Many of us have heard of Reiki or reflexology, but how many of us know what both holistic treatments are, and how they can benefit our minds and our bodies.
I talked with Reiki Master and reflexologist, Deborah Flanagan, about both treatments and what they can do for us.
MBG: What is Reiki?
DF: Reiki is a hands-on healing technique from Japan and means “transcendent life force.” The practice of Reiki guides this “Ki,” or energy, that surrounds and permeates every living thing. As the practitioner, I place my hands in various positions on or above the client, and act as a channel for the Reiki to move through, clearing and enhancing the energy throughout the client’s body according to whatever he or she needs. During sessions clients often experience a deep feeling of relaxation and warmth.
You may have heard about Reiki through Dr. Mehmet Oz; last year he introduced millions of viewers to Reiki, saying it was the number one alternative therapy to try. (And of course I agree with him!)
When did you first start practicing?
Several years ago I was faced with a health wake-up call. As a result, I incorporated many changes into my life, including taking my first Reiki class. The dramatic difference I felt in my own life made me want to help others, and led me to a major career change. I’d spent over 14 years in the nonprofit sector, where I’d worked as the Director of Development for several arts organizations. A couple years ago, I left my (more than) full-time Development job realizing it was the perfect time to take my business to the next level.
I try to practice what I preach, for me finding balance starts with my health because if I don’t have it I don’t feel like being social, friendly, or loving and that’s just a crime. This is the main reason I started my Reiki and reflexology practice -- to help people find balance in their life and health and be a mentor to those in search.
I love that people feel better after seeing me. When you’re really connected to yourself, that’s the sweetness of life. And I try to help clients sustain this spiritual glow and make easy lifestyle changes to maximize wellness -- whether it's coming to see me for sessions, helping them create an affirmation so they can focus on specific goals, following up with personalized suggestions to help prolong the effects of a session, or sending my e-newsletter with healthy tips.
What's the biggest misconception about Reiki?
One of the biggest misconceptions about Reiki is the idea that the practitioner is using his or her own energy with a client during a session. Reiki is not a tool for the practitioner to guide and control, but rather the practitioner is a tool for the energy to move through. In reality, the practitioner is a conduit for the “Ki” that is all around us and is only helping the client access this energy.
How can Reiki help us? Was there a moment in your experience in your Reiki practice where you said, "Wow, this really works!"?
Reiki is great with so many issues, but I’ve found it particularly helpful (and unique in this regard, compared to other kinds of therapies) with helping clients to connect with their intuition and the big picture of their lives — with such things as relationship or family issues; career changes/job stress; and issues of depression, anxiety, and self-esteem.
You know, one of the things I love about what I do is that I’m constantly amazed by the positive (and sometimes dramatic) responses people have during sessions. To give you a couple of the more extreme examples, I’ve had clients who’ve lost loved ones feel extremely comforted when they felt a deep and powerful connection to the loved one during a session. I also had a client so distraught, angry, and upset about a falling out with a family member that she didn’t want to let go of her anger—in fact she was adamant about it. And yet, the transformation and letting go of anger she felt after the session was shocking (in a good way!).
Another huge plus is that there are no contraindications, which is pretty hard to say for most therapies, alternative and otherwise.
Can you explain reflexology?
Reflexology is based on the idea that a map of the body is reflected on the hands and feet, and by applying pressure to specific points on the feet you can affect various organs and parts of the body. Reflexology balances the nervous system by stimulating the nerve endings of the feet, which connect with the spinal nerves and their corresponding organs. It works with the circulatory system breaking up congestion and deposits in the feet, which helps detoxify the body.
One thing that sets reflexology apart from other therapies is that it’s an all-encompassing treatment since all organs, glands, and the skeletal system can be stimulated through the feet and hands. Another is that I can give clients personalized self-help reflex exercises to do between sessions (it only takes a minute or two a day and the results can be impressive).
Reflexology was used with athletes at the most recent U.S. Olympic trials, and in Japan and Denmark it’s a component of the employee health programs of several large corporations saving each company thousands of dollars annually in paid sick leave. Hopefully this is the wave of the future for companies in the U.S.!
How can refloxology help us?
Although as a Reiki practitioner and reflexologist I never diagnose or prescribe, in my experience, clients have found reflexology helpful in dealing with back/shoulder/neck pain, all things reproductive (PMS, fertility, pregnancy/labor, menopause), digestive issues, depression/anxiety, and insomnia. I also work with many athletes and dancers, who’ve found reflexology helpful in improving their performance.
How do Reiki/reflexology relate to each other?
I chose the combination of Reiki and reflexology because of how they complement each other. While there’s a lot of overlap, Reiki is particularly good with mental/emotional issues and reflexology is great at dealing with anything involving the physical body. I believe healing begins with the mind and Reiki can support this, and reflexology can support the physical body in a very immediate way. And that’s what it’s all about—-my motto is “Balance Equals True Health”—-Reiki and reflexology’s synergistic combination reduces stress (which is attributed to 80% of all disease), enhances the body's ability to heal itself, and balances body and soul.
What's one unexpected benefit of either treatment?
Clients often ask me what I notice or pick up during their session and I’m always hesitant to answer, because while I’m happy to make personalized recommendations to help them maximize wellness, being connected to their own inner wisdom is even more powerful and helpful. Nine times out of 10 clients gain clarity on what they need to do to make positive change in their lives.
Any advice for someone who's considering either?
I usually suggest to new clients to have an open mind. I would also advise to try more than one session, because it has cumulative benefits; I want clients to assess if this is working for them or not, try three sessions and then really evaluate. Also remember acute conditions tend to balance faster than chronic ones.