The Healing Power of Reiki

By Lisanne Elkins

What, Exactly, is Reiki?
It is perhaps more constructive to begin by saying what reiki is not. It is not a religious practice, or tied to any religion, though many consider it a spiritual practice. Mikao Usui, a 19th century Japanese scholar, developed this modality following a prolonged meditation session that awakened his innate healing abilities.1
In a reiki healing session, the practitioner, who is trained to access and serve as a channel for life force, or chi, places her hands on or just above the client’s body in order to activate healing energy within receptive points on the body. The practitioner’s hands move progressively with a passive touch through 12 positions on the body, remaining in each position for several minutes. As a harmonic flow of energy is strengthened within the client and practitioner, healing occurs through the return of physical, mental, and spiritual balance.2
Reiki is an exceptionally effective tool for bodyworkers, massage practitioners, and other types of therapists. It is especially appealing because of its simplicity and convenience—it can be performed anytime, anywhere, and clients can remain fully clothed during the treatment. Reiki can be used for self-healing, the healing of others, and, more comprehensively, healing the world in which we live.
Reiki can also be administered to one’s self. In fact, an intrinsic part of reiki is healing the self through facilitating the flow of universal energy, learning mindfulness, practicing guided meditations, and following five simple precepts. These precepts are:
Just for today:
• Do not worry.
• Do not anger.
• Be grateful for your many blessings.
• Do your work honestly.
• Be kind to yourself and others.
The word reiki literally means “life energy”: rei means “life force” and ki means “energy.”
There are many other words for this life-force energy. They all describe the universal energy field that surrounds every living thing and interacts with the physical body, as well as all living things collectively. This is the holistic aspect of reiki—the idea that the body is part of a greater whole.
Simply put, using reiki for healing purposes, on one’s self or on others, involves being a conduit to draw energy inward through one’s body. The best technique for doing reiki is to visualize being rooted in the earth, while drawing light or heat in from the crown chakra on the top of the head. Reiki helps increase the flow of energy and addresses energetic blockages that may exist, which are of emotional, karmic, physical, or spiritual origins.

The Power of Reiki
Those who come for a reiki treatment have their own personal needs and reasons for doing so, but the end result of a reiki treatment is almost always that people feel more centered, more comfortable, and have a greater sense of well-being. My reiki clients come weekly or biweekly for treatment. Their issues include daily challenges, emotional struggles, illness, and many others, but I am struck by the way almost all of them marvel at how much better they feel after a session. And I continue to be amazed and humbled by the healing power of reiki. It is a powerful gift for everyone’s healing journey.  

Eastern Versus Western Reiki
Mikao Usui’s original reiki method differs greatly from the way it is practiced in the West today. “In Usui’s time, the emphasis was very much on personal responsibility and commitment,” says Reiki Master and instructor Ginny Mackles, who has practiced reiki for almost 30 years and has a direct lineage to its original teachers. “Reiki is first and foremost a self-healing and spiritual development method, though it is something that you can also use to help others.”
Traditional Usui reiki has the main goal of being used as a spiritual tool for one’s own improvement and enlightenment.
By contrast, the Western reiki tradition focuses mainly on the healing aspect of reiki. It also places more importance on hand symbols and has added the chakra system into the modality, a concept that originally came from India.3

Kerry’s Reiki Session
This story illustrates the gentle, yet powerful, abilities of reiki, a Japanese energy healing method that can be used by anyone.

Kerry climbs onto my massage table fully clothed and makes herself comfortable. The table is warm from a fleece-lined heating pad, the room is dimly lit by a Moroccan-style lamp, and the air is fragrant with essential oils. Calming Japanese flute music plays in the background. She has chosen to come for these weekly sessions as part of her decision to improve general self-care, relieve stress from a rather challenging job situation, and seek pain relief for her knee.
Kerry falls more deeply into a state of relaxation as the session begins. I lay my hands gently on top of her head. I linger there for perhaps five minutes today (each time is different) until I feel it is the right time to move to her shoulders. It is in this way that Kerry and I connect in a healing energy session and we help Kerry’s healing process wherever she may need it on that day.
Sixty minutes later, the session ends, and Kerry arises from the table looking radiant, and feeling relaxed and grounded. The chronic pain in her knee has subsided, and she comments on the heat and vibration she feels throughout her body: “First, it is a tingling sensation, then the energy feels like it moves through me and opens up the flow in my entire body.” Days later, Kerry recalls a sense of well-being that permeates her experiences in daily life.

1., “Usui Sensei 1865–1926,” accessed March 2014,
2., “Glossary,” accessed March 2014,   
3. Holistic Reconnection, “Western vs Traditional Reiki,” accessed March 2014,

Lisanne Elkins has a private practice in Mount Kisco, New York. She has been practicing massage and reiki for almost 15 years and recently received her Reiki Mastership.
She lives in Croton on Hudson, New York, with her partner and two daughters. She can be contacted at