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By now, chances are high that you’ve fallen victim to the habit of mindlessly scrolling through TikTok for an hour (or two). Deep inside this black hole of entertainment, you might come across a variety of wellness trends from aesthetically-pleasing morning routines to healthy food recipes. One of these new Wellnesstok mainstays goes beyond visual appeal and taps into a much larger spiritual journey: the art of Reiki.
What, exactly, is Reiki?
For those who might not be familiar with Reiki, the practice is a form of energy healing developed by Japanese healer Mikao Usui in 1922. During a Reiki session, a practitioner “channels energy from the universe to support the body’s natural healing abilities,” Reiki master Serena Poon explains. “Reiki healers help guide energy through a person’s body to find balance and harmony.” Energy itself exists on a universal — and scientific — level, but as Jonathan Jarry puts it in a 2019 McGill article, it’s difficult to define. However, he notes that while it can’t be created or destroyed, “it can be transformed or transferred.”
So what does a typical Reiki session look like? “The person being healed lies down, usually in a dark room with a calming atmosphere,” explains Poon. “The practitioner connects to a flow of universal energy, and over the course of about an hour, helps to restore a healthy flow through the person’s body through light touch or floating hands.” Though this may sound a little out-there to some, a 2017 study found that Reiki has impressive potential as a “safe and gentle complementary therapy that activates the parasympathetic nervous system to heal body and mind.”
Could Reiki really help with anxiety?
Even for skeptics, clinical psychologist Dr. Chloe Carmichael M.D. relays that there isn’t really any harm in giving it a try. “If somebody is interested in trying it, then why not?” she says. “I personally have known people that have really felt helped by it, and I’ve also known people that [haven’t]. Because the research is inconclusive, people have to maybe do their own research [to see if] it works for them.” This includes finding the right Reiki practitioner.
“Having seen a couple of different Reiki practitioners myself, some of them I felt were really incredible. Some were not,” she says, noting that this could also be said about psychotherapists. ”For people that are curious, I would also just encourage them to not let one practitioner represent the entire practice to them.”
Is distance Reiki legit?
Though it can be beneficial to physically attend these sessions in person to experience the practice in a soothing environment, distance Reiki has become especially popular as the pandemic continues and the world navigates a more virtual existence. “The idea behind distance Reiki is that energy is not confined to time or space, so can be sent anywhere,” Poon says. “Unlike a massage, you can easily work with someone’s energy centers from afar.” Therefore, a person doesn’t have to be in the same room as someone else to give or receive energy, nor do they even have to be synced in time.
With that said, there are a few things that need to be implemented in order for the energy healing to work. First and foremost, the person sending the energy has to set an intention. “One of the things I say to students is that energy healing is 90 percent intention and 10 percent effort,” Reiki master Song Atthajaroon explains. “So as long as you’re putting the intention out there, the Reiki sends itself.” Though this is especially important for the person sending the energy, it’s also important for the person who is receiving it. “The ones who are more intentional [and say] ‘yes, I’m gonna receive this,’ it becomes more impactful.” That’s why the random TikTok video that pops up on your For You Page might not be as effective: Although the person sending out the Reiki might have set a clear intention — like getting a good night’s sleep or getting rid of negativity — chances are you didn’t open the app with that same singular intention in mind. This is where one-on-one distant Reiki sessions with a practitioner can come in handy: You’re able to cater it more towards your needs.
The other key to successful Reiki — and distance Reiki, specifically — is permission. Mystique Awakening, Reiki master and one of Tiktok’s most popular Reiki content creators with a hefty 1.3 million followers, discussed this in a pinned video from July 2021. She starts by explaining the importance of free will in reiki: if a person is not willing to receive the energy she is sending, they simply will not receive it. “Healing only happens with the amount that you’re able to receive,” she says. She then continues to explain the importance of consent. Even though people who are not open to receiving her Reiki will simply not receive it, she understands that explicit permission may be important to some of her followers. To honor this, she asks for these people to write their consent in the comments on her future videos.