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What Is Reiki? And How Is It Different To Other Therapies?

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Two hands together, palms up
Healing Hands

Introduction: The meteoric rise of Reiki

Since it was first introduced to mainland USA, in the post-WW2 years by one of the pioneering giants in Reiki, Hawayo Takata (a US citizen, born in Hawaii, who was inspired to share Reiki with the world after receiving Reiki for a health condition, in Japan), Reiki has exploded in popularity amongst people regardless of cultural, social or financial position, and enjoyed celebrity endorsement in the US from such names as Danny Kaye, and possibly Aldous Huxley. In recent times, Reiki has come back into the public eye, with celebrities like singers Erykah Badu training as a Reiki Master. The singer Christina Aguilera, and Gwyneth Paltrow (actor & owner of the spiritual lifestyle brand “Goop”), are also reported as having spoken about receiving Reiki treatments.

On the other side of the media fence from A-list celebrities, some Religious organisations have recently been making public statements on the subject of Reiki.

The Church of England has spoken out against Reiki, and representatives of the Catholic Church (in the United States), and in Ireland have also issued statements warning against using Reiki, and likening it to “Satanism” and talking about it doing harm, although despite the sensationalist narrative and rhetoric being bandied about, Reiki has been popular with many individual Christians and local congregations since Hawayo Takata first shared Reiki with Christian students, in the USA – and some Catholic nuns have apparently trained as Reiki Master Teachers with the full support (moral and financial) of their local congregations.

So.... What is Reiki? Reiki is a form of Energy Work, which uses qi (chi / ch'i / ki) just as acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology and other therapists do. Many of the techniques employed by Reiki practitioners are also used in other Complementary therapies as well. So why are some religious organisations singling Reiki out? Read on to find out more about the possible reasons, and historical context affecting the perceptions around Reiki, in the United Kingdom, and further afield.

Love it or hate it, it's pretty safe to say that Reiki has become a household name!

Reiki’s growing acceptance by the scientific & medical communities

But let’s just step away from the backlash of organised religion, and the high-profile accounts of A-list celebrities for a moment. Reiki has been making waves in other areas of mainstream society; quietly, outside the spotlight, and having a seriously positive effect. Did you know that Reiki has actually been steadily growing in credibility and acceptance by mainstream Traditional Medicine in the United States and United Kingdom? It’s actually possible to receive Reiki on some Health Insurance plans, as well as to be referred to a Reiki practitioner by your GP.

Interestingly, whilst some of the more old-fashioned “establishment” figures in the West, have been pouring scorn on Reiki as a practice and a therapy, and attempting to position it as quackery at best, and dabbling with the forces of evil, at worst (lol!!! My apologies - I couldn’t keep a straight face there); or as unregulated, unscientific and unreliable; these colourful opinions are never backed up by fact, whereas the Reiki Community has quietly been doing the work - Professionalising itself, gaining recognition and accreditation, and working with the scientists, government regulators and National Health Service, to bring a Therapy which has its origins in Buddhism and Shinto, into a respected position, working in tandem with Healthcare Providers in Hospitals, Clinics and Palliative Care and more, in mainstream Western society.

What is Reiki?

Scientific Proof of Reiki

The fact is that scientists have been carrying out a plethora of scientific, professional, scholarly studies into the effects of Reiki, as well as using technology to see what happens during Reiki sessions (studies measuring radiation/bio-electricity coming from Reiki practitioners’ hands during treatments, for example).

In one recent notable example in 2018, a series of experiments was carried, out to measure and photograph the effects that Reiki has on the molecular crystalline structure of ordinary, bottled, Swiss tap water. In the photos before, taken from the Reiki Academy London Ltd website, you can clearly see the change that the Reiki energy has made to the water, on a molecular level. Reiki Master Teacher, UK Reiki Federation Committee member & Research Co-ordinator, and Hay House Author Torsten Lange, who carried out these experiments at the only specialist lab of its kind, in Switzerland, has shared the extraordinary results of this series of experiments online (images below).

The crystalline structure of tap water - crystals mostly connecting at right angles or separate
Before Reiki (image 2018 from
The crystalline structure of tap water after Reiki - forming several star-like shapes
After Reiki (image 2018 from

Scientific testing and studies in the field of Reiki have been ongoing for at least 12 years - since at least 2010. The UK Reiki Federation has an objective “to provide more information on the type of research that can provide… evidence” to win acceptance of Reiki from scientists and medical professionals. So there is, in fact, a wealth of robust, evidence-based research on the positive and measurable effects of Reiki. Scientists may not be able to explain Reiki, but we do know that Reiki is observable and has measurable (positive) effects – at least one study noted that the effects of Reiki are better than a placebo. Therefore, I would assert, Reiki exists, and it works.

The Benefits and effects of Reiki

Reiki has been shown to have the following effects and benefits:

  • Encouraging relaxation;

  • Bringing balance to the mind and emotions;

  • Feelings of peace, and/or of being uplifted;

  • Promoting a calm, peaceful sense of wellbeing;

  • Encouraging positive lifestyle changes;

  • A greater inner harmony and balance;

  • Greater emotional resilience;

So what’s behind the fact that Reiki is mistrusted and judged out of hand by some?

That’s an interesting question. Why does this stigma/prejudice against Reiki (described above) still persist? Is it simply because the conservative tabloid media likes to have a cause célèbre to rail against on slow news days? Or because some of their less open-minded audience have a mistrust of things they can’t easily explain, and haven’t experienced for themselves?

It’s quite true that Reiki is difficult to explain, and to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it before. Maybe this is partly why some people remain mistrustful of Reiki and have negative theories and narratives. However, it should be said that Meditation has some of the same types of effect as Reiki (although meditation generally requires practice, patience and the right teacher to move past the “monkey chatter” of the brain), and yet Meditation tends to be easily understood in light of its Eastern origins. So why not Reiki too?