Reiki is an alternative form of medicine, used for healing, relaxation, and well being, that originated in Japan. It is similar to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in that it works with the central concept of a person having a flow of life energy running through the body. If this energy flow is blocked or hindered a person can become ill or run down.

Reiki Principles and Background

Reiki uses spiritual elements, and whilst it is not, in itself, a religion, most practitioners do follow a certain lifestyle and adhere to certain beliefs. Many practitioners follow five principles – don’t be angry, don’t worry, work with care, be grateful, and treat other people with kindness. One should live in a way that promotes harmony and peace, although reiki is not dependent on a person believing in its abilities – it will work whether one is a believer or not. 

The name reiki comes from two Japanese words – rei and ki. Rei translates as the higher power and ki means life force energy. So the overall name means life force energy that is spiritually guided.

It is a relatively new practice, having been developed in the early 1920s. The person who developed reiki, Mikao Usui, created the treatment whilst participating in a Buddhist training course. During the course it is likely that he meditated, fasted, chanted, prayed, and received spiritual instruction and guidance. 

Reiki Technique

Reiki is easy to administer and practice, and it is a completely natural and non-invasive technique. It has a beneficial effect on a person’s overall health, both physical and mental, and it is said that it can be used to help treat any illness and relieve all symptoms. It can be used together with other treatments, including conventional medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and others.  

Reiki practitioners learn the technique from already established and knowledgeable practitioners. It is taught in almost a student to apprentice manner. The reiki master transfers the skills to a student during a lesson. The student is then able to access this universal life force and use it for the benefit and wellness of others. It is possible for anyone to learn reiki; it is not limited to those from a certain background, of a particular age, with a certain educational background, with particular spiritual or religious beliefs, or similar.


A reiki practitioner uses their hands to guide energy through the body. This may or may not involve actually touching the person – it is possible for reiki to work by the hands being placed over an area with no actual physical contact. It is a great option, therefore, for people who have very tight personal boundaries and are not comfortable with people touching them. 

As well as the hands, reiki can involve focusing the gaze and attention on a particular part of the patient’s body. The patient usually lies down for treatment. The practitioner generally does not speak during the treatment, and often takes a few moments before starting to calm the mind and enter a light meditative state.  

Treatments are often given for the whole body, although if a patient has a particular ailment or complaint the treatments can be localised and focus on a particular area instead.

Reiki Varieties

There are two main different branches of reiki today – Traditional Japanese Reiki and Western Reiki. The main difference between the two types is the number of hand positions that are used – traditional Japanese Reiki uses more. Western Reiki mainly focuses on the seven main chakras throughout the human body. Traditional Japanese Reiki also incorporates auras.

A reiki treatment is said to feel like a really pleasant glow passing through the body. The patient often feels calm, peaceful, and relaxed, and these sensations often last for some time after the treatment has actually finished. 

Because there are no instruments or medicines involved in reiki, there are no possible side effects. It is not harmful at all. As long as people make sure that they are receiving adequate medical care, probably from a variety of different sources, reiki is one of many tools that can be used to promote health and well being.