What Is Reiki? A T+L Wellness Primer

Developed in the 1920s based on ancient beliefs about energy flows, Reiki has moved from spiritual practice to legit healing technique. Here’s all you need to know about what it is, where it came from and how you can incorporate it into your life.

Reiki Primer: Reiki Healing Treatment

Reiki Healing Treatment. Photo by Albina Gavrilovic/Getty Images/Canva

By David Ngo

Feb 23, 2022


OUR COLLECTIVE CONCEPTION of wellness is constantly evolving. While much of this is rooted in cutting-edge technology, in many cases, the treatments making the biggest waves right now have their roots in holistic practices dating back hundreds or even thousands of years. That’s not a coincidence—in many cases, what modern-day science is actually doing is confirming the concrete medical benefits of old healing practices such as Ayurveda, meditation, acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Reiki. 

Millions of patients around the globe can attest to the powerful healing effects of Reiki, yet there remains a great deal of confusion about what exactly this practice is and how to effectively apply it. First developed in the 1920s, Reiki was initially considered a spiritual practice, yet the tangible benefits it can provide go far beyond healing just the soul. We spoke with some of the experts about how to incorporate Reiki into your life.

What is Reiki?

What is Reiki?
Photo by Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images Pro/Canva

“Reiki is a spiritual healing art that originated in Japan,” says Nimade Sulastri, the resident Reiki master at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. “It is a profound healing technique of guiding energy throughout the body to promote the body’s self-healing abilities.”

That concept of channeling specific energy flows has truly ancient roots throughout China, Japan, Tibet, and much of East Asia. The idea is that all of us are tapped into a greater life force swirling throughout the universe. “The word ‘rei’ means ‘universal energy’ and ‘ki’ means ‘energy,’” Sulastri says. “Therefore, Reiki translates as a life force energy that flows through all living beings.”

Where did the modern practice of Reiki come from?

Reiki Primer : Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru
Courtesy of Four Seasons

While the concept of harnessing that energy may be millennia old, Reiki as a healing practice is a comparatively modern invention. “The Reiki that we’re familiar with in the West can be traced back to Mikao Usui, who is said to have discovered it in the 1920s during a 21-day mountain pilgrimage that involved fasting and prayer,” explains Hylton Lipkin, general manager of Alba Wellness Valley by Fusion, in Vietnam.

Usui was an actively practicing monk who incorporated elements of Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist practices into what would ultimately become Reiki. During the final years of his life, he traveled throughout Japan, spreading his teachings. 

“The practice was developed and spread in Japan but didn’t make it overseas until 1937 when Hawayo Takata, who had experienced Reiki’s benefits firsthand and learned the teachings, introduced it in Hawaii,” Lipkin says. “Since then, it has been passed on from master to student and the healing art form has spread all over the world.”

What are the benefits of Reiki?

What is Reiki?
Photo by Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images Pro/Canva

Let’s face it: most of us could use a little bit more balance and mindfulness in our day-to-day lives. Whether you’re commuting to an office in a city or logged onto Zoom meetings all day, the pressures and stresses of work can take a real toll on our physical and mental health. 

“Most of us suffer some level of stress,” Lipkin says. “We lead busy and full lives and our internal state reflects that. Stress and anxiety are common ailments as we struggle to find the space to slow down.”

Reiki practitioners register these imbalances as blockages in our own internal energy flows. When our life force energy is obstructed, it begins to register as all sorts of physical ailments. The purpose of Reiki is to help bring all of these energies back in alignment.

“According to the practice, physical, mental and emotional issues can occur if the flow of energy is low or blocked,” Sulastri says. “Reiki helps the body to return to the state of relaxation, which allows the body to heal. It has immeasurable benefits in lowering blood pressure, improving sleep, reducing anxiety and pain, and helping with recovery after surgery.”

So how does it work? 

Reiki Primer: Reiki Healing Symbol
Reiki Healing Symbol. Photo by PamWalker68/Getty Images/Canva

A certified Reiki practitioner is hyper-sensitive to subtle shifts in an individual’s biofield. Throughout the course of a session, the practitioner may try to release blockages or alter the flow of energy through gentle touch or by placing their hands just above the body. Although scientists are still studying how Reiki works, many believe the benefits are clearly demonstrable. 

“Reiki activates our parasympathetic nervous system, the system in our body that is responsible for rest, optimal digestion, and slowing down our heart rate,” Lipkin says. “It creates harmony in the body. Everyone responds differently. For some people they may walk away feeling calmer. Others will leave a session with more energy.”

How can I incorporate Reiki into my daily life?

Reiki Primer: Alba Wellness Valley by Fusion
Courtesy of Alba Wellness Valley by Fusion

“Most people when they think of Reiki think of the physical practice of a Reiki practitioner channeling the Reiki healing energy through their hands,” Lipkin says. “It’s more than that. There are also a set of simple principles from Reiki that can be applied to daily life. They teach us to not get angry, to not worry, to be grateful, to earn an honest living, and to be kind to all beings, which includes ourselves.”

Sessions with a Reiki practitioner are a crucial part of this healing process, but they are not the only one. Both Lipkin and Sulastri emphasize that Reiki is something that can become a part of your daily wellness routine, and if it does you can reap ongoing mental benefits. It can be used to challenge the recurring negative thoughts in our mind that often lead to blockages and disruptions to our energy flows.

“Reiki is based on set principles like other spiritual practices,” Sulastri says. “These principles are similar to affirmation or intention that can help to boost the sense of wellbeing by focusing on the present moment. It could be used alongside a mantra that helps to guide our thought and action each day.”

In particular, Sulastri recommends focusing on mantras such as

Just for today I will be Kind to every living being
Just for today I will be Grateful
Just for today I will let go of Anger

A mantra can be any positive intention that you wish to set for yourself and carry with you throughout the day—and hopefully beyond. 

Where can I go on a Reiki retreat?

Three-Bedroom Water Suite at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. Courtesy of Four Seasons

Many wellness-centric resorts across Asia incorporate Reiki into their spa menus, and some—especially in Japan—offer training courses. If you want to visit the experts we spoke with:

Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, private one-hour sessions with a Reiki Master from US$195++ per person

Alba Wellness Valley by Fusion, two-day Reiki training sessions from US$200 per person. Check website for upcoming courses and availability 

Reiki Primer: Alba Wellness Valley by Fusion
Courtesy of Alba Wellness Valley by Fusion

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