Practicing Reiki? Hold the Chakras

IMG_9224When it comes to practicing Reiki, can you actually hold the chakras? Or is it best to “hold the chakras,” as in “hold the mayo”?

Reiki practitioners often say, “When I place my hands on my heart chakra…”

Maybe you’ve said it yourself. If so, please pause a moment. Is it possible to place hands on a chakra?

And what does speaking about chakras communicate to others about Reiki practice? Does it help people understand Reiki practice? Does it clarify anything, or does speaking about chakras and Reiki practice muddy the picture?

Who cares about Reiki and chakras?

Maybe you don’t care, and there’s no reason to keep reading.

But if you care about clarity, if you’d like to see Reiki practice recognized and valued by the mainstream public, let’s take a minute to think it through.

If chakras exist, they exist in another dimension; they don’t have any physical form. I’m not saying chakras don’t exist, just noting there’s no physical proof of their existence. There’s no conventional science yardstick to measure your chakra or how Reiki practice impacts it.

Why does physical proof matter when speaking about Reiki practice? Staying with facts creates common ground with a broad spectrum of people, aka the mainstream public.

If you want mainstream interest and respect, it makes sense to avoid speaking in ways that are off-putting. It’s really simple.

And so is Reiki practice — simple, and practical.

Reiki practice was devoid of chakras when Mikao Usui started it in the mid 1920s, and it certainly was for Chujiro Hayashi and Hawayo Takata. None of them spoke about chakras, which are not part of Japanese medicine or metaphysics.

Given that Usui, Hayashi, and Takata didn’t speak about chakras, why would we?


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Reiki? Senza chakra is an Italian translation of this article you can print and share as is, without copying or changing the content or presentation in any way.

Related reading:
Choosing Your Reiki Words

27 thoughts on “Practicing Reiki? Hold the Chakras”

  1. I am a licenced acupuncturist of 10years. I had the unique oportunity to learn a couple of Japanese styles of acupuncture and in true Japanese form, you learn the tradition in its original form. I think the issue has become that when practitioners combine modalities or theories, newcomers to the practice do not learn the healing form as it was originally intended. This makes it less clear, watered down and makes it seem less valid perhapse. I think when multiple cultural practices are combined such as yogic science and Reiki, it should just simply be taught in a way to make it explicite. That way, the practitioner honors the ancient wisdom and keeps the integrity of the practice in tact. I was trained in first level Reiki only,and to be honest, I left not knowing what was Reiki and what was the teacher’s own “energy work” embellishment. Each practitioner will develop a style… these are healing arts… but I think consistency would make a huge difference in gaining more respect for the practice. If anyone has a suggestion for a book about the original teachings I would love to read.

  2. If we want to be clear in origins,chakras are part of the yogic tradition which is long and practiced over centuries. Usui,Hayashi and Hayashi’s student Chiyoko Yamaguchi focused on the physical aspects of treatment.As I understand it,attention was paid to the existing issue. The tanden,the energetic elements were understood as present as they were in martial arts training. When we speak of chakras in Reiki it is confusing,but it also says something about our training. Westerners may have learned about chakras in their courses,however when you step past the western trainings and explore origins, you just see that chakras belong in a totally differ ent system. That’s different than denying they exist or are under proven via double-blind control group research.

  3. When I did a reiki session on my 5 year old daughter some months ago, she described what she was feeling throughout the session, and her descriptions of the sensations she experienced clearly indicated chakra stimulation (“Ooohh, it feels like a tornado! It’s like 100 tornadoes spinning around!” etc.)

    When it all boils down, everything is energy. I think there needs to be more dialogue between different practices and traditions, for walls to be torn down instead of fences built.

    1. Your daughter described the sensations she experienced and you chose to interpret that as chakra stimulation. Others might disagree.

      When introducing Reiki practice to a mainstream audience, what is gained by interjecting a concept that is foreign, speculative, and in the case of Reiki practice and chakras, an unnecessary embellishment?

      Respecting the parameters of various practices is not a matter of building walls. Clarity about what any practice is or is not makes it easier for people to choose to give it a try, or not.

  4. It is with great relief I found this WEB site and discussions. I thought that when I decided to take Reiki training (I have level 2) that I was merely going to practice in a hospital with protocols that attempt to be inclusive. Much to my chagrin, I began to learn that Chakras (which I had never thought about) seemed to be a core belief. Frankly, I don’t think Reiki was “manufactured by a certain culture”. If it exists, and for me it does, it exists outside of any one culture claiming it. For me, like Accupuncture for the Chinese, the Japanese “figured it out”. I am actually spiritual (though I have an atheist friend who practices with a pure heart). My belief system is closer to Gandhi’s – that most of us are on a path that combines concepts of love and seeking – listening to our “inner voice – soul – psyche” to reach our highest level while on earth. My cultural background happens to be Christian – I love Jesus’ teachings and like words like blessing and Grace and even the Holy Spirit! Nevertheless, I believe my practice, that I am graced with, does not allow me to put up barriers to that healing for another. I may do harm if I push my beliefs. If I talk of the Holy Spirit, or if I talk of Chakras – I am not inclusive for all peoples. I am profoundly touched to be a Reiki practitioner and realize that I am blessed to be part of the wider learning and discussion I didn’t know was going to happen. I also don’t have to understand the mystery – just walk with it. I may be blessed with increasing understanding (or not). Love to you all. Thank you for this.

  5. I heard someone say that angels talk with their eyes. Can reiki masters just talk with their hands? Seriously, some things just can’t be proven with a double blind study.

    1. Actually, Clara, nothing can be proven with a double blind study. Double blind studies are not about proof; they are done to test safety and effectiveness, and to minimize the likelihood that any benefit found is due to chance rather than to the intervention being studied.

      I don’t understand what that has to do with the academically documented fact that Usui’s Reiki System did not include talk of chakras, which are from the Indian system and not part of Japanese culture and philosophy.

  6. Sorry, Maggie, but calling something science doesn’t make it so. And Reiki is not electromagnetic energy. Electromagnetic energy is measurable and the field in which it moves is veritable. Biofields are not measurable and therapies such as Reiki are seen by scientists as putative. You can read more about this on the NCCAM site.

  7. In my Reiki practice and classes we are working with the energies of the human body as they move through and affect the entire body, meridian energy. We also work with the larger centers where the client might actually feel the movement of vibration.
    So yes we are mixing Reiki with the study of Energy.
    This is extremely important I feel right now to help all we can to begin to master their vibrational body, the true path to wellness. Chakras are very helpful in teaching the expansion of these centers. Many heart centers are closed due to fear.
    The “verb-age” is tailored to the client, find out what they know and start there. The more I use the term Vibrational the more medical it becomes and that is good for some. others desire a spiritual connection or something flavored with Earth and stone.

  8. Reiki is science, the transmission and entrainment of electromagnetic energy through conduits directed through the least resistant channel. It has become apparent that we have forever entrained with the Universal Law of Attraction (to name just one) to further intend the pathway.
    Much ethereal energies have been named Spirit and thus it becomes forever linked with Spiritual terminology. Theologies eastern or western matter little except with regards to control of it.
    Whether we talk about it or not the system and centers that regulate the frequencies of the physical body and the fields it emits, exist.

  9. Kit makes an important distinction between evidence and proof that is generally not recognized outside of professional research.

    I spend several hours on research in my 2 day Medical Reiki seminar and I start the section with the question, “What does research prove?” The answer is, “Nothing.”

    Anyone who speaks in terms of proof doesn’t understand research and the scientific method. People may have their own personal ideas about proof, and that’s fine, but don’t misrepresent them as being science. This undermines the credibility of our communication and of Reiki practice. Helping Reiki practitioners build credibility is one of the key goals of this blog.

    Melania, I apologize if I offended you–that is never my intention–but I also wonder why you find my comments about chakras not being part of Reiki practice so harsh. I’m just relating a fact, and I wrote specifically that I’m not saying chakras don’t exist.

    The chakra/nadi system is yogic and has never been part of the Japanese practice. The information you were given about chakras not being spoken about for cultural reasons is misinformation. This information has been confirmed by Hyakuten Inamoto, a Japanese Reiki master in the Usui/Hayashi lineage.

    I’d be interested to know how Otzi proves meridians. He had intestinal bugs and was carrying mushrooms that effectively treat those bugs. Where do meridians come in?

  10. Hi Melania,

    Just a couple of comments. As far as I know, the meridians and the three dan tiens are the Chinese/Japanese model of the human energy system. Chakras and nadis come from India. I’d be interested if anyone knows to what extent the chakras are known about by Japanese Reiki practitioners. I’m almost certain in the time of Usui there was very little knowledge.

    The other thing relates to proof. Scientists don’t talk of proof, but of evidence. There’s quite a difference. All the evidence in the world couldn’t prove Newton’s mechanics, and a good thing, because new evidence was turned up that turned it on its head. Now we have evidence for a quantum universe. Who knows what 50 more years of science will bring (if not the end of our world!).


  11. It is my understanding that none of the originators of Reiki from Japan spoke of the chakras because it was part of the culture. It was already understood and didn’t need to be taught. This was not the case when Takata came to America, so it had to be added to the teachings even if it was not taught by Takata herself. We don’t really know how informed her original 22 were about this type of knowledge, but let’s face it- most Americas have no clue.

    I do agree that it needs to be kept simple, yet for a student, Reiki needs to be thoroughly explained. Reiki is energy affecting energy so a student needs to know what energy we speak of. A Reiki practitioner does not need to fully understand the chakras nor the HEF yet they need to be informed.

    Yet for a simple treatment, the recipient only needs to know that Reiki is a form of stress reduction and relaxation that supports the body’s ability to heal itself.

    I agree with Phillip about the discovery of the bio-energy field (1978). I will add to that: The work of Dr. Valerie Hunt supports these claims and lets not forget Kirlian photography (1939) thus proving the existence of the human energy field (HEF) visually. In fact, there are references made to the phenomenon of the HEF in 97 different cultures, according to John White in his book “Future Science.” The work of Dr. Wilhelm Reich, colleague of Freud, in the early 1900’s, also contributed to the proof of the HEF. He published his studies in a book called “The Discovery of the Orgone” in 1942.
    Also, the work of Dr. Valorie Hunt @ UCLA proves the existence of chakras and the HEF. And please don’t forget about the work of Barbara Brennan.

    So in fact, there is plenty of proof. I’m sure there is a lot more that I am not aware of too. The National institutes on health, no offense, just need to catch up with the times and the actual data. Of course they are going to use the current information they have, however, how often do they update that information? With the emergence of nueroscience and quantum physics, we shall have “proof” in our lifetime.

    There is also proof of the meridian points by Otzi the Iceman found to be almost 5000 years old. I’m just saying…Pamela, your comments about the chakras were a bit harsh, especially for a Reiki Master Teacher with teachings is such various modalities. To each his own. Namaste.

  12. I must say it’s great to see a discussion like this. Chakras have become part of Reiki, as far as many Western practitioners are concerned. I’m really interested in the meridians as an alternative model. This is particularly the case given my interest in Shiatsu.

    They’re both just models, but I do find that the chakras provide a relatively simple model to understand how emotional and psychological development are anchored to the body. As such I do refer to them when I teach and in my daily self-treatment. But they are not necessary, and we don’t need to fight to prove they exist!

  13. For the sake of clear communication, both in the general public as well as amongst practitioners, I believe a clearly defined foundation of what constitutes Reiki would be of immense help. The inclusion of chakras in such a definition need not be found, regardless of a particular system’s applications.

    As was stated, Usui, Hayashi, nor Takata ever mentioned the chakras in regards to Reiki. Yet many of the modern systems base entire techniques around chakra system. Despite these additions, Reiki continues to work despite (or in spite) of our preconceived notions and conscious chatter.

    On the other hand, Takata did mention the Hara / Tan Tien area in the belly in some of her notes; this area being one of the three energetic centers of the body found in Japanese metaphysics. However, despite this clear link to Reiki practice, it would still be in a practitioner’s best interest to avoid unnecessarily complicated and potentially divisive definitions for the sake of clear communication. The fact that Reiki continues to work in our modern Reiki community without this particular intellectual context is a testament to how necessary such extra-curricular explanations are in regards to simple and effective practice/treatment.

    In my opinion, the addition of the chakra system (or any other system of metaphysics Japanese or otherwise) contribute little toward the effectiveness of Reiki practice and communication. This is not to diminish our more contemporary Reiki systems or to deride any of these rich and profound traditions, but to honor each aspect, tradition, and system though justified differentiation. In this way we may serve all aspects of practice, Reiki or otherwise, rather than complicate unnecessarily.

  14. This post and everyone’s heartfelt responses have given me a lot of food for thought and clarified what I love about how I learned to practice Reiki. I like that the practice can be simple and that I myself am not doing anything more than providing a connection. While I may not be able to provide people with an intellectually rigorous, scientific understanding of what the Reiki connection is, and I tend to keep my explanations simple, they seem to understand it on a more visceral level once they experience it. Thanks to all.

  15. Getchie Argetsinger

    As my brilliant nephew Artie says “Don’t make it complicated.” He doesn’t practice Reiki but he’s very wise!

    One of the things I love most about Reiki is that it is a practice and not an intellecutal exercise.

    As a actor I try to remember that “less is more” if I want to communicate the playwright’s message clearly – so Pamela’s points ring very true for me.

    Thank you for challenging us forward by encouraging thoughtful contemplation.

  16. And from one lover of Ayurveda to another, thank you, Lisa!

    In our hospital Reiki program, we have about a minute to tell patients what they need to know to consent to a treatment (or not). This is a situation in which more information is not better; it’s a distraction and often a burden. The information can come later, if at all. The treatment experience is what matters.

    And the other part of this is the voice of my teachers over 30 years warning not to be simplistic about chakras and other subtle realities, to keep in mind that they are not objects. One teacher encourages thinking of the chakra-nadi system as a model of function rather than a “thing.” The nature of these subtle realities is elusive at best; fortunately Reiki practitioners don’t need to understand it, as our practice is empowered rather than skill/knowledge-based.

  17. This post is a great reminder to keep our communications clear and not to clutter our explanations with terms that can confuse the recipient of Reiki. As a practitioner who also has Ayurveda in my background, I absolutely see the point you’re making here. Whatever we as individuals know to be true, it’s in the best interest of the receiver to be able to relax into the treatment. It counterproductive to have their conscious mind going into overdrive, trying to keep up with explanations which may even make them feel uncomfortable. Thank you Pamela!

  18. I believe that I understod both sides… Pamela and Phillip.
    I agree that tha science can’t “prove” many things, like, Chakras and Reiki, but a few decades ago the science couldn’t prove that emotions could affect health, and a few years more, it couldn’t “see and measure” any virus, so, they don’t “existed” that time! Just because science can’t prove that something exist, doesn’t mean it can’t be real!

    I also agre we must choose very carefuly our words! If I’m talking about Reiki to a person that I don’t know what that person believes or not, I use some “light words” like: “Divine energy” or “It’s used for healing”… If the person is a catholic by example, would be better to say: “Heavenly energy” or “uncondictional love”… If is someone who study ayurveda, I can talk about chakras, if like Chinese medicine I can talk of meridians… And this list can continue infinitely!

    Of course we must remember to not “make-up” too much, and absolutely not be prisioner of baubles and magic dust. All we need is to offer with the hearth an the source of everything will hear!
    But, if we feel confortable, why can’t we focus on the heart chakra to help a person to heal the emotional? Or give some atention to the Lung Meridian to help a person to breath better?

    If we feel confortable, and it comes from the heart, I believe we can do.

    P.S. Sorry for any mispeling, englis is not my mother language.

  19. Terri, I don’t explain the hand positions. I let my client know I’ll place my hands lightly and non-invasively on various areas of the head and torso.

    In terms of activating the systemic balancing response (parasympathetic nervous system), I agree, it totally doesn’t matter where we place our hands. This becomes particularly evident in times of emergencies, or when treating critically ill patients in-hospital, where access to the usual placements is often limited.

    That said, there is also the local impact of laying-on-of-hands, and that’s why we use various placements when possible.

    The use of Reiki treatment is widespread enough that we really don’t have to worry about it being lost. What is a concern for some of us is that this simple spiritual practice will be overtaken by New Age accoutrements and misinformation.

    I’d like to clarify that I’m not saying suggesting anyone needs to limit themselves to what has been proven. People can practice as they like. Regardless their practice style, they’ll be stronger practitioners if they practice daily self-treatment and contemplate their practice.

    Beyond that, if Reiki professionals want to interest a broader public than the usual suspects, it helps to avoid New Age jargon and to communicate about Reiki practice with clarity and simplicity.

  20. This is an interesting question, and I’m curious, Pamela and others in this camp, what you say instead. For example, when I explain the hand positions before someone’s first session, I often say that I put my hands over different chakras or energy centers throughout the body for maximum balance and relaxation. But if you don’t want to use those terms, do you say, I put my hands over your stomach because… well, because it feels good? That doesn’t seem any more scientific than the chakra explanation.

    For the sake of the discussion, if you don’t employ the concept of energy flow and energy centers, how can you justify changing hand positions at all? Just sit and hold their hand, since it truly doesn’t matter the entry point of Reiki. So is your decision to use different hand positions then to fulfill what the recipient expects, rather than something fundamental to your own Reiki process? I’m curious.

    I still think it’s a slippery slope to limit ourselves to what can be proven by existing technology. If that’s your approach, a relatively young spiritual healing practice that cannot be definitively proven – namely, Reiki – is also at risk.

  21. There is enough proof that chakras exist. Not to mention the experiences of great yogis who discovered the existence of chakras but it can also be felt through reiki & meditation. Keep giving reiki to the places where chakras are supposed to be located and and with practice you can feel actual physical vibrations. This can also be felt with meditation on chakras. They of course are not part of the physical body.

  22. Pamela,

    Reiki is meant to be the simplest form of healing oneself. I think all the hype of making it acceptable to the western world has changed the true origin of the practice. Usui tried to keep it simple… as westerners we added all the other stuff to convince ourselves of it existance. Ive stayed in Kyoto, there whole way of life is humble simplicity. As a master of the art, i believe stongly in upholding its simplistic nature.

  23. Philip, thank you for opening the discussion. I’ve actually spent years studying Ayurveda, Buddhism, and other systems and practices. I don’t think Reiki is an energy healing technique but rather a spiritual healing practice that has therapeutic applications. This distinction is discussed in the series of posts that starts here

    You are correct, there is no scientific validation for the existence of Reiki. Neither is there scientific validation of a subtle energy body or aura. That is why the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine refers to such as “putative,” to distinguish them from verifiable (i.e. measurable) forces such as electromagnetism. There are frontier scientists who are working to measure subtler fields, but their results are not yet validated by conventional science.

  24. There is no “proof” that Reiki exists.

    Chakras are part of the human energy field and yes, they exist in multiple “dimensions”. There is a physical component linking it to the physical body and there are multiple higher bodies that the chakras exist within.

    Dr. Usui and Dr. Hayashi would put their hands on the afflicted area of the patient regardless of where that place was … breasts, reproductive organs, tongue, etc. That WAS part of original Reiki (read Dr. Hayashi’s Healing Guide). And yet we do not do these things today because they are not accepted.

    The chakras have been part of many different belief systems far longer than modern reiki has existed.

    When someone says “when I place my hand on your heart chakra” they really mean that they are placing their hand in the energy field of the heart chakra.

    The chakras are part of the auric field of a living being. Its existence was first verified by an electrical engineer back around 1978 – see Proceedings of the IEEE either the June or July issue of 1978. He was able to measure an electrical field that surrounded the body and varied in intensity. He called it the “bio-energetic field”.

    The idea of chakras have been around for thousands of years and that they are part of the person’s body.

    Reiki is not an energy healing technique in a closed bottle … Reiki can work with just about any other energy system provided that you are not setting out to deliberately do harm. Reiki is a thriving, growing and expanding system.

    And exactly what is your experience with Shintoism? Esoteric Buddhism? And various forms of Japanese martial arts at the highest level?

    I would suggest that you spend several months studying Ayurvedic healing systems, various forms of esoteric Buddhism and other systems.

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