What is Reiki?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

There are many books, papers and working groups around the world contributing to such definitions and descriptors. The following FAQ should therefore be regarded as 'Work in Progress':

What is Reiki?

Mikao Usui
Dr Mikao Usui

Reiki Definition

Reiki as defined by the Oxford English dictionary is:-

“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”.

It is however, also widely accepted that reiki can be given and received equally effectively hands-off or via distant healing. 

The Japanese word ‘Reiki’ literally translates as universal life force energy. This system of healing was developed by Mikao Usui in the early 20th century. It is a non-invasive complementary therapy that has been taught and used in the UK since the late 1900s, but Eastern medicine has for thousands of years worked with this energy, recognising its flow through all living things. Reiki supports orthodox medicine or can be used alone but is not a replacement for traditional medication or treatments. It is not based on any belief, faith or suggestion, yet, scientific research using quantum physics is starting to help us to understand how reiki may work to benefit the individual. It has been suggested that in years to come it may be known as energy medicine based on scientifically measurable energy emitted from the healer’s hands.

Reiki is given fully clothed in a quiet environment and is safe for adults, children, mothers–to–be, babies and animals. However in the case of animals with health issues, owners should confirm that the animal has been seen by a veterinary surgeon to obtain a diagnosis. Reiki practitioners must not diagnose the health problem.

It is highly recommended that practitioners are members of recognised a professional organisation with strict Codes of Ethics and hold Practitioner Insurance.

Scientific research findings may help us to understand how reiki works

There is much to learn and more research is necessary before a definitive explanation can be given, but research is producing very interesting results:-

• When giving reiki, practitioners have been shown to emit electro-magnetic or bio-magnetic energy from their hands. The frequencies of the energy emitted vary from one moment to the next; but many appear to correspond to those that medical researchers have identified as being the optimum frequencies for stimulating the healing process in tissues, bones and other body parts so far investigated.

• The bio-magnetic energy (or field) flowing from a practitioner’s hands has been shown to induce current flows in the tissues and cells of individuals who are in close proximity but this pulsing energy is not produced by non-practitioners of energy healing techniques.

Two ways in which these pulsing magnetic fields may stimulate repair of bone and other tissues include:-
• A cascade of reactions takes place from the cell surface to the cytoplasm and on to the nucleus and genes, where selective effects on the DNA have been documented.
• A phenomenon called amplification, in which a single hormone molecule, neurotransmitter or photon of electromagnetic energy has been shown to trigger a cellular response; and in fact very tiny fields have been shown to produce the best effects, suggesting that living tissues are much more sensitive to external fields than previously considered possible.
NB: A bio-magnetic field can also be created by passing electric currents though living tissue as has been used for medical diagnoses and treatments for almost a century for example in ECG & MRI scanning.

Reiki is often referred to as an intelligent form of healing. It is suggested that this and similar energy therapies may be valuable in the prevention and remission of some serious diseases that are so costly in terms of human suffering and likely to be more expensive to health care in the future.

One  theory is that energy healing works by opening up the communication channels that enable cells in the body to talk to each other, and opening up the terrain through which cells are able to migrate to places where they are needed to initiate repair or to fight diseases. Another is that these methods help to calm the person so their immune functions can operate smoothly.

Reiki is activated by intention and requires practitioners to calm their minds and thus open up their communication channels to understand where healing is most required on the body and for how long to caringly help the person or animal concerned.

Visualisation techniques can also be embodied as an element of reiki treatments at a professional practising level, which also creates measurable electrical and magnetic fields and so can enhance its effectiveness.

What are the Benefits?

Illness can be a time of great stress. Reiki can help us cope by encouraging relaxation and bringing balance to both mind and emotions.

Benefits reported by Clients/Patients of our Practitioner members include deep relaxation, promoting a calm, peaceful sense of well being on all levels.

Reiki encourages and supports positive personal choices, such as improving diet, taking more exercise, devoting time for rest or leisure activities, and may reduce the need for alcohol and tobacco. Engendering greater inner harmony and balance, regular Reiki treatments promote a calmer response to life’s challenges.

Reiki’s gentle energy is easily adapted to most medical conditions and may be used safely by people of all ages, including the newborn, pregnant mothers, surgical patients, the frail and the elderly, in any situation.

Being complementary, Reiki works effectively alongside orthodox healthcare and natural remedies, expanding treatment options.

Note: Reiki is being used in various settings including private practice, complementary therapy centres, GP surgeries, hospitals, hospices, cancer support groups, post-operative recovery, drug rehabilitation, prisons, HIV/AIDS centres, and in the care of the elderly.
(See Reiki Pioneers (members only).)

What Happens During A Session?

A Reiki treatment is non-diagnostic, non-interventionist, non-manipulative and no pressure is applied.

A session is usually carried out with the recipient lying down or sitting, in a comfortable and peaceful environment. There is no need to remove any clothing as Reiki energy passes easily through all materials, including plaster casts.

The Practitioner places their hands gently on or over the body; there is no massage or manipulation. Reiki can also be given over a distance.

Reiki may be experienced as a flow of energy, mild tingling, warmth, coolness, other sensations, or nothing at all.

Length of Reiki sessions may vary, but are usually half to one hour in duration.

The Practitioner will take a short case history prior to discussing treatment options. A treatment plan will be discussed and agreed with you, and reviewed as necessary. This will always be subject to your own preferences, and can be changed at any time in line with progress.

How Often do I Need to Have a Treatment?

Even one single Reiki session can make a difference; however a course of regular treatments may be more effective. These may be weekly, fortnightly or less often depending on the needs of the individual. A treatment plan will be discussed with you, and reviewed as necessary. This will always be subject to your own preferences, and can be changed at any time according to progress.


Reiki does not take the place of conventional medicine. Always consult a GP for an acute or infectious condition, and problems of urgent concern.

What is a lineage?

A lineage is the line of teaching that your teacher has been trained in, similar to a family tree. A teacher's lineage reflects the information that the teacher will be passing on to the student. Therefore, different lineages will have different techniques, philosophies and understandings of working with the system of Reiki. Some lineages even have different histories.

For more see About Lineages and Tracing Service.

end faq


See also:

Index of all FAQs on this website