Reiki Responses

Reiki ResponsesA few moments after starting a Reiki session on a student, I surrendered to a huge yawn.

My student gave a knowing laugh.

“It’s funny,” she said, “I yawn deeply during self practice. It feels like my whole body is yawning.”

“Yet when I receive Reiki treatment, I don’t usually yawn,” she continued, “Instead, my abdomen gurgles.”

And it did, loudly, right on cue. This time we both laughed.

Reiki practice brings physical responses

Physical responses to Reiki practice are not predictable, but a few occur often. Yawning, belly gurgles and increased salivation are common, and are indications of the body shifting from a stressed fight-or-flight state (sympathetic nervous system — SNS) to the rest-and-digest state in which the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) dominates.

Both segments of the autonomic nervous system — which controls the physical functions like breathing and heart rate that happen automatically and keep us alive — are always functioning, but the one that dominates determines how you feel and how your body functions, whether your body is on auto-repeat in stress mode, or you are poised and able to enjoy yourself and your life, and — no small benefit — your body digests well, sleeps well, and self heals.

The SNS activates fast to protect us in an emergency. The PNS takes longer to restore balance to the system. Reiki practice seems to encourage PNS activation, but we don’t yet know how or why.

It’s all about the breath

Before any of the above responses have occurred, the breath shifts. That response is often so subtle that it goes unnoticed, but it’s the body’s first response and the doorway to the all the rest.

When the breath shifts, everything shifts. A startled mouth breath starts a stress response, and a settled nose breath down-regulates the nervous system.

Try observing the initial moments of your next Reiki session, self treatment or received from someone else. You might find, as I do, that observing the breath adds to your enjoyment of Reiki practice. Also, attention enhances whatever we observe, so noticing your breath may well facilitate an even faster, deeper response to Reiki practice.

What do you notice?

What are your most common responses to Reiki practice? Do you have a question about anything you notice during your Reiki practice? Write it as a comment and I’ll do my best to help.

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19 thoughts on “Reiki Responses”

  1. Thank you, that’s very helpful. I didn’t experience any yawning receiving Reiki, until I did a session of Tibetan Bowls chakra balancing, which gave me a constant yawning throughout the sessions..Now accepting Reiki healing the same is happening..constant yawning..eyewatering yawning..I was curious to know why this reaction…

    1. There’s no way to know why our bodies respond a certain way to Reiki practice.

      The body is constantly changing in response to so many internal and external variables. When we practice self Reiki or receive a Reiki session from someone else, our bodies respond according to how they can move toward balance in that moment from their current state.

      Similarly, we have no way of knowing whether your yawning when receiving the bowl treatment was due to the bowls, or simply your current state.

      Because Reiki practice evokes a healing response rather than forcing a reaction, we don’t have to know.

  2. Hi Pamela 🙂
    When I receive a Reiki treatment I sometimes feel a lot of sensation at the base of my neck/throat and I need to cough. It makes me think of a cat coughing up a hairball for some reason (lol 😉 – like there is perhaps some *clearing* going on. I also commonly have tummy rumbles & sometimes a bit of gassy feelings in my intestines as things seem to be shifting/waking up.

    I haven’t experienced yawning etc while giving treatments (yet). I find I get into a very relaxed, almost meditative, state when I’m the giver. It’s quite lovely – a nice little oasis as I’m generally a pretty high-strung person.

    I always find it interesting to hear about others’ experiences of giving & receiving Reiki.

  3. I can relate with many of the comments here. Reiki is such a beautiful healing art! I feel the most when I relax, let go of attachment, and pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment. It’s amazing how much more we experience in Reiki and in life with this intention. Thanks for having such a great blog to share thoughts and experiences!

  4. i found this article very interesting. I never get the yawning however what I do have is pin and needles in my hands especially on my head as I begin my daily reiki session…..also sometimes over my abdomen slight pain in my hands. perhaps there is something i am doing that is wrong…..what i do feel when this happens is a release of stress. Any suggestions are great appreciated…love and light

    1. Lee, I encourage you to take care to find a comfortable way to practice. You might, for example, need a little padding under your elbows when placing your hands on your stomach. If you are physically supported during your self practice, I wouldn’t be worried about what subtle sensations you have, as they are very subjective and individual.

  5. I am now a practicing relflexologist but some years ok had a reiki treatment and experienced a burst of salivation – thought it was interesting and mentioned to the therapist who said she hadn’t heard of that before so am pleased to have an explanation after all this time.

  6. hi Pam. Thx for opportunity to discuss this, I’ve had a few sensations and always wondered. When I practice Reiki at start of session, my heart pounds, I become very thirsty for water as well. I have many visuals during sessions regarding something about the individual I am working with. One session left me fully drained, think “I” need to step aside and let Reiki flow through me, is the lesson here. 🙂

    1. From what you describe, Lori, it seems to me that there is something happening besides Reiki practice, especially if you are feeling drained. When people have sensitivities such as you have described, it’s important to maintain personal boundaries and detachment.

      I think of Reiki as a practice rather than something that comes through us. You might experiment with that perspective and see if it helps you stay detached.

  7. Pamela,

    The yawning usually happens to me as I begin my Reiki self-pratice, as well as while I am beginning to send distance Reiki. I would often wonder why I would start yawning at a time when I was feeling so reverent and spiritual, and I never even thought that it might be a response to the Reiki itself.

    I have also experienced the belly gurgling in myself while giving Reiki, but more often in the person who is receiving the Reiki.

  8. I’ve only experienced reiki once – the first time was outdoors and I recognised 2 sensations – 1st me sense of smell multiplied massively- as though I could smell every different plant around me. I also sensed a strong vibration in my lower throat. On the second time, my reiki guy had a painful shoulder before treatment… For the duration of the session I felt that pain and he was free of it…

    1. I’ve never heard anything like what you experienced in your second session, Kristel. I don’t think it was related to Reiki practice, but rather to the intimacy of the shared experience. Have you ever wondered if you are an empath?

  9. Thank you ur posts r really encouraging. I notice that most of the times while practising reiki, the mind slowly dwindles into irrelevant thoughts and it takes a while to realise that my mind has wandered and to bring it on track.

    1. Kita, it’s ok to let your mind wander. Although I enjoy observing my Reiki treatment, there are times when don’t feel like making any effort other than putting my hands in place. It’s like veging out with Reiki practice instead of the television! 🙂

  10. Yes , this is the best question . One of my friend one day openined that ” i did not see you yawning . Is it because you are taking yoga ?” i replied “may be ” it is sure that we can avoid yawning if we practice yoga and reiki .

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