What is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese technique used for stress reduction and deep relaxation. It may also provide pain relief, promote restful sleep, and healing.
Massage Therapist Performing Reiki Treatment

A lot of people ask, What is Reiki? I have been a Reiki practitioner since 2013 and I honestly love it. There is so much more to Reiki than what I can fit into a blog post but I hope this can provide a brief overview of what it is and also clear up some misconceptions. For anyone interested in learning more I highly recommend reading “The Complete Reiki Tutor: A structured course to achieve professional expertise” by Tanmaya Honervogt. Please keep in mind however, that in order to become a Reiki practitioner you need to attend training with a Reiki Master.

What Is It?

So, what is Reiki? Reiki is a Japanese technique used for stress reduction and deep relaxation. It may also provide pain relief, promote restful sleep, and healing. It is a gentle hands-on technique that addresses both chronic and acute conditions promoting balance among all body systems. During a Reiki session, the practitioner gently lays hands on the recipient in areas such as the head, shoulders, abdomen, etc.

It was discovered at the end of the 19th century by Dr. Mikao Usui and in 1922 he opened his first Reiki clinic in Tokyo. While Usui Reiki is the original system, other systems and branches of Reiki have appeared over the years. I am trained in the original Usui Reiki and have obtained my level 3 (advanced).

The Canadian Reiki Association defines Reiki as the following:

“Reiki (ray-key) is a multi-faceted spiritual energy that can be used to help people with meditation practices, spiritual growth, healing relationships, manifestation of goals and activating the Divine healing power within all living beings. Our physical body is alive because of the “Life Force Energy” that is flowing through it. If our Life Force is low or blocked, it impacts our wellbeing and personal health. Reiki is an energy that works on the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual level. The technique increases one’s Life Force Energy that brings the body back into balance promoting a healthier life.

The knowledge of an invisible energy that flows through all living things has been part of the wisdom of many cultures for thousands of years. The existence of Life Force Energy has even been documented by scientific experiments. Medical doctors are now looking at the role Reiki plays in the functioning of the immune system and the healing process.”

If you want to read more about the specifics of how Reiki works, this review on the effects of Reiki on pain and anxiety https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4147026/ discusses biofield energy and the measurable magnetic and electric fields that the body produces. It also delves into quantum physics a little and some other really cool nerdy things. ? 


There are different levels to Reiki and they may vary slightly depending on the school you attend. Some schools offer 3 levels while others offer 4.

Level 1:

In the beginners’ level of Reiki, you can expect to learn the following:

  • The history of Reiki
  • The 5 Reiki Principles and how to integrate them into your life
  • The standard hand positions
  • How to perform self-Reiki
  • Receive your level 1 attunement (I’ll discuss what attunements are later on)

While you can provide Reiki treatments to others at this level, it really focuses on self-Reiki and learning how to incorporate Reiki into your daily life.

Level 2:

  • Learn the Mental/Emotional Wellbeing technique, the Power Symbol as well as Distance Reiki. These new techniques help to strengthen the energy flow
  • At this level you will begin to provide more Reiki sessions to others
  • Receive level 2 attunement

Level 3 (this will either be the Master level or as in my case the advanced level):

  • If you receive your Master level you are able to teach Reiki to others. This is the highest level. If this is the advanced level for you, you may receive the Master symbol but still require some further training to reach the Master level and be able to teach.
  • Receive attunement

How Can You Add Reiki to Your Massage Treatment?

If Reiki is of interest to a client and they would like to incorporate Reiki into their massage treatment, it must be performed at a level 1, meaning it needs to be hands on. As per the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario, distance Reiki cannot be performed during a massage therapy session and be billed under massage therapy. The amount of Reiki vs. massage therapy will be discussed prior to the treatment but it will always be combined with massage. I generally start with massage and end with some Reiki. I do not charge extra for Reiki.

Reiki vs. Healing Touch vs. Therapeutic Touch

I honestly don’t know too many details about Healing Touch (HT) and Therapeutic Touch (TT); however, I do know these key differences and similarities:

  • Reiki energy is not directed. It flows to where it’s needed. I believe with HT and TT, the energy is directed
  • Receiving attunements in Reiki is a key difference. Attunements are ceremonies performed by the Reiki Master that opens the flow of Reiki energy and connects recipients to the universal life energy and its source. Once you have received this energy, it is yours forever to use whenever you wish
  • It is very important who you are taught by with Reiki. The lineage of your Master-Teacher that you train with should be traced back to the source of Reiki – Dr. Usui. This keeps a connection between all the Masters. If the lineage is diluted by Masters from other healing systems, it is believed that the receiver is not receiving the “real thing”
  • All 3 are safe and have the main goal of providing deep relaxation and comfort to the recipient
  • Healing Touch, Therapeutic Touch and Reiki have been incorporated into some hospitals and hospices as it has been shown to lower levels of discomfort, restlessness, anxiety and pain while improving mood

What Research Is Saying:

There are very few high-quality studies that have been done on the effects of Reiki, however the ones that have been performed, such as the ones included in the review I referenced above, show a statistical significance or near significance on how Reiki can reduce pain and anxiety and that there is enough evidence to suggest continued research using Reiki therapy.

Final Thoughts:

While many Reiki practitioners call themselves “‘healers”, I am uncomfortable with this term. I fully believe in the healing power of Reiki, but Reiki puts the responsibility on the receiver to receive the energy and put it to good use and to facilitate their own self-healing. The Reiki practitioner is just a channel for the energy.

Lastly, I would like to finish off by clearing up some misconceptions about Reiki or at least Reiki treatments with me:

  • Reiki is not affiliated with any religion
  • I do not receive messages from your loved ones that have passed on
  • I am not a psychic so withholding information such as where you may feel pain to see if I can guess and get it right is not helpful (this happens a lot ?)
  • Reiki has nothing to do with your astrological symbol
  • Reiki has nothing to do with what phase the moon is in
  • Did I mention I am not a psychic?

If you’d like to try Reiki with your next massage just mention it at the time of booking! Click here to view Reiki on our treatments page or if you would like to book, do so by clicking here.

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Kim McLellan

Kim McLellan

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