Should I Be Practising Reiki?

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
In a new interview with Cosmopolitan, dancer-cum-actress Jenna Dewan Tatum said that she's been dipping her toes in the wide and deep pool of Reiki. "I like to play around. I’ll do it with [our daughter] Evie when she’s getting overwhelmed. She thinks it’s so funny," she explained. "It’s an ancient healing modality from Japan where you tap into a conscious energy conflict. Chan loves it. He gets all the nice side effects of having a hippie wife."

As she mentioned, this practice isn't confined to the Dewan-Tatum household — or "hippie wives" for that matter. Reiki and other forms of energy work (including aura readings and crystal gridding) have made their way into the mainstream, thanks in no small part to the "witchy" corners of social media and the general self-care movement.

Since Reiki's gotten so much attention recently, we decided it was high time to sit down and determine: Well, wait, what actually is it? Turns out, there's more to it than you'd think.

Reiki (pronounced "ray-kay") was created in the late 19th century by a Buddhist monk named Mikao Usui, but didn't come to the Western Hemisphere until the 1970s. It's viewed as somewhat of a cure-all for energetic imbalances (which some believe can cause anything from headaches to chronic pain to anxiety), thus its literal translation from the Japanese: "universal life energy."

When we spoke with fitness witch (and Reiki practitioner) Ammo O'Day last summer, she explained how a Reiki healing session, in which someone seeks out a professional, actually works:

"When the session happens, I usually ask the client to do some kind of breathing pattern. And I lightly put my hands on different portions of their body, and this helps their body unconsciously heal itself. The energy coming through me is connecting to the client’s body unconsciously to figure out what the problem is and to go to it and unblock it."

The client is usually lying down in the healer's space, wearing simple, comfortable clothes (you don't want any jewelry or synthetic fabrics to affect the direction of the energy that the healer's commanding). While O'Day mentioned that she touches her clients, other healers prefer to simply hover their hands over their clients' bodies.

O'Day actually referred to Reiki as "energetic Drain-O," which just about sums it up. The idea is that whatever deficiencies or imbalances you may possess in your body can be dissolved and flushed out, so a healthier flow can be restored.

If you're wondering if science backs up the claims of Reiki practitioners, you might not be satisfied. Little to no research has been done on whether Reiki actually does anything physical to your body, but one study found that it's an effective method of self-care. Another suggested that it might help ease psychological distress and depression.

Reiki was never meant to replace Western medicine

Advertisement
However, mainstream medicine's relationship with Reiki took a controversial turn in 2014, when a team of doctors released a statement calling to end all clinical trials of “highly implausible treatment,” which included Reiki and other forms of homeopathy. They said it was a waste of already limited resources to explore such esoteric methods of healing.

Naturally, healers and enthusiasts pushed back against the doctors' claims, arguing that Reiki was never meant to replace Western medicine but should be used in tandem with it. Energy work is believed to have immense emotional and mental benefits in particular, which has actually prompted some hospitals to offer different forms of holistic care to help patients fully recover more quickly.

All of these benefits, of course, could be due to the placebo effect. If you believe Reiki is working on your "energy" (which is obviously not a scientific term), it could actually help you feel better, depending on what's going on. Still, Reiki should probably only be used in conjunction with other science-backed treatments — at least for more serious issues, such as depression.

The point is Dewan Tatum's approach to Reiki is pretty spot-on: Just play around. If you believe in the power of energy work, seeking out a Reiki session is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with it. Don't set your expectations too high for any particular results, but, the good news is there's no way that Reiki can really hurt you, so there's no harm in giving it a try. Want to make sure you're going somewhere legit? The International Association of Reiki Professionals (IARP) has a roster of registered practitioners you can choose from.
Advertisement