What is reiki energy healing? Does the therapy actually work? | London Evening Standard


'm lying on a bed tucked under a blanket in the basement of a Harley Street clinic at 10am on a Tuesday morning. When was the last time I lay down in the middle of the day, not asleep, but at rest? I can't remember, like most people I can't usually afford the luxury.

But today I do as I'm here for my first session of reiki with Sushma Sagar of The Calmery. Sagar has become known in the capital for her so-called reiki facials, but she has invited me to come along for the whole shabang: a three-session course of full-body energy healing.

Reiki is a Japanese healing art that works in a similar way to acupuncture to clear blockages and stagnancies of energy flow in your body.

"There's only so much you can do in one session," Sagar tells me. "Imagine you're cleaning a seven-storey house that has never been touched before. You get the deep cleaners in and at first you're going to be moving around furniture, there'll be dust everywhere, everything's going to be a mess!"

Sagar explains that during the treatment she will act as a "conduit," who will channel energy into my body to get my "chi" flowing again.

"Your body is directing what happens in the treatment, it's not really up to me," she says. "It's your own natural healing ability, so in a way I'm kick-starting something your body can already do itself and will probably recognise once you relax.

"Ideally, the energy in your body should flow freely like a river," says Sagar.

This sounds a little hocus pocus but I guess that's what I'm here for so I hop under the blanket (fully clothed) as soothing sanskrit prayer music plays in the background.

Sushma Sagar performing reiki / Jake Curtis

"Occasionally if I find something and I need a bit more help to move it along, you might hear a click or gentle hum as I create more vibration to help me," she says, adding that I might feel pangs of emotion as she unlocks energy.

Sagar begins by guiding me into a meditative state with deep breaths.

She places her hands on my head – reiki involves the practitioner both touching and hovering their hands above you. Then come the sounds. Despite being pre-warned, it's a little alarming when Sagar starts to moan and snap her fingers, but I do eventually get used to it.

All of her patients react differently, she says, "some are so knackered they just fall asleep, while others feel quite emotional afterwards."

After my first session I don't feel that different emotionally, which, in all honesty, I'm a little disappointed about. I was kind of hoping for a dramatic outpouring of deep-seated, buried emotion that I'd forgotten about.

I do, however feel very relaxed, my Bellabeat "stress level" reading drops from 59 to 37. Sagar explains she has used a gentle form of reiki on me to begin with, which typically leaves you calm and in a deep state of relaxation.

As I jump on the Central line to work I have a bizarre urge to write lots of lists – it's weird what stopping for an hour can do.

In my second session, Sagar says she wants to work on some imbalances in my second chakra, so will go a little deeper using some "hardcore cleaning tools," which I later discover involves shamanic healing practices to really sort out my energy system.

A chakra corresponds to points in your body were energy channels converge and we have seven of them, she explains. Heavy energy in one place can lead to a block in the flow and this can occur as a result of practically anything, from someone shoving past you on your commute that morning to an argument you had weeks ago that's still affecting you, to the trauma of buried grief from years ago, for example.

"Because your energy field holds all the information on us from the beginning of your journey," she says.

Following this session my stress level reading barely changes (48 down to 46), but my mood is dramatically lifted and my arms feel really light. It's a stark contrast in mood to the Monday blues I was suffering from the day before.

In my third and final reiki session, Sagar tells me she still needs to work on the block in my second chakra which is "a little weak."

Unlike other therapies, reiki isn't really about the why, it's purely about the action of clearing energy channels, she explains. But after my last session I'm intrigued, so we discuss what imbalances in my second chakra could mean.

"Sometimes having a weak second chakra can mean we say 'yes' more than we should or that is good for us," Sagar says. "When the second chakra is not balanced, it can affect how we assert ourselves – either too much (if it’s over developed) or not enough if it’s weak. This attribute can impact any aspects of our lives – relationships, work, everything. Ultimately we're looking for balance."

Weirdly, this really rings true to me.

After our chat Sagar gives me a hug goodbye and off I go into the world to contemplate what we've discussed.

The verdict: hocus pocus or healing magic?

Unlike a fitness class, something as subjective and personal as reiki is a difficult one to give a simple thumbs up or thumbs down to.

Were my healing sessions with Sagar life-changing? No. Did I feel spiritually enlightened? Not really, but then I don't really consider myself a "spiritual" person.

Did it leave me thinking about whether or not my boundaries needed rejigging? Yes. Was that a good thing? Yes. And I genuinely felt great after each session, lighter, relaxed and with more energy and clarity of thought. Until now I've been sceptical about these kinds of therapies.

As with many holistic healing methods, you can really get out of it whatever you want from it. Energy healing is ultimately a form of self-care and my experience at The Calmery ​gave me an opportunity to reassess some aspects of my life which has ultimately been of benefit to me.

Ultimately, if you're curious about whether reiki might help you, my suggestion would be to try it out for yourself. Like any form of therapy or treatment, it's important to do your research so that you have a skilled practitioner - and I felt in good hands with Sagar.

For more information on Sushma Sagar and her practice, head to thecalmery.com

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