Beginner’s Guide to Reiki – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Reiki is a great healing practice that has helped many people relieve physical and emotional pain. However, it can be difficult for beginners to understand what it’s all about and how it works.

Reiki is an alternative therapy that uses energy to heal the body. It originated in Japan in the late 1800s and is still prevalent today. Reiki practitioners move their hands over their clients’ bodies to remove blockages in their energy during a session, permitting these areas to heal.

Please keep reading to learn everything there’s to know about Reiki, including what it is, how it works, and who does it. We’ll also discuss the symbols and techniques used in Reiki, its various advantages and disadvantages, and what clients can expect during their first Reiki session.

What Is Reiki?

Reiki is an alternative therapy in which energy is used to heal the body. Reiki healers believe that energy blockages occur throughout the body, especially in areas where people experience physical or emotional pain.

To remedy this, healers lay their hands on or above their patients, allowing them to direct the energy flow in their bodies. These adjustments redirect the stagnant energy, thereby enabling these areas to heal.

Advocates of Reiki energy therapy believe it can be used to treat a wide variety of physical, emotional, and mental disorders. While there is limited scientific evidence proving Reiki’s effectiveness, many people who have undergone Reiki healing say it has helped them in unimaginable ways.

Origins of Reiki

Reiki originated in Japan during the late 1800s. It was founded by Mikao Usui, who was a Japanese man interested in religion, history, and medicinal practices. During his early adulthood, Usui traveled worldwide to learn everything he could about healing.

In the early 1920s, Usui decided to become a Buddhist priest. He lived in a monastery where he continued to study theology and healing systems.

During this time, Usui traveled to Mount Kurama to participate in a 21-day fast and prayer. Advocates of Reiki believe that while Usui was meditating in a cave on the mountain, he had a spiritual awakening, and Reiki was revealed to him.

After his discovery, Usui established a clinic and school in Kyoto where he taught others about Reiki. Reiki quickly spread in popularity as people recognized its tremendous healing power. Throughout the rest of the 1920s, Usui taught several healers about Reiki to make sure the world wouldn’t forget it after he passed on.

One of these healers was Dr. Hayashi, who became a master in Reiki healing. He refined several of the healing techniques and trained many masters himself, including a Japanese-American woman named Hawayo Takata.

After she mastered Reiki, she returned to the United States. This began the spread of Reiki throughout the Western world.

Beginners Guide to Reiki

How Reiki Works

As a general rule, Reiki works by channeling energy into the client. This improves the energy flow inside the client and opens up chakras that can influence emotions and relieve physical pain.

Reiki advocates often relate it to acupuncture in that practitioners can direct energy into their client’s bodies to encourage healing and relieve pain. However, Reiki differs from acupuncture in that no needles are placed into the body. Instead, Reiki healers use their hands to channel energy from a universal energy source into their clients’ bodies.

This transmission improves the energy flow inside the clients, which removes any blockages. This process also opens up blocked chakras, energy centers in the body that influence people’s emotions and physical health.

The exact mechanism through which the energy is transferred from the healer to the client is unknown. Some believe that it is through an electromagnetic energy transfer.

Others think that there is no energy transfer at all. Instead, they believe Reiki promotes relaxation, which reduces stress and encourages healing. While the exact energy transfer process is unknown, many people still benefit from Reiki and advocate for its excellent healing benefits.

Who Can Become a Reiki Healer?

Anyone can become a Reiki practitioner because it is not legally regulated. Unlike other therapists and healthcare professionals, no licenses, training, or credentials are required to become a Reiki healer. It is also not required for Reiki practitioners to have any medical training.

However, within the art of Reiki, there are requirements for becoming a master healer. Students of Reiki are required to learn about Reiki from a master.

The master will walk the students through three levels of Reiki training. Once they finish the third level, the students can become masters and train others in Reiki.

Levels of Reiki

There are three levels of Reiki. The 1st level is Shoden, where students learn to connect to the Reiki energy. The 2nd is Okuden, where students learn the first 3 Reiki symbols and can begin healing others. The 3rd is called Shinpiden, where students master Reiki and can attune others to the Reiki energy.

Below, we will go over the levels of Reiki and what healers learn during each stage. We’ll also discuss each level’s attunement ceremony, when Reiki masters pass energy to their students, permitting them to channel Reiki. Each time students are attuned, they can channel energy more efficiently, granting them more extraordinary healing powers.


The first level of Reiki, called Shoden in Japanese, is open to anyone interested in Reiki. Students learn how to connect their energy with the universe’s energy during this level. They also start using Reiki’s energy healing powers on themselves to heal their physical and emotional ailments. Lastly, students learn the history of energy healing and why Reiki differs from other alternative therapy forms.

During the first attunement ceremony, students are attuned to Reiki energy. Once this ceremony occurs, they will have Reiki energy within them for the rest of their lives.


Level two of Reiki, also called Okuden in Japanese, permits students to channel energy deeper. Students also learn about the first three Reiki symbols (more about these below) and how to use them to heal others. Lastly, students learn how to perform Reiki healing when unsuitable for their clients using distance healing techniques.

Students are further attuned to Reiki energy during the level two attunement and acquire more extraordinary healing powers. Once this ceremony is complete, students are considered to be Reiki practitioners.

Students are also attuned to the symbols they learned. This gives them the power to activate them so they can use them to heal themselves and others.

Once healers complete the second stage of their training, masters recommend taking at least six months to one year off before starting the next step. This gives them time to practice using their Reiki energy and letting all the knowledge they learned sink in.

Shinpiden and Master Status

The third level of Reiki, or Shinpiden in Japanese, involves two parts. The first part of the course advances the healers’ skills until they are fully competent in Reiki. During their attunement ceremony, healers are attuned to the Master Symbol, officially making them masters of Reiki.

While the new Reiki masters are knowledgeable about energy healing, they often don’t feel comfortable attuning others. During the second part of the course, masters learn how to perform the attunement ceremony so that they’ll be able to train and attune students to Reiki energy in the future.

How To Select a Reiki Practitioner

Before going to a Reiki session, it is recommended that new clients contact potential healers to determine how long they’ve been doing Reiki and if they’ve obtained master status. Healers who have gone through these training sessions are more likely to be effective than those who have not. However, there is no guarantee, so every client must proceed cautiously.

Symbols Used in Reiki

There are five primary symbols used in Reiki. Each character has a specific function. Below, we will go over the origins of these five symbols and each of their tasks.

Origins of the Symbols

There are four traditional symbols used in Reiki. These include the Power Symbol (Cho Ku Rei), the Harmony Symbol (Sei Hei Ki), the Distance Symbol (Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen), and the Master Symbol (Dai Ko Myo).

These symbols were adopted by Usui, who saw them during his spiritual enlightenment up on Mount Kurama. Most advocates of Reiki don’t believe that Usui was the first person to develop these symbols. It’s more likely that he encountered them while studying medicine, religion, and healing practices and applied them to Reiki because of their healing powers.

There is also a fifth symbol commonly used in Reiki that Usui did not utilize. This symbol, known as the Completion Symbol (Raku), is a Tibetan symbol first adopted by Reiki Master Iris Ishiguro. The Raku was eventually brought to the Western world by Authur Robertson, an Ishiguro student.

Functions of the Symbols

All of the symbols used in Reiki have unique functions. While every symbol promotes healing, they influence different aspects of a person’s energy.

Reiki healers can visualize, draw, or say the symbols’ names to activate them. Only healers attuned to the symbols during their attunement ceremony can use them to heal themselves and others. Below we will go over the five primary symbols and their functions in detail:

The Power Symbol (Cho Ku Rei)

The Power Symbol is the first character learned by level two students. It can either increase or decrease energy, depending on the direction in which the symbol is drawn.

If the symbol is drawn clockwise, energy is intensified. However, if it’s drawn counterclockwise, it is reduced.

Healers often use the Power Symbol to amplify the power of another symbol. It can also be drawn over the chakras to intensify their energy. This removes any blocks and helps them get back into alignment.

Additionally, Cho Ku Rei is also frequently used to cleanse people. By drawing this symbol over clients’ energy centers, healers can release negative energy and purify the body.

The power symbol is also frequently used in times of conflict. This symbol can be drawn between two people to protect them from other people’s harmful intentions. It can also be drawn between a person and an angry animal to reduce its negative energy.

The Harmony Symbol (Sei Hei Ki)

The Harmony Symbol, also called the Mental-Emotional Healing Symbol, influences recipients’ mental and emotional healing.

Practitioners often use it to help people experiencing a wide variety of mental disturbances, including eating disorders, alcoholism, depression, addiction to gambling, drug disorders, anxiety, and more. This symbol helps restore equilibrium in recipients’ bodies, permitting their energy to flow freely.

People who have gone through physical or emotional traumas also benefit from this symbol since it can help them move past these experiences. Drawing the harmony symbol permits clients to remove any emotional or mental blocks in their energy from the trauma. Once these blocks are removed, the client can move past the experience and heal.

Sometimes practitioners will draw the Sei Hei Ki symbol between themselves and their clients. When they do this, it makes it so that Reiki practitioners take on all of their clients’ unwanted emotions and feelings. Then, the practitioner will cleanse themselves to remove these undesirable emotions from their aura.

The Distance Symbol (Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen)

The Distance Symbol can send energy across time and space. Healers often use it to send energy to people who are far away. They can also draw this symbol to send Reiki energy into the future.

This is an excellent tool if a person wants a future event to run smoothly, such as a job interview, wedding, or business deal. When they send Reiki to this future moment, it fills it with positive energy and intentions to help the situation go according to plan.

Some practitioners believe the Distance Symbol can unlock clients’ consciousness. This permits them to see what happened in their clients’ past lives. The ability to view who a person was in the past is essential, especially when practitioners try to heal people suffering from past-life or inner-child issues.

The Master Symbol (Dai Ko Myo)

The Master Symbol combines the capabilities of the harmony, power, and distance symbol. It provides those attuned to it with a greater understanding of Reiki and a sense of enlightenment.

Reiki masters only use this symbol during the final attunement ceremony. They use this symbol to convert level two practitioners into Reiki masters. This is the most complex symbol to draw, so only experienced Reiki masters can attune others to this symbol.

The Completion Symbol (Raku)

The Completion Symbol is used at the end of every attunement ceremony. It centers the recipients, permitting them to absorb the energy they received during the attunement into their seven chakras. This symbol can also ground the practitioners or separate their energies from their students’ energies once the ceremony is over.

Reiki healers can also use this symbol on clients after they finish a healing session. The healers will draw this symbol over their clients’ bodies to seal in the healing benefits they received.

Techniques Used in Reiki

Below are some of the techniques Reiki practitioners use in their sessions. Most of these are techniques used on people. However, some methods can clear objects or spaces of negative energy or enhance positive energy in these things or locations.

  • Beaming energy to clients from across the room. This robust process allows the healer to treat their clients’ entire aura. This technique can also focus energy on a specific location in their client’s bodies to heal their emotional or physical ailments.
  • They sweep the aura to remove unwanted build-ups in clients’ energy fields. Sometimes, clients have negative energy stuck in their auras when they come in for a Reiki session. Healers can sweep their hands through clients’ auras to remove this energy. This permits the healers to focus on the real problems during their session instead of being bogged down by the superficial ones trapped in the aura.
  • They are infusing Reiki into objects to make their energies better. Some healers use their healing power to balance things. Often, they perform this technique on frequently used items that aren’t resonating with their owners. To fix an object’s energy, healers infuse it with Reiki. This rebalances the thing, making it feel pleasing and harmonious. After the infusion session, owners often feel the positive energy coming from the object whenever they are around it.
  • Clearing space of unwanted energy. When clients move into a new home or office space, they may feel the area has negative energy. This can also occur after a room has been renovated or after a tragic event has happened in the space. Reiki healers can come to the home or office and remove negative energy to fix this. Most of the time, they draw symbols in the space to encourage energy purification.

Who Can Benefit From Reiki?

Pretty much anyone can benefit from Reiki. This includes adults, children, the elderly, people suffering from physical or mental conditions, disabled individuals, and even pets! Everyone has energy inside of them that can become blocked. Therefore, all people (and animals) can benefit from Reiki’s powerful healing energy!

Reiki is beneficial for people who are experiencing physical or emotional pain. Energy healing is often used in conjunction with traditional healthcare practices.

Some people use Reiki if they haven’t had any luck using conventional avenues. However, Reiki should never be used as a substitute for medical treatment.

Benefits of Reiki

Next, we will go over three of the main benefits of Reiki. While these are significant potential advantages, they have not been scientifically proven.

More research needs to be done to determine if Reiki has these positive effects on the body or if these effects are due to some other factor(s):

  • Lowers anxiety and stress. Research shows that Reiki may be able to calm down your autonomic nervous system. These systems consist of two parts, the sympathetic nervous system, or “fight or flight,” and the parasympathetic nervous system, or “rest and digest.” Reiki activates the parasympathetic system, thereby calming your body and permitting it to enter a relaxing state.
  • Reduces pain levels. One study demonstrated that Reiki could help cancer patients feel less pain and anxiety. Another study of patients undergoing knee surgery found that individuals who underwent Reiki experienced less pain, a lower breathing rate, and lower blood pressure levels than those in the control group or who received standard medical care.
  • It may improve mood and sleep. In one study, researchers studied Reiki’s effect on college students’ sleep and overall mood. They discovered that students who received 30-minute Reiki sessions reported more significant improvements in these categories than students who did not participate in a session. Reiki has also been shown to improve sleep patterns in people who have insomnia.

Disadvantages of Reiki

While Reiki has a lot of positive benefits, there are also some disadvantages of Reiki. We’ll go over these in detail below:

  • Limited scientific evidence proving effectiveness. There is very little research about Reiki and its significance. While some studies show that it is promising, others have found it ineffective. More research needs to be conducted to determine whether Reiki is genuinely compelling.
  • Usually isn’t covered by insurance. Most of the time, clients have to pay for their Reiki services out of pocket. The only time Reiki may be covered by insurance is if another health professional, such as a primary care physician, includes it in their session.
  • Doesn’t work for everyone. Although many claim Reiki is helpful, it doesn’t work for everyone. Even people suffering from the same physical or mental affliction may not get the same results from Reiki. It is a personal experience that seems to work better for some people than others.

What To Expect During the First Reiki Session

Reiki sessions are generally held in peaceful settings but can take place anywhere. Healers often use soothing music to create a calming atmosphere, depending on the client’s preferences. Clients will sit in a chair or lie on a table with all their clothes on.

Next, the Reiki practitioners will tell their clients to relax and suggest they close their eyes. The healers will then lightly move their hands over specific parts of their clients’ bodies using various hand postures. This phase of the session typically lasts for two to five minutes.

After this is complete, the healers will focus on specific parts of the recipients’ bodies with blockages. They will hold their hands above the blocks and direct healing energy toward them.

If they notice an injury, such as a burn or a wound, the healers will place their hands just above the injury to focus their healing powers on the ailment. Their hands will remain in the same location until the healers no longer feel any energy flowing.

Sometimes, healers will draw or recite symbols during their sessions. They will only use symbols if their clients require a specific symbol’s energy.

The healers will continue to move their hands over their clients’ bodies and draw characters until the session is complete. This phase typically lasts 30 to 90 minutes.

After the session, clients often feel fatigued. Others experience the opposite effect and feel a burst of energy.

Some people also undergo various physical sensations, including temperature changes or pressure and tingling throughout their bodies. These are normal sensations that occur as part of the healing process. They do typically not cause for concern.

Practitioners generally tell their clients to drink a lot of water and take time after their Reiki session to reflect on their feelings. They also suggest that clients don’t schedule any events immediately after the session so they have time to let the effects sink in.

Healing Crisis

Some clients, however, have a much more uncomfortable experience after their first Reiki session. They may feel profound sadness, anxiety, exhaustion, or even depression once their session is over.

Some people also experience physical pain, especially in locations where past trauma occurred. Others still report feeling flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, aching muscles, coughing, and sore throat.

It is referred to as a healing crisis when people feel emotional or physical pain after a Reiki session. This is when clients’ old physical and emotional symptoms resurface. While this may sound bad, it is good since people can finally work through past adverse experiences to achieve true healing.

If clients think they are experiencing a healing crisis, it is recommended that they contact their Reiki practitioner for further guidance.

Final Thoughts

Reiki is a type of energy healing that was first established in Japan. Reiki healers can direct energy in the body to remove energy blockages and encourage healing. This practice can be used to treat mental, emotional, or physical problems.

It is helpful for various people, including adults, children, pets, and more. Many recipients of Reiki affirm its effectiveness, although this has yet to be scientifically proven.

Although Reiki’s exact mechanism is still unclear, it has been shown repeatedly to help heal those in need.

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