What’s Reiki? I didn’t know either, so I tried it.

If you wanted a quick answer to the question, Reiki is, quite literally: “a healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body and restore physical and emotional well-being.”

But if you came here, you’re probably wondering what Reiki is actually like, and whether or not it works.

So let me tell  you about my experience with Reiki in Thailand–which, I know, is not Japan where Reiki originates from, but nonetheless! I’m always down for stress reduction and trying out any an every beauty/wellness treatment I can get my hands on in Asia. So, here we go:


Introduction to Reiki:

I think it’s more accurate to say that Reiki is a technique for stress reduction and relaxation that can *possibly* promote healing. According to reiki.org, Reiki is “administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.” (source) What really happens–in the physical world–is a Reiki master hovers over or lightly touches your entire body, through different parts of your body.

The ability to learn Reiki is not taught, but rather “transferred” from teacher to student during a class. The transferred skill allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of “life force energy”.

Reiki is not a religion, but rather a way of living in harmony (similar to many practices in Asia).

In any case, this is all news to me, because when I went to my Reiki treatment, I decided to book the appointment and try the treatment without any prior knowledge of the treatment, methodology, or expected results. I didn’t want to be prepped, because this could sway my perception of the outcome or effectiveness of the treatment. Limiting placebo effect is very important when trying to review a procedure.

Introduction to Reiki – My Experience

Like I said, I walked up to a spa and booked the Reiki treatment, without doing anything but reading the 1 sentence description about the service. They booked me for the next day; the master said she needed to prepare for my treatment.

“Ok!” I shrugged. “See you tomorrow.”

Remember, this is not the first Asian wellness treatment I’ve walked into unprepared. I was basically tricked into trying cupping the first time, and ended up loving it. It’s now a staple in my wellness regimen.

The next day, I showed up early. The Reiki master handed me some strangely sweet tea and told me to wait a few minutes.

Another tourist had walked in, attempting to book treatment, but needed to confer with his wife. When his phone call with her started stretching from 5 to 10 to 20 minutes, the master interrupted him rather abruptly and asked, “What would you like to book? I need to know now.”

I was just as surprised as he was. He picked a time and left.

“After your treatment begins, I need to focus. I can’t be interrupted. Now that he’s gone, I’m locking the doors.”

No more customers for the day. Just like that.

This was all new to me; in China and even Thailand, I was accustomed to masseuse’s texting on their phones intermittently during the massage. Not professional in the least, but pretty standard. I occasionally text or answer my phone during a massage, too. People text while riding their bikes. I’m pretty sure that’s just Asia. Life waits for no one.

She sat me down and told me a little bit about the treatment, “Reiki is not like a traditional massage. It’s just light touching. Try to relax and keep your mind clear. You may feel some heat or cold, some energy or tiredness, and it will flow up and down throughout the treatment. Just breathe slowly as I lightly touch areas of your body and feel your different chakras and energy flow.”

I nodded my head and smiled.

“Where do you feel pain?” she asked.

“Nowhere in particular. I work on the computer all day, so maybe my neck? My boyfriend says I hunch over like a turtle when I’m concentrating.”

The Reiki Master advised me to lay down on my stomach on a massage bed and wait for her. The entire studio was silent.

After 5 minutes, she came and began lightly pressing my body, area by area, starting from the head, down the shoulders and back, then each leg one at a time. The process was slow, thorough.

I didn’t feel any heat or cool. As she pressed lightly–and I mean lightly, as in barely touching–through my arms, my body just felt numb. Really, really numb. I couldn’t move my arms or legs even if I wanted to. They wouldn’t listen to me.

The tiredness did wane in and out through the treatment, as it does when you receive a massage. It’s difficult to stay focused and relaxed–but not feel sleepy–throughout an hour-long treatment.

After a half hour, she had me flip over onto my back.

She spent a little time on my legs and stomach, but then came to rest around my jaw and eyes. For the next twenty minutes, the Reiki master cupped by chin with both hands and lightly pressed under my jawline, near my lymph nodes. She alternated this with cupping over my eyes.

5 minutes was ok.

10 was fine, I suppose.

At the 15 minute mark, I felt like a cat trying to scramble up a tree away from a chasing dog. I was massively uncomfortable. I began shaking my legs a bit, then I’d rest and try to recenter for a few seconds, but as the uncomfortable feeling mounted, I began to shake my legs again. I wanted to jump off the massage table!

My bowels were also rejecting this spa service; they began moving and shifting, urging me to get up NOW. Heavy inhaling and exhaling was all that kept me sane throughout this treatment.

When she finally stopped feeling my eyes, I let out a big sigh of relief.

“You’re done!” she said.

“Great!” I said and rushed to the bathroom.

Back in the lobby, my boyfriend was more eager to hear the results than I was. “So what did you find!?” he asked the Reiki Master eagerly.

“Her body is good. The only problem area I found was the top of her back, just under her neck, where I can feel she has a lot of pain. Also, her eyes. I don’t know what problem, but maybe she should look away from her computer every hour and look at nature, some trees, something green. The head chakra is supposed to be blue, but when I felt her energy, it was red.”

I inquired further into this blue-red thing, but she didn’t have much more to say.

She suggested I use a small flat stone and place it on my forehead–just above the area where your brows would meet–and do some deep breathing every time I start to feel a headache or eye pain coming on.

As we left the studio, my boyfriend said, “Do you believe it? Isn’t it amazing?!”

“I just have to learn more,” I said.

Takeaways: Introduction to Reiki

Well, all I can say is.. it wasn’t magical.

I also won’t write Reiki off.

I do have problems with my eyes. What problems? My doctors don’t know yet and they won’t confer together to figure it out. I’m nearsighted (who isn’t?) but the real issue is aniscoria, or uneven pupil sizes. Unfortunately, David Bowie is not my true aniscoria twin, because my aniscoria comes and goes–almost on a daily basis. It’s not consistent, neither is the pupil that’s larger or smaller. Really freaks everyone out (I’m talking about my doctors, here) but it could be completely harmless; I’m just really hoping it’s not a brain tumor or something.

Overall, I would say Reiki could be beneficial (or not! still not sure), but getting the full benefits of Reiki would require more knowledge and understanding of the practice and origins, as well as regular check-ins with your Reiki Master.

It was a really cool experience that kind of made me worry about my eye health again, but hey–her suggestions weren’t all bad. I do need to take more breaks from my computer/phone and perhaps this experience will encourage me to do just that.

Have you tried Reiki? What did you think? (+ What did I miss?)


Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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