’t feel anything. It didn’t take with me.” I tell them to go home, put their hands on themselves every day and do the self-treatments. They will come back to a Reiki share in a few weeks and their hands are on fire. They are channeling energy. So much so that I would go to them.
So, you want to find someone who is obviously doing it enough to be out there doing it professionally. Truthfully though, if you have someone living next door who may not work on a lot of other people but who is a devoted practitioner, and that person works on themselves every day, that’s an excellent person to get Reiki from.
The Cost of Reiki
The cost of Reiki is usually between $45 for distant sessions to $60-$75 for in-person sessions. A session can be anywhere between 45 to 90 minutes depending on the options offered by specific practitioners and the setting in which it’s being done.
You might also be interested in checking out these studies on biofield science, which go more in-depth on the energy field that each of us have.
- Biofield Science and Healing: History, Terminology and Concepts
- Case Report: Energy Field Changes Approaching and During the Death Experience
- The Biofield Hypothesis: Its Biophysical Basis and Role in Medicine
Bottom Line on the Benefits of Reiki
Deborah says that the bottom line on the benefits of Reiki is that it’s recognizing, tapping into, receiving and in some cases releasing the energy that exists in all of us. If you decide to try it, it’s best at least the first time to go in with an open mind and very few expectations. Just be open to the experience and see what happens.