Is Reiki and energy work just “woo woo”?



What comes to mind when you hear “energy work” or “Reiki”? Reiki as a modality is sometimes met with skepticism. Labeled as “woo woo” or “not real.” Though I’m a Reiki Master myself and have always been sensitive to the energies around me, I initially had no idea what Reiki was. It seemed sort of made up sounding to me. That was, until I received my first reiki session. Before I share that, I’d like to share with you what Reiki is, and address some of the skepticism that surrounds it. 


Photo: Mindful Touch™ by Yomassage®


Reiki is a Japanese-based modality used for stress reduction and restoring balance, and was rediscovered by Mikao Usui in the mid 1800’s. “Rei” means “universal life” and “Ki” means “energy.” Reiki uses, what’s referred to as “universal energy” to restore balance to mind, body and spirit. Let’s slow that down. Energy. Energy exists within us and around us. Not just energy level, like if you’re tired or awake, but ever notice that our thoughts and feelings carry an energy frequency? For example, if you think something judgmental about yourself right now, you’ll feel that internally. Now, think something kind or positive about yourself. Notice that shift? That’s energy internally. Externally, spaces hold energy. Think about a beautiful scene in nature, like the sun setting on the ocean. Now think about a closed, dark alley. Notice that shift? Even just thinking about these different spaces, you can feel the energy frequencies. So, Reiki uses this universal energy that we have access to all of the time. 

That part is key. We all have access to this energy. Sometimes it just takes time and conscious practice to rediscover this energy, and explore how it can be used. Our being not only has a physical layer, the body, but additional layers: emotional, mental and spiritual. The in’s and outs of daily life alone can influence imbalances within, and Reiki restores balance to all of these layers – whether you have a physical ailment or injury, are under stress, or struggling with inner criticism just to name a few examples. Reiki intuitively knows where to restore balance in your being and for that reason, Reiki is often considered a “healing” practice. In a Reiki session, a practitioner will place hands or above the body, and serve as a channel for the Reiki to flow to wherever your system is in need of balancing. 


Photo: Mindful Touch™ by Yomassage®


Something that may contribute to skepticism about energy work is that we can’t see it with the naked eye, therefore it might not feel “real.”  In the early 19th century, physicists developed Field Theory to address how beings often influence one another even when not physically, concretely near one another. For example, how a mother can know her child is in trouble even if she’s not near him. Or how sometimes you just know who’s calling you even without looking at caller ID. The physicists who developed Field Theory defined a “field” as a “condition in space which has the potential for producing force” (Brennan, 1987, p.22). Field Theory acknowledges the concept that fields create forces that interact with one another, which I interpret as our energy fields influencing one another. This theory supports how beings affect one another through means other than speech or sight, but through fields of energy. It supports how we feel “vibes” from people or places, or sometimes feel automatically connected to someone like we’ve known them for years; we’re interacting with one another’s energy fields. 

Increasingly, more research is being published demonstrating the benefits of Reiki. Studies show that reiki is effective in decreasing stress, anxiety, depression pain and chronic pain (Bier, 2017). It can also be used to effectively treat conditions like: headache, insomnia, nausea, fatigue and tension (Cronkleton, 2018). Reiki cannot serve as a substitute in circumstances where medical intervention is necessary; however, even in these circumstances reiki can aid as a complimentary treatment.


Photo: Mindful Touch™ by Yomassage®


Regardless of physics and research validating energy fields and studying the benefits of Reiki, experiencing energy work first-hand might be all you need to believe it’s impact. After my first reiki session, I felt a sense of grounding I had never experienced before. I literally felt magnetically anchored to the earth and it was one of the most peaceful, comforting and steadying feelings I’ve ever known. I was filled with a strong, deep knowing that everything in my life was unfolding exactly as it was meant to and I didn’t need to try to change or control anything. That was incredibly healing as I had been struggling with anxiety at the time.  

I’ve heard countless first-hand accounts of the beautiful impacts of Reiki. A woman who hadn’t been able to bend over to tie her shoes in years due to back pain, after a session was able to. Another who’d experienced shoulder pain for 6 months, and it “vanished” within a session. A woman who was greeted by a Native American elder during a session who offered her words of wisdom in regards to a current life challenge, and this brought her immense peace. A woman who was experiencing strain with her step-daughter, during the session received a beautiful image of herself hiking in the woods; a reminder that reconnection with nature and herself would help heal the relational strain. A man who was recovering from cancer and felt a deep sense of connection and ease. These are all experiences of single sessions, though I have also been privileged to witness the impacts of reiki over time. Like a woman enduring the physical and emotional toll of fertility treatment who now has a healthy child, and a woman in recovery from a traumatic brain injury who is now helping parents of children with special needs. 


Photo: Mindful Touch™ by Yomassage®


I can’t stress enough that none of these experiences are me, it’s the Reiki. It’s the energy that channels through in these sessions, I’m simply a vessel. But don’t take my word for it. Yomassage offers Energetic classes are led by Yomassage Therapists that are also Reiki practitioners. Perhaps you reading this is a nudge to find a practitioner in your area and give yourself the gift of rest and healing through loving, universal energy. 


About the Author

Alison is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Reiki Master and Kripalu Yoga Instructor residing in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in treating anxiety, trauma and chronic illness in adults and adolescents through mindfulness-based modalities, self-compassion practices, Reiki and therapeutic yoga. Interested in Reiki with Alison in person or long distance? Email 


Bier, D. (2018, October 8). Reiki healing and mental health: What the research shows. Retrieved from

Brennan, B. A. (1987). Hands of light: A guide to healing through the human energy field. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Cronkleton, E. (2018, June 21). What are the benefits of Reiki and how does it work? Retrieved from


About Mindful Touch™ Yomassage® and Energetic Yomassage®

Mindful Touch™ by Yomassage® is a class offering that teaches you hold a healing space for 10 clients or less. The class incorporates Mindful Touch™ techniques, energy work and reiki, restorative stretch, and mindfulness throughout. Please visit to learn more about the Mindful Touch™ trainings. This training is approved by NCBTMB and Yoga Alliance.

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