'I tried reiki energy healing to see if it could help me sleep'
I'm at a bougie wellness hangout in Chelsea, London, to see if energy healing – AKA reiki – can help me to slink off to dreamland, faster.
The word translates, loosely, as 'universal energy.' It refers to the practice of laying hands on or over the person receiving treatment to transmit said energy through their body, thus removing 'energy blockages' – and so promoting wellbeing and feelings of deep relaxation.
Or, to phrase it more romantically: 'It's a healing therapy that channels energy through your aura, to balance your mind, body and spirit,' explains Jasmin Harsono of Emerald + Tiger, a master and teacher of the practice – and the person administering my debut crack at it.
While forms of hand laying for healing have been abundant in myriad cultures for centuries, this specific incarnation was founded by former Buddhist monk Mikao Usui in Japan in the 1920s.
It's gaining ground in the intrigue stakes. Google searches for the term have risen steadily over the past five years, while reported celebrity fans include Cameron Diaz, Uma Thurman and Angelina Jolie. In certain NHS trusts, you can be referred for the therapy, as an add-on to your prescribed medical care.
As to any more punchy promises? Well, some claim it can play a role in pain alleviation. The data here is limited.
How does reiki work?
A number of small randomised control studies – and a review of the existing literature – indicate that the practice is useful when it comes to handling stress, and that it appears to provide some degree of relief from pain. But a concrete consensus in the scientific community is very much pending.
Know that this an alternative therapy, and is not meant to replace any sort of more traditional medical treatment or advice.
What it's like to try reiki for sleep
I'm here for the first of two 45 minute reiki sessions, as I've heard it trickling down the wellness chat grapevine that the practice can help with those elusive eight hours.
How? Given that much of our collective issues with zeds (the average British adult gets a meagre six hours and 19 minutes kip a night) stem from a mezze of stress, anxiety and their implicated hormones – a big clap for adrenaline and cortisol – it seems that this relaxation technique could be useful.
For context: I'm an eight-hours-'til-I-die girl, but also one who struggles with late night nervousness – slideshows of 'your 10 most catastrophic fuck-ups to date' being my speciality.
Arriving for my first session (Jasmin works out of Chelsea health and wellness hangout, Gazelli House, for her one-on-one reiki appointments), I'm ushered into a waiting room with velvet-lined furniture and am handed a form to detail my medical history and what I'm hoping to get out of our time.
Called downstairs to Jasmin's ambient-ly lit studio, we chat about what the session will look like.
'It's very personal – I am placing hands on the body, so I want to explain that,' Jasmin says, when I call her to dissect the experience, later. 'For the first session I will share reiki from crown of head to the root [i.e. your feet] to tap into the seven main chakras.'
(Quick re-cap: 'chakras' refers to seven points in the body, which are believed to be focal points for energy to flow into and out of, in certain forms of Hinduism and Buddhism.)
'I work intuitively over the body. So, the chakras and then to where I feel guided,' she adds.
Jasmin asks me to take off my shoes and to lie down on a face-hole free massage bed. She queries if I'd like an eye pillow, to block out any light (yes) and if I like essential oils (bigger yes.)
Eyes shut and pillow secured, botanical tea tree is waved in front of my nose. I'm instructed to inhale and expel three long breaths.
I then feel hands gently touch my head. Between the scent of the oils, the lack of light and the soothing sensation, I feel my body lose some of its rigidity. After what feels like a few minutes, Jasmin moves further down, to my décolletage, pressing lightly.
Through the session, this continues, with my arms, legs and feet all given attention. Other than when hunger hits towards the tail end of the session and I begin imagining salmon maki rolls coming at me through the darkness (I walked past a Wasabi en route) it's truly calming.
With my eyes still covered and the hands taken from my body, I hear the the afore mentioned singing. It's certainly a more out there sleep aid there than, say, my beloved Lumie sunrise clock. But I'm zenned-out enough at this point to let it wash over me.
After a debrief, I leave the studio – and feel as fuzzy as a ripe peach, all loose and chill and flowing.
That night, I clock out after half an hour of reading – so long, slideshows – and wake up the next morning still carrying a sensation of slowness that's a welcome antidote to my usual rush.
My next session goes much the same – and, in our post treatment debrief, Jasmin tells me that she focused on my reproductive organs, as she could feel tension there (I'm due on my period, so this is pretty impressive.) Again, I slide to sleep with no fuss and wake up feeling like sunshine. Is it a result of the energy that's supposedly been transmitted clearing out my blockages?
Or more a case that lying down, inhaling the scent of calming plants and feeling as cosseted as a six month old baby has calmed my nervous system in a way I've not achieved in years? On that, the jury's out.
Look. If your tolerance for magical thinking is zero, then reiki is not the path to slumber for you. But, say you're a fan of the more alternative stuff? Then it comes with my thorough recommendation.
For me, this one's worth it.
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