Reiki 靈氣 (ray-key) is a Japanese healing art of channeling energy

through the palms of the hands.

Reiki 靈氣 roughly translates to “universal life force” (1) and rests on the belief that there’s an energy that exists in and around all things. It originated in the 1920s when Mikao Usui sensei wanted to understand how religious leaders were able to heal through the power of touch. The teachings and practices of Reiki 靈氣 were revealed to Usui sensei after a 21-day meditation on Mt. Kurama in Kyoto, and the descendants have since shared Reiki 靈氣 all over the world.

For each Reiki Works session, the client lies fully-clothed on a massage table as the practitioner places their hands in specific positions on the body (see images at the bottom of the page). The practitioner’s hands tend to become quite warm, and people generally fall asleep, or feel deeply relaxed and meditative. Some people sense waves of buzzing energy through their body.

These waves of energy are improving the body’s natural healing processes, by cleansing it of Byosen. According to Tadao Yamaguchi, “The word Byosen consists of two characters - Byo and Sen. Byo means ill or toxic. Sen means a ‘lump,’ which disturbs the flow of the body and the flow of energy. So the word Byosen means a lump of toxins, which creates a blockage causing all the flows to stagnate, leading to a poor internal environment from which we are prone to develop an illness...More specifically Byosen describes the areas that accumulate toxins” (73, Yamaguchi). In essence, Reiki is used to cleanse and clear the body of those (physical and emotional) toxins.

People have come to Reiki Works for a variety of reasons: chronic low back pain, insomnia, sprained ankle, post knee-surgery, asthma, sinus infections, chronic bronchitis, work-related injuries, body weight insecurities, PTSD, imposter syndrome, life transitions like a move or death or heartbreak, a time to relax away from the kids, sexual trauma, and more.

In essence, Reiki 靈氣 is like acupuncture without the needles: a deep energetic massage. It vitalizes the body’s natural healing processes, releases stress and pain, and fosters mental, physical, and emotional well-being and balance.


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  1. According to Masaki Nishina in Reiki and Japan: A Cultural View of Western and Japanese Reiki:

    “The word 靈氣 (Reiki) is not necessarily always related to living things so translating it as universal life force, while not wrong per se, is not accurate as an explanation of the word” (36, Nishina). 

    He goes on to say: “The full name for Reiki is Shin-shin Kaizen Usui Reiki Ryou-ho (心 身 改 善 臼 井 靈 氣 療 法) where Shin-shin (心 身) means ‘mind & body’, Kaizen (改 善) means ‘to improve’, Reiki (靈氣) means ‘invisible energy with miraculous power’, and Ryou-ho (療 法) means ‘therapy’” (31, Reiki and Japan). Essentially, the full name for Reiki translates to the “Usui Reiki Therapy for Improving Body and Mind.” 

    Tadao Yamaguchi in his book, Light on the Origins of Reiki, goes into more depth describing the kanji characters of the word  靈氣 Reiki:

    “When we analyze [the word 靈氣 (Reiki)] more closely we can also find an interesting message. The character 靈 is divided into parts and each part has its meaning. The top part of the character 靈 consists of [kanji characters] that mean rainfall. The ancient Chinese knew that rain was indispensable for agriculture so it was regarded as a blessing from the universe. In the lower part [of the first character] you will find [three squares.] Each square-looking character signifies a mouth or a container (utsuwa - [means] a body with mouths). So the top two parts symbolize receiving divine energy into our body (as a container) through our mouths. The bottom part [of the first character 靈] indicates a medium, someone who serves the gods and brings us messages from the divine... The other part of the character, 氣 (ki), [has a star-shape at the bottom, which] shows the radiation of energy. The meaning of the [star-shaped] character itself is important as well. [It] means rice, which is a source of energy especially in Asian countries.” (117, Yamaguchi).

Recommended Resources on Reiki

  • Borang, Kajsa Krishni. Principles of Reiki. Revised Edition, Singing Dragon: London. 2013.

  • Brown, Fran. Living Reiki: Takata’s Teachings. LifeRythm: Mendocino, CA. 1992.

  • Hayashi, Chujiro, Petter, Frank Arjava, and Yamaguchi, Tadao. The Hayashi Reiki Manual: Traditional Japanese Healing Techniques from the Founder of the Western Reiki System. Lotus Press, WA, 2003.

  • Nishina, Masaki. Reiki and Japan: A Cultural View of Western and Japanese Reiki. Edited by, Amanda Jayne, San Bernandino, CA, 2017.

  • Stein, Justin. “Usui Reiki Ryoho.” https://wrldrels.org/2017/01/24/reiki-japan/. 16 November 2016.

  • Yamaguchi, Tadao. Light on the Origins of Reiki: A Handbook for Practicing Reiki of Usui and Hayashi. Translated by Ikuko Hirota, Lotus Press, WA, 2007.

I always welcome your questions, comments, praises, concerns, musings, curiosities.
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All photography provided by JMT Photography