I was in my late 20s when my heart started skipping beats. My doctor recommended a stress test, which indicated a blockage he said was highly unusual for my age.
Prior to the doctor visit, my massage therapist had identified what she called an “energy blockage” in that area during an energy work session called Reiki. At the time I was grieving the death of my father and recovering from months of caring for him, but the therapist didn’t know about that, or my skipped heartbeats. She picked up on my “closed heart chakra” a month before my stress test—was there really something to her early intuition?
Reiki is the life energy that flows through all living things, explains Linda LaFlamme, director of the International Association of Reiki Practitioners (IARP). Originating in Japan, the term comes from the Japanese words “Rei” meaning “universal life” and “ki,” meaning “energy.” Reiki is not affiliated with any particular religion or religious practice.
“It is believed that a person’s ‘ki’ or energy should be strong and free flowing. When this is true a person’s body and mind are in a positive state of health. When the energy becomes weak or blocked it could lead to symptoms of physical or emotional imbalance,” LaFlamme says.
Reiki practitioners act as a conduit for this energy to help balance and support a person’s natural flow of energy circulation, she explains. During a session, which typically lasts 60-90 minutes, you’ll lie on a massage table, fully clothed. The practitioner may touch you lightly, or simply hold his or her hands slightly above your body, while moving through various Reiki hand positions originating at your head or feet. You might feel a warming or tingling sensation, or nothing at all.
While Reiki hasn’t been extensively studied, research is underway into how and whether it works, according to the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).
Even without scientific proof of Reiki’s healing powers, there’s growing interest. More than 1.2 million adults reported using an energy healing therapy such as Reiki, according to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey. Many people use Reiki to complement other wellness or healing programs, and some hospitals and hospice programs offer it, too.
Regardless of scientific outcome, one thing is for sure, says LaFlamme. “Receiving Reiki is a very pleasant experience. It is very relaxing and nurturing energetically. Your job is just to rest and receive. The benefits continue after the session.”
As for my heart, soon after my stress test, I fell in love with the man who later became my husband. It wasn’t long before follow-up medical tests showed that the blockage was gone. My symptoms vanished. Call it a fluke, stress or a figment of my imagination. Or maybe love—and a healthy dose of healing energy—helped mend my broken heart.