Blog: Reiki and the Chakras
Posted: April 7, 2023
Author: Paige Lehoux Kasper, MSW Student
The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States has increased in importance for practitioners, health care consumers, policymakers, and researchers. CAM would not be possible without the use of the ancient Indian medical system, known as the Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a practice done in India for over five thousand years, it combines a personalized approach with natural therapies to treat diseases (Chauhan). A basis of the Ayurvedic tradition and practice is the Chakra system. The term chakra comes from the Sanskrit term meaning "wheel". A chakra is a point of intersection between the body and the mind. There are seven major chakras that are each associated with a level of consciousness and elements; additionally, they correspond to major central nervous system clusters and glands in the endocrine system. (Judith)
A practice used to balance the chakra system is Reiki. Reiki is a form of healing therapy that is practiced through nonmanipulative, noninvasive delicate touch. "One of the key defining features of Reiki is that the ability to practice is conferred through an "attunement" process and is not dependent on any innate personal healing capability" (McManus). Reiki is a complementary therapy that can be used with additional therapeutic and medical approaches. "Over 800 hospitals (15%) in the United States currently offer Reiki to patients. According to the latest information available, in a 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) use by Americans, more than 1.2 million adults and 161,000 children had used energy healing such as Reiki in the previous year" (Natalie).
This practice is accepted around the world in hospice and hospital agencies due to its soft technique that can be used on delicate patients. Reiki has an emphasis on spiritual healing, although is not associated with any organized religion. "a spiritual healing practice that can help return us to balanced functioning on every level physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, even social." (Miles). Reiki affects one's well-being in many ways, including, stimulating the immune system, releasing emotional blockages, alleviating pain, accelerating the natural healing response, and relieving stress (Thrapp). Reiki is commonly performed by a practitioner placing their hands lightly on a clothed individual, in correlation to the major chakra centers in the body. Although, in circumstances in which the individual does not want or cannot be touched, Reiki can still be offered. By gently flowing their hands above someone's body, the Reiki practitioner identifies blockages and simply allows the energy to flow passively through onto the recipient's body.
Reiki is a Japanese word, Rei meaning universal or omnipresent, and Ki meaning life force or energy (Singg). This practice originated in Japan in the early 20th century by Mikao Usui. Takata, a Reiki mast who practiced Reiki in Hawaii spread this practice to the United States in the 1970s (Wardell). Although, the use of chakras can be dated further back. It is believed by western scholars that the chakra system began in India around 1500-500 BC. The first mention of the Sanskrit word "chakra" was in the Vedas written text. Chakras were introduced to the West by Sir John George Woodroffe, through his book that was published in 1919, "The Serpent Power." (Natalie).
Philosophical and theoretical foundations
Cultures around the world believe that flesh and bones are not the only aspects that make up a person; instead, energy forces are within and radiate from the human body. In the Japanese belief system, "Ki" is identified as the universal energy. The body is a system of pathways in which Ki is continuously flowing. A chakra is located where two or more of these pathways intersect. Each chakra is a vortex consisting of a multidimensional ball of energy. They are a connection of vibrant energy. When Ki is flowing through each chakra smoothly, one will function more relaxed and clearer with a higher purpose. Although, when chakras are blocked and restricted, one might experience physical, energetic, mental-emotional, intellectual, and karmic blockages. Additionally, the associated system and body organs will become impaired (Saradananda,). Although there are ways one can balance their chakras on their own, for example, medication and dance, Reiki is an effective treatment to assist in unblocking and balancing each chakra so that energy can flow freely and openly throughout the body.
Physical pain can negatively affect many aspects of our lives, especially in those suffering from cancer. Medication for pain can have side effects that are dangerous and undesirable to many individuals. Reiki is an alternative medicine technique for pain management. A study conducted on advanced cancer patients to measure the management of pain, found that patients who received Reiki treatment plus standard opioid management reported a significant improvement in pain. Compared to patients only receiving standard opioid management (Olson). Another study conducted on patients attending a day oncology and infusion services found that using a Visual Analog Scale, the mean pain score decreased by 50% after each Reiki treatment (Birocco). When discussing each study, it is important to consider the placebo effect and its impact on patients' perceived pain. In the Birocoo study, about one-third of the patients were receiving additional conventional pain therapy, which could have skewed the results. The Olson study was also conducted within a short period of time. This was to increase the probability that the cognitive ability of the participants would remain. Therefore, it may not have been enough time to observe legitimate change.
Reiki is taught in a unique manner. From a Reiki Master, it is transferred to the student during an attunement process. Through this process, the palm, heart, and crown chakra are open to establish a link between the Reiki source and the student. In the United States, Reiki training is split into three levels. Level one of Reiki is a combination of clinical and didactic experience with a focus on the delivery of delicate Reiki energy through the practitioner's hand positions. Level two connects spiritual and emotional healing and utilizes particular symbols that grant practitioners access to practice long-distance Reiki. Training in this level helps advance the intuition and inner voice of the practitioner. Level three allows practitioners to become masters and teachers by having other master practitioners work closely with a student practitioner over time. This level gives masters the level to attune others into Reiki. A certification of completion is given out at the end of each level. Reiki training is not regulated or standardized which generates difficulty in the integration of the practice into public health care and conventional medicine.
Reiki is an exceptional self-care ritual, especially for social workers. Reiki treatments help dwindle the impact of stress along with minimizes anxiety and promotes relaxation. When our chakras are balanced and aligned, this leads to a clarity of thought that is necessary for stress management throughout daily life and work, especially for social workers who are trying to decrease their burnout rate through practicing self-care. There does not appear to be many barriers to using Reiki for social worker self-care. The only implication that could be assessed is the financial burden this may have on individuals who do not get this treatment covered by their insurance.
Application in practice
Although this is written about Reiki involving pain management, I am interested in trauma-related populations. Contraindications of using Reiki with this population would be the involvement of touch. Many individuals who have survived traumatic events are triggered by touch; therefore, it would be inappropriate to perform this specific technique. I see myself working at a private practice for mental health therapy. Due to the variety of training needed to perform Reiki, it would be difficult to incorporate into a mental health agency. Although, different chakra alignment activities, including, a guided meditation or dancing could be used in during a brief section of my session. A social worker can apply reiki practice to mezzo work through developing and analyzing additional research. Additionally, this could be integrated through group therapy. In relation to the NASW Code of Ethics and Reiki treatment, there does not appear to be a conflict. In consideration to touching a client, it is crucial to obtain a client's permission. It would be ideal to have clients sign a consent form. Additionally, the NASW Code of Ethics specifies that if a dual relationship is exploitative, it should be avoided (National). it is important to not create a dual relationship with the client; therefore, a social worker should not perform any Reiki treatment on clients in a separate agency.
In a world full of negativity and stress more people are seeking to take responsibly of their own health through complementary and alternative medicines. The continuous pressure for achievement and perfection can cause our charkas to regularly become imbalanced and blocked. Reiki is an ancient Japanese healing technique that aims to open and balance the charkas. This therapy allows energy to flow freely and creates harmony in one's body. It promotes spiritual healing and self-improvement. Working in conjunction with conventional medicine, Reiki therapy can be immensely impactful in improving all around health. Reiki provides a modern access, through ancient philosophies, to healing, self-discovery and development, and attaining balance and fulfillment in one's life.
"Obstacles do not appear in your way I order to stop you. Rather, they appear in order to strengthen and hone you and your plans. They are not your enemy. They are your secret ally, but only if you treat them as friendly forces of nature." - Anodea Judith