Reiki is a form of spiritual healing dating back to 20th century Japan. Created by Buddhist Sensei Mikao Usui, it is said to heal a person through the energy flowing from the palms of the practitioner. Reiki made its way to the US thanks to the work of Hawayo Takata, who was born in Hawaii from Japanese parents. Hawayo Takata tried Reiki in one of her visits to Japan, and believed that she eventually avoided three surgeries thanks to the treatment. In 1937, she became the first outsider ever to receive a First Degree Reiki certification.
The name literally means "spiritual/soul energy." Practitioners believe that Reiki can help unblock the emotional or spiritual blocks that cause illness. Rather than focusing on treating the symptoms of a disease, it works on the causes. Through the use of universal life-energy, Reiki can heal a person, even if the practitioner himself does not know what's wrong.
During a Reiki session, a practitioner will ask the patient to lie down on a table after removing his shoes and jewelry. She will then move her hands around the person's body, without actually touching him. During the process, the practitioner's hand usually become hot, said to be a sign that energy is flowing through her. It's important to note that the energy received does not come from the practitioner herself; she is merely channeling the universe's energy. Some people who experience Reiki for the first time have an intense emotional reaction to it. This is considered normal.
Because Reiki works on energy, sometimes it takes several visits before a difference can be seen or felt. Also, the results are often said to be subtle, and vary from person to person. However, practitioners believe that it works for everyone and any condition.
Some critics allude to the lack of scientific evidence to back up Reiki. While it's true that there are no studies showing the efficacy of Reiki in treating certain medical conditions, practitioners point out that it should be considered as a complementary form of treatment, not as a replacement for a doctor's care.