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The History of Reiki

Reiki, as a healing modality, goes back to Japan in 1922 when Mikao Usui is said to have had a mystical revelation, which he claimed entered through his crown chakra during a rigorous period of meditation and fasting on top of Mount Kurama. This revelation allowed him to gain insight to knowledge and spiritual power for healing, which he was then able to use on himself and transfer to others. Usui called this energy or power, Reiki. He decided to pass this gift, through various stages of training, on to others.

A student of Usui, Chujiro Hayashi, a medical doctor and artist, developed the practice of Reiki further, focusing less on the meditative aspects and more on the stationary hand placements. In turn, a Japanese-American woman, Hawayo Takata, became a student of Hayashi and brought Reiki to Hawaii and introduced it to Western culture in the late 1930s. She became the thirteenth and last Reiki Master initiated by Hayashi. There are many varieties of Reiki now taught throughout the world as students bring in their own subtle modifications; however the lineage of Hayashi and Takata are generally considered the traditional form.

Takata continued to practice Reiki in Hawaii although, in Japan, after World War II, the U.S. government banned all Eastern methods of healing and mandated that only Western medicine be practiced. Any alternative healing methods, such as Reiki, then went underground.

Just What Is Reiki?

There have been many interpretations given to the word Reiki, an indication of how information can sometimes change as it is handed down from person to person, translated into different languages or used in different cultures. The simplest derivation is attributed to the Japanese words “rei” and “ki,” translated into “unseen” or “universal” and “life force” or “energy,” respectively. Students of Shiatsu or other Eastern forms of bodywork will be familiar with the term “ki,” which is the same as “chi” or “qi” used in acupressure techniques.

Reiki is a form of energy healing and balancing, which includes spiritual healing, meditation, aromatherapy and more in addition to its required hand positions. It is considered a kind of energy transference between the client and practitioner and has been shown to help with deep relaxation, detoxification, increased vitality and removal of negative energy.

Once attuned by a Reiki Master, a first-degree practitioner can use the technique as a form of self-care or on another person. It can also be used in a variety of healthcare locales, such as hospitals, clinics, hospice settings or assisted-living facilities. Reiki can be used by itself or in conjunction with other therapies, such as massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments and conventional allopathic practices. With sufficient training Reiki can also be performed at a distance.

The Three Degrees of Reiki

A student of Reiki can advance up through three degrees, or attunements, each of which offers different opportunities.

  1. First Degree – When a student completes the first degree, he or she is able to perform Reiki on a person to person, hands-on basis. This is the foundation of Reiki and is required before proceeding to the next level. Many students will stop here and use it for self-care and perhaps on family members or friends. It can be practiced by anyone with an interest and needs no prior training. A first degree student will learn the basic protocols including the mandatory hand placements. The hand positions are not always consistent among practitioners who may have had different instructors, but generally there are commonalities among them, familiar to all Reiki practitioners.
  2. Second Degree – The second degree attunement is received in order to acquire the ability to perform distant, non-touch healing. It is recommended that somewhere between three and six months pass before moving on to the second degree, but many instructors combine the first and second degrees during two consecutive days of classes. The student learns how to replace the face-to-face connection with methods used for remote work using three symbols said to connect one’s self to a primordial consciousness and an endless source of healing energy.
  3. Third Degree – This level of training is required in order to teach Reiki, to train and initiate others into all three degrees of proficiency. It is Reiki Master training, which denotes not so much an advanced skill, but a deeper commitment to the practice. It means that Reiki becomes more of a lifestyle than an occasional healing session and it denotes a dedication of a return to simplicity as well as trying to achieve balance within one’s own life.

The cost of receiving the attunements varies greatly. Initially, those who were trained by Takata and others charged $10,000 for master initiation and training. There are Reiki masters who charge much less now – in the hundreds rather than thousands of dollars, with the third degree usually about double the price of the first two. The most important thing is to find an instructor who you feel comfortable with and respect.

Continued Training

Many Reiki Masters or healing centers that confer degrees also offer training beyond the three degrees as well as retreats and conferences. They do not offer a higher degree, but merely more in-depth training (such as Reiki for specific pathologies) mentoring and business practice advice.

What Happens During a Reiki Session?

In a typical Reiki Session, the client will either lie down or sit comfortably, fully clothed. The practitioner lightly places his or her hands either lightly on the client or from two to five inches above the body using a series of requisite hand positions, with each position being held for approximately two to five minutes based on the experience of the practitioner. A client will usually receive a minimum of four sessions, ranging in time from 30 to 90 minutes.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Center for Complementary Care and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), Reiki is considered to be safe with no serious side effects reported. They have supported several studies involving Reiki, including: How Reiki Might Work, Reiki’s Impact on Advanced AIDS, Reiki and Fibromyalgia, and more.

If you are a massage therapist interested in learning and practicing Reiki, you may want to make sure that the instructor is approved as a continuing education provider. You can then receive credit towards requirements needed for license renewal or professional organization membership.

A Complement to Massage Therapy

Being able to introduce Reiki into your practice can add anther dimension to your work. It can be used to introduce your work to individuals who may not be comfortable either with touch in general or with the requirement for taking off clothing with Swedish massage. Reiki can also be used on clients who have contraindications for hands-on techniques, including those who are terminally ill.

Learning Reiki can also introduce and connect you, the practitioner, to an extended community of instructors, practitioners and clients interested in this form of energy work. If you choose to take on the responsibility of Reiki Master, you can also conduct classes or individual training of others.

“Just for today, do not be angry and do not worry. Value your life and make the effort necessary to actualize your life’s purpose. Be kind.” ~ Pamela Miles, Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide Adapted from the traditional Reiki precepts

Editor’s Note: While there are some states do not regulate the practice of Reiki, there are others which do. Some regulate massage therapy, but not Reiki. Even if you have received Reiki attunements or training, check with your state and/or local regulating board to find out if you also have to be licensed in your jurisdiction.

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