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Reiki 101: What Is It & Will I Love It?

Margarita Alcantara, LAc
Licensed Acupuncturist & Reiki Master By Margarita Alcantara, LAc
Licensed Acupuncturist & Reiki Master
Margarita Alcantara, LAc is a licensed acupuncturist, Reiki master/teacher, and medicine woman based in New York City.

When I first set out to learn Reiki nearly 10 years ago, it was to heal my heart after a devastating heartbreak. My journey brought me to Hawaii, where a kahuna, more commonly known as a shaman, told me that my next step toward recovery was to learn Reiki. I had no idea what Reiki was, or how it worked, but I was desperate for any salve to help me find my way back to self-love and wellbeing.

Since then, Reiki has been powerfully instrumental in helping me regain my inner strength. I liken it to a soul massage. Much like how a regular massage can smooth out the kinks in the muscles and fascia, and acupuncture can rebalance the body's energy — Reiki smooths out the kinks in the soul. It can help clear out blocked energy pathways, promoting equilibrium in the body and a sense of feeling grounded, with a deeper connection to the true self.

I'm an acupuncturist and a certified Reiki master, so I enjoy performing Reiki on some of my patients. I always love hearing how it has profoundly changed the quality of their lives for the better.

So if you are new to Reiki, or have experienced it before but still don't quite understand it — here are three questions I often get asked:

1. What is Reiki?

Reiki is a healing technique that was developed by the Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui, in 1922. “Rei” is defined as the all-knowing divine universal, and “Ki” is the energy that animates all living things, flowing through everything that is alive (including plants, animals, and humans). It is used all over the world by people of many different faiths, cultures, and spiritual paths.

Reiki is an energy healing modality, where the practitioner acts as a conduit for universal energy, in order to rebalance and clear blockages in the chakras, or energy centers.

Reiki uses “hands-on” and also “hands-off” healing, that can assist in relieving or reducing pain and discomfort by balancing the body’s energy centers, or chakras. It is a natural process that supports relaxation and healing by removing blocks to the flow of energy in your body, facilitating balance and support on all levels. When the energy flow in your body is restored and/or balanced, you are more likely to feel relaxed and your body’s natural healing abilities are utilized.

The reason why Reiki can be so powerful and effective is because it infuses your chakras and your body with the energy of the universe. Your body takes exactly what it needs at that point in time, and the Reiki practitioner’s role is to act as a channel of universal energy to help facilitate that healing, so that the body can heal itself. When you infuse Reiki into areas of the body that are energetically or physically weak, the healing process can begin as your body allows itself to fully release.

2. What should I expect during a Reiki session?

Although different Reiki practitioners may have their own way of conducting a Reiki session, most practitioners will consult with their patient before performing a Reiki treatment. Not only does this build a connection between practitioner and patient, but it also helps the practitioner learn what the patient would like to address during the session.

My initial consultations allow time to explore the issues that will come up during treatment, and themes and patterns that may need to be healed. I often find that my patient's chakras become very “vocal” as to what areas need the most attention. Patients often find that the communication and consultation prior to receiving Reiki treatment are healing within themselves!

After the consultation/assessment, Reiki usually begins with the patient lying on the table, and the practitioner grounding his or herself in silence at one side of the table. During this time, we practitioners invoke with the universe that we are a clear channel of Reiki energy, and that our spirit guides and higher selves are fully present.

We also invoke that the patient’s spirit guides and higher self are also present, and that the Reiki session is for the greatest good of everyone involved, resulting in a safe space for the patient to be fully open to receiving Reiki energy. The last part of this invocation is very important, particularly because you are opening yourself up energetically, so it's important that you and the practitioner are energetically protected.

Reiki symbols, which are like keys to the higher mind or consciousness, each have their own purpose. These symbols are only made useful to the practitioner once they are properly attuned. Reiki symbols can either be drawn physically, or inside the minds' eye, prior to performing the Reiki session.

During the Reiki session, which is a full body experience, you may feel warmth, coolness, traveling of energy throughout the body, or simply feel total relaxation. I find that some people who are more visual, may experience colors or visuals. Others may take a nap. Conscious or not, the universal energy is working optimally.

I usually begin my Reiki sessions at the top of the head and end at the feet, making my way through each chakra throughout the session. There are major chakras and minor chakras, and I go through each one, and may take some extra time in an area that needs special attention.

When I’m done, my light touch on the shoulder signifies the end of the treatment. I then check in with my patient to see how they’re feeling, and if they felt any new or different sensations in their bodies. I then share any guidance or feedback I may have picked up during the session.

3. How do I choose a Reiki practitioner?

Just like any other profession, there are great Reiki practitioners, and not-so-great Reiki practitioners. Be sure to follow your intuition, because your intuition will never steer you the wrong way. When you’re dealing with energy work, it’s important to find a practitioner with whom you resonate, and feel trust. Check out their website and bios, if they are available.

For example:

  • What are your Reiki sessions like?
  • What can I expect during a Reiki treatment with you?
  • How can Reiki help me with my health concern?
  • What level of Reiki practitioner are you? (Depending on the style taught, there can be up to 4 levels of Reiki training, and it's recommended to receive professional Reiki treatments from those who are at least Level II Reiki practitioner.)

It would also be helpful to check out their testimonials, if they’re available, and read their Yelp profiles and reviews, if they have them. But what it really comes down to is trusting your instinct, and finding a practitioner with whom you feel comfortable.

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