By now, you’ve likely heard of acupuncture and aromatherapy, and may have participated in these activities yourself. But have you heard of reiki? It’s another example of alternative medicine based on transferring positive energy by placing one’s hands near another person’s body, but not touching them physically. It’s been linked to inducing rest and relaxation, and some say that it may have some weight loss benefits, too, though there hasn’t been any research on this potential effect of reiki.
What Exactly Is Reiki?
Reiki is a Japanese energy-healing practice that started in 1922 by Dr. Mikao Usui, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Reiki involves placing the hands lightly on the body or just off of it in order to transmit “universal life energy.” The goal of the practice is to create relaxation, promote healing, and reduce pain.
Kelsey Patel, a Los Angeles-based wellness and reiki expert and author of the forthcoming Burning Bright: Rituals, Reiki, and Self-Care to Heal Burnout, Anxiety, and Stress (out in April 2020), says reiki can help with physical pain and can promote balance. “It might be to help reduce anxiety, overwhelm, or stress,” she says. “I also recommend it for people who simply want to become more connected with themselves or call in deeper alignment, joy, or abundance.”
Reiki sessions are typically one hour and are done on a massage table, sometimes in your own home, Patel says. You’ll likely lay down with your clothes on and your shoes off. “The [practitioner] typically won’t touch any part of your body except for your head and your feet,” Patel says. “I always recommend wearing socks and comfortable clothing so you can really relax.”
The Health Dangers of Being Overweight or Obese
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 72 percent of American adults are overweight or obese. Carrying extra weight isn’t solely a superficial problem — this can have serious health repercussions.
According to the CDC, those potential health risks include an increased risk for:
Causes of Weight Gain
Why do some people struggle with weight gain in the first place? It’s a combination of lifestyle choices and factors that are out of their control. “Genetics clearly play a role in obesity, however, the environment plays a much larger role,” says Caroline Cederquist, MD, a board-certified bariatric physician, and founder and medical director of the Cederquist Medical Wellness Center in Naples, Florida, and active medical director for BistroMD. “The clearest evidence of this is that the obesity epidemic has really taken off in the past 30 years, and that is not long enough for serious changes in genetics, which take thousands of years.”
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, weight gain can be the result of:
Poor Diet and Inactivity The simplest way to look at weight gain is it’s the result of taking in more calories than you burn during the day. What you eat and how much you move can affect caloric intake and expenditure.
Environmental Factors Your immediate setting can take a toll on your body. For instance, not having access to parks for outdoor recreation, a gym for exercise, or a grocery store with healthy food options makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
Genetics Your genetic makeup can influence how susceptible you are to gaining weight.
Health Conditions and Medication Some drugs, such as antidepressants, come with weight gain as a side effect, and some health conditions, such as those involving an underactive thyroid, also increase the likelihood you’ll be overweight or obese.
How Reiki May Help You Lose Weight
Back in 2013, Women’s Health reported that Christina Aguilera credited reiki with helping her lose weight. It probably was not reiki itself that resulted in weight loss — there aren’t any studies that support that theory — but rather the effects of reiki. Reiki could help people slim down by:
Reducing Stress A study published in November 2016 in Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem found reiki combined with massage led to a 21 percent reduction in anxiety levels, compared with a 16 percent reduction for massage alone. How does destressing help your weight-loss efforts? According to Harvard Health Publishing, stress is linked to weight gain because increased stress levels release the hormone cortisol, which amps up your appetite. Oftentimes, your go-to foods when you’re stressed will be unhealthy comfort foods that are high in fat, sugar, calories, or all of the above. “Eating these kinds of food actually makes you become hungrier a short time later, so the cycle of increased calories continues,” Dr. Cederquist says.
Promoting Quality Sleep Although there’s no solid research showing this benefit, Patel says better-quality sleep is one of the possible benefits of reiki. That, in turn, could help your waistline the same way stress reduction does: by promoting healthier food choices. “Normal-weight adults who are deprived of sleep for only a short period of time will have a boost in hormones that encourage eating high-fat and high-sugar foods,” Cederquist says. A review and meta-analysis published in November 2016 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found sleep deprivation led people to consume 385 extra calories per day, on average, which can lead to weight gain over time.
Increased Mindfulness This reiki benefit helps if called upon while eating. By not engaging in distracted eating, such as snacking while driving or watching TV, you may make better food choices, Cederquist says. A review published in March 2018 in Current Obesity Reports says mindful eating can help with portion control and reduce food cravings, body weight, and BMI.
Tips for Starting a Reiki Practice
Patel says everyone has the ability to reiki themselves.
Here’s how, according to Cleveland Clinic:
- Set aside time (anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes) each day to perform reiki.
- Find a quiet and calm environment without distractions and settle into a comfortable position, such as lying on the couch, bed, or floor. You may want to turn on relaxing music.
- Prep your state of mind, no matter if your goal is to lose weight or to center yourself. Make a mental note of places on your body or in your mind that need special attention, such as an area causing you physical pain or areas in your life causing you stress.
- Close your eyes and breathe easy and relaxing breaths.
- Move through a series of hand positions, as demonstrated on the Cleveland Clinic website. Or try an app. ReikiOne ($2.99 per month; available on the App Store) will guide you through positions.
Finding a Reiki Practitioner
According to the University of Minnesota, no special credentials or training are needed for reiki training because it stems from a grassroots movement rather than from an academic healthcare program. Patel recommends reaching out to friends, family, or people in your community for a referral.
Whether you find a reiki practitioner that way or through your own research, Patel suggests having a phone call with the person to make sure they’ll be a good fit for you. The University of Minnesota suggests asking questions about the level of training they’ve received, how they describe reiki, and how often they practice. The most important thing, according to the University of Minnesota, is to find out if the practitioner practices reiki every day, because that signifies a deep understanding and commitment to the practice.