Stress Less, Stress Relief

What the Heck is Reiki? A Primer on the Healing Practice Everyone’s Talking About


By Emma Stessman

Reiki was once deep into the “woo-woo” category of wellness.

Now, it’s inching towards the mainstream. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz have reportedly been participating in the energy healing practice and Kelsey Patel can literally be seen practicing reiki on reality show Vanderpump Rules.

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Despite the increase in attention, there’s still a lot of mystery around what reiki is, likely because at the core of the practice is an esoteric Eastern philosophy: a belief in “energy” within the body and the world around you. Reiki, in Japanese, literally translates to “universal life energy,” Lisa Levine, the founder of the beautiful Brooklyn healing center Maha Rose, explains.

“I like to call [reiki], a combing out of the energetic body,” Levine says. “The same way you need to comb your hair or brush your teeth, the energetic body can also get funked up or get kinks or little sticky things. So you need to ‘comb’ it out.”

Since this idea of  ‘energy’ isn’t supported by Western science, it can be a tough concept to grasp. We tapped Levine to elaborate on the practice and how you might benefit from a session.


What is Reiki?

Essentially, reiki practitioners believe that universal energy is  “a very high vibrational, unconditionally loving, and light energy,” Levine explains. “It’s the same energy that allows the grass to grow and the wind to blow.” Reiki masters, or people who have received the reiki “attunements,” are able to channel this energy both for the benefit of healing themselves and others.

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“With reiki, you’re introducing this high vibration energy, and then anything that isn’t of that vibration is going to come to the surface to be released,” Levine says. “Through the introduction of the reiki energy, things that aren’t in alignment will reveal themselves.”

Levine says it’s like shining a flashlight into your closet. If you shine it on the deepest corners, you might find a sweater you forgot you had or a letter from an ex you stashed years ago. With reiki, things like unresolved emotional wounds, grudges you didn’t realize were still holding, or simple realizations like the fact that you work too much, can come to the surface and enter your consciousness.

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What You Can Expect From a Session

Most reiki sessions at Maha Rose last about an hour to an hour and a half.  “Generally you’re going to be laying down, fully clothed, in a comfortable position—usually on a massage table—and you’re going to receive hands-on touch,” Levine says. The reiki practitioner will lightly touch areas like your head, shoulders, and torso to introduce the energy into your body. Occasionally, Levine says, there might be talking portion beforehand where you can air out any stressors or problems in your life, but it’s not necessary, and not all practitioners will do this.

During the session, you’ll likely feel super relaxed, and you might even fall asleep (which Levine says is totally normal, BTW). However, in order for it to work, you need to be an active participant in the process. “There’s a misconception that the [practitioner] is doing all the work and they’re going to heal you,” Levine says. “You are an active participant––even if the action is that you’re actively receiving and just being present for the session.”

The Possible Benefits of Reiki

“Anyone who’s stressed out [will benefit from reiki]… which, I would say is probably 90 percent of New York City,” Levine says (and the country?). “Also anyone who is suffering from anxiety or depression––reiki is really great for mental and emotional imbalances.”

Again, there isn’t much scientific research yet that can prove those benefits, but many major medical centers do offer it as a complementary treatment for patients dealing with pain management and the side effects (including stress) of treatments like chemotherapy.

There are no side effects, either, so you can decide whether or not the idea of reiki speaks to you based on whatever it is you need help with.

“At the very least,” Levine says. “Most people leave feeling very relaxed.” And that’s definitely something we could all use, right?

(Photos: Shutterstock)

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