Reiki (霊気?, /ˈreɪkiː/) is a spiritual practice developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist MikaoUsui, which has since been adapted by various teachers of varying traditions. It uses a technique commonly called palm healing or hands-on-healing as a form of alternative medicine and is sometimes classified as oriental medicine by some professional medical bodies. Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring universal energy (i.e., reiki) in the form of qi (Japanese: ki) through the palms, which they believe allows for self-healing and a state of equilibrium.
The word Reiki actually comes from two Japanese words. ‘Rei’ means ‘God’s wisdom or the Higher Power’ and ‘Ki’ means ‘life force energy’. The literal meaning of the word Reiki therefore means something similar to ‘spiritually guided life force energy’. This breakdown of the word goes some way to explaining or describing what Reiki actually is.
There are two main branches of Reiki, commonly referred to as Traditional Japanese Reiki and Western Reiki. Though differences can be wide and varied between both branches and traditions, the primary difference is that the Westernized forms use systematized hand-placements rather than relying on an intuitive sense of hand-positions (see below), which is commonly used by Japanese Reiki branches. Both branches commonly have a three-tiered hierarchy of degrees, usually referred to as the First, Second, and Master/Teacher level, all of which are associated with different skills and techniques.
While reiki is a spiritual practice, by this we don’t mean anything supernatural; the idea of spirit, or shen, is a central part of Chinese medicine. You don’t have to have any specific belief to receive or practice reiki. Reiki is a manifestation of the principle that “shen(mind/spirit) leads qi (vital energy)”. Anyone who has ever given a comforting hug or touch has already practiced the essential principle of reiki.
The effects of Reiki are based on self-improvement and spirituality. During a Reiki treatment a person may experience a deep sense of relaxation, a feeling of a warm glow around their body or just a reduction in stress and an increase in peace. The spiritual side of Reiki does not require belief in the same way as a religion. In fact, Reiki has been known to work even when a patient do not believed that it will.
Reiki can easily be combined with shiatsu, acupressure, or massage, or used on its own. It is especially useful for emotional balancing and for work on injured areas where massage or shiatsu would be contraindicated.