A few years ago, Dr. Mehmet Oz introduced millions of his viewers to Reiki, saying it was the number one integrative therapy to try. But if you haven't heard of it, here's a brief overview. Reiki is a hands-on healing technique from Japan and means "transcendent life force" or "spiritual energy." The practice of Reiki guides this "Ki," or energy, that surrounds and permeates every living thing. Reiki enhances wellness by helping your body balance itself, and it enables you to take an active role in your health.
In Chinese, this energy is referred to as "Chi" or "Qi"—acupuncture and martial arts are other disciplines that work with this life-force energy that resides within each of us.
In my private practice at Center for True Health, as well as in my work with patients at the Initiative for Women with Disabilities, part of NYU's Langone Medical Center, I see so many individuals dealing with severe anxiety. In fact, it's probably one of the top reasons clients come to me. One thing I love about working with people with anxiety is that they are sensitive to and aware of energy. I prefer to work with clients suffering from anxiety because they are often much easier to help than my clients who aren't as in touch with their emotions and the feelings in their bodies. I give them this example: maybe they know someone who lives life from the neck up—their feelings reside several blocks away!
What Should I Expect from a Reiki Session?
During a Reiki session, I spend a few minutes asking clients how the session can best support them. Although I see many clients for anxiety, each person experiences it differently; thus, an important aspect of treatment is to better understand personal triggers and areas of the body that are of concern to the client. After we talk, clients lie on a massage table, fully clothed. I place my hands in various positions on or above them, acting as a channel for the Reiki (or Ki) to move through, clearing and enhancing the energy throughout the body, according to the client's needs.
Although responses to Reiki vary from person to person and session to session, common responses include a deep feeling of relaxation and peace. Sometimes clients feel warmth or tingling, or notice visual imagery. During a Reiki session, the body shifts from sympathetic (fight-or-flight) mode into parasympathetic (rest and digest) mode. Parasympathetic mode is often referred to as the Relaxation Response; this is the state that your body needs to cultivate to heal. The session jumpstarts your body's own self-healing response—assisting the body in releasing deep-seated tensions, aiding in detoxification, and balancing mental and emotional states.
The Reiki session also allows you to bring about a beneficial shift in your attention. When we're feeling anxious, it's usually all we can focus on. The act of moving out of narrow, stressed attention is like relaxing a fist that's been clenched for years. In fact, we hold tension, emotions, and chronic anxiety in the body's muscles, and these are released during a Reiki session. After the session, I ask clients to notice any changes as their mind and body continue to rebalance over the next few days or even weeks. Changes might include physical shifts, such as more restful sleep or a more relaxed feeling in the body; mental/emotional shifts, such as feeling calmer in stressful situations or feeling more focused; and spiritual shifts, such as feeling more grounded or intuitive.
Discomfort later that day or the next few days is also good because it can mean the session is starting to help your body rebalance itself. Negative emotions that we've repressed and held in the body are sometimes able to come to the surface and release.
Setting aside time in your life for a session to relax and let go in this way allows you to recover from the accumulated physiological and psychological stresses of daily living. Reiki can give you the balance you need to put the anxiety in perspective, and thereby let it go. Many clients report that meditating is difficult because their minds remain active; they say that Reiki is an easier way for them to get into this meditative mindset, allowing the thoughts to slow and relax, along with the body.
How Many Sessions will I Need to Notice Benefits?
Receiving sessions regularly provides deeper balancing and longer-lasting benefits (many clients book a session once a month). But this varies, so I always give my clients a personalized treatment plan. If you've been experiencing anxiety for a long time, consider booking three sessions as a starting point. As a rule, acute conditions tend to balance faster than chronic ones, so if anxiety is something you've had for a while, it will take a little more time to release it than if you've only had the anxiety for a couple of weeks, for example.
Can I do Reiki at Home?
In addition, one of the great things about the system of Reiki is that you can learn to use it on yourself. It's simple to learn and practice, and daily self-care is an empowering component.
Hands-on-healing is our natural ability; just think about how you often feel better after someone gives you a hug. Reiki classes give you a foundation to work with to expand your innate capacity. Once you've learned some basic techniques in a Reiki I class, you'll have the ability to give yourself a mini-Reiki session every day, contributing to your own healing. You can practice Reiki self-treatment in bed as you're falling asleep or waking up (basically anywhere) and any time (24/7). This is especially helpful for people who experience anxiety; you can self-soothe anytime you need.
It's easier to understand Reiki by experiencing it than by reading about it. So if you are looking to try non-pharmacological treatment options or to complement an existing treatment plan, it's worth discovering whether it could help alleviate your anxiety—either by receiving a session or finding a Reiki class offered in your area.
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Date of original publication: December 04, 2014