Reiki Induces Relaxation, Liminal State of Awareness
"Experience of a Reiki Session" was conducted by Joan Engebretson, R.N., Dr.Ph., and Diane Wind Wardell, R.N.C., Ph.D., certified holistic nurses and associate professors at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
The study involved 23 participants, ages 29 to 55, each of whom received a standardized reiki treatment in a soundproof, windowless, softly lit room. A single reiki master provided Reiki Touch, a form of the Usui Reiki System.
According the Usui System of Reiki Healing’s Web site, "The Usui System of Reiki Healing is a hands-on healing practice. Reiki – universal life energy – is channeled through the practitioner’s hands for self-treatment or treatment of others."
For this study, the practitioner’s hands were lightly placed on the subject’s face and abdomen for 15 minutes each.
Before and after each session, quantitative information was collected: Participants filled out questionnaires; salivary specimens were gathered; and biofeedback and blood-pressure data were recorded. "These were chosen as markers to explore a physiological relaxation response," state the study’s authors.
The measurements all changed in the direction of relaxation. Participant anxiety and systolic blood pressure decreased significantly following the session, while skin temperature and salivary IgA levels rose after receiving reiki, which indicates a physiological relaxation response.
Interviews were conducted and recorded after each session by one of two investigators, who later transcribed and analyzed them for persistent patterns. Participants were asked to describe their experience and answer questions specific to the session. This falls into the category of qualitative data.
"Consistent with other touch studies, these recipients reported a holistic experience," state the study’s authors. "Touch therapies appear to engage the recipient in an integrated experience that links body, mind and spirit in a unique manner that allows the recipient to experience paradox."
Subjects described a change in their state of awareness as liminal, or between two known states, such as sleeping and waking, floating and sinking, hot and cold, fear and safety.
"I knew my mind had thoughts, but didn’t know what they were," said one participant. The word "threshold" was used by several subjects to describe the reiki experience as bordering on two different states of being.
"Liminal states of consciousness, by definition paradoxical, are frequently associated with profound religious experiences and have been linked to ritual healing practices across cultures," the authors reported.
Qualitative descriptions of the session as peaceful, soothing, quiet and gentle were consistent with the relaxation response indicated by the quantitative data.
However, besides this expected response, the authors of the study noted that the effects of reiki may be beyond the capacity of traditional research. "The narratives suggest that the experience of Reiki is dynamic and incorporates subtle fluctuations and variations; hence it may defy measurement."
– Source: University of Texas Health Science Center. Authors: Joan Engebretson, R.N., Dr.Ph., and Diane Wind Wardell, R.N.C., Ph.D. Originally published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 48-53.