About 15 years ago, I heard about reiki for the first time. My college roommate, a witchy Croatian girl with an easy laugh, practiced it on herself, and described it as some sort of pressure therapy that sounded pointless to me at the time.

Well, I guess I just wasn’t ready to receive the energy. It wasn’t until recently that I felt a pull to investigate further. Actually, reiki is a relatively new practice, originating from Japan as early as 1914, so it’s not exactly rooted in ancient traditions like, say, Kundalini yoga and zen meditation. I think that’s what makes it feel even more cryptic and New Age. What exactly is it?

An Explanation

The word reiki comes from the Japanese and Chinese characters of "rei," meaning spiritual or supernatural, and "ki," meaning vital energy. According to Julie Evonne Washington, a reiki master teacher, intuitive healing touch artist, and founder of The Healing Room in Altadena, Calif., “A traditional reiki healing involves laying hands upon the different chakras and meridians​ in your body for healing, unblocking stagnant energy to allow flow, and balancing the mind, body, and spirit.” She adds, “We sometimes forget that we always have access to a limitless supply of universal energy. Tapping into this vast ocean of energy can help to promote a deeper sense of connection, revitalize our lives, promote healing, and empower us to live the life of our dreams.”

There’s no question that I want to exude good vibes and live the life of my dreams, so when Julie invited me to experience my first ever reiki session, I was ready. I told her that my goal was to explore and to connect with my ancient Filipino ancestors’ island way of life. (I need any excuse to exist on island time.) She chose her Spirit Speak Session for me—a combination of shamanic healing, crystal energy healing, and aura and chakra balancing and sweeping. “I love to add an oracle and tarot card reading to see what your guides, angels, and higher self want you to know, using my gifts as an intuitive,” she says. “It opens up your akashic records—your soul’s blueprint and story—healing and releasing any karmic ties of self as well as lineage of your ancestors’ DNA.”

The Experience

I showed up with a wide open mind and heart and my open letter to the universe that Julie had instructed me to bring. Immediately I felt the literal warmth in her magical healing room, covered wall to wall and floor to ceiling in hundreds of crystals and essential oils. She poured me a glass of crystal- and reiki-infused alkaline water. I won’t go into detail, but my tarot reading revealed a lot of beautiful insights about my recent marriage and our loving and prosperous journey ahead. (Good lookin’ out, my angels!)

In the second part of my session, Julie had me lay on my back on the most pillowy-soft massage table on earth. She gave me some earplugs and laid a cloth over my eyes so that I could journey deep within without distraction. I could faintly hear her summoning my angels and ancestors from the north, south, east, and west. I knew the lights in the room were dim, but somehow they started to seem brighter even with my eyes closed and covered. I felt crystals being placed all over my body from head to toe. I lied there without moving a muscle, and little twitches and rumbles moved throughout my body, particularly in my belly and pelvic area. I saw white sparks in my (closed) left eye at least twice. Energy was definitely activated and flowing.

After a period of deep meditation (during which I discovered a white wolf as my current spirit animal), I felt the crystals being removed from my body one by one. When Julie slipped the cover from my eyes, the light felt bright again—but after opening my eyes slowly, I saw that the room was just as dim as it always had been. I asked Julie about the vibrations I felt from the crystals, if that was a result of her using her hands to make any adjustments. She said she didn’t touch me at all during the session—she let the crystals do the work. (Techniques have been developed and adapted since reiki was created, so every healer and teacher practices differently.)

The Aftereffects

Right away I felt lighter and brighter. Before letting me go, Julie shared some more lovely insights, and I was so blissed out—almost manic at times—for the rest of the day. I felt compelled to share my abundant energy with everyone around me. But by the end of the day, something triggered me and I fell into an old feeling of childlike vulnerability and defensiveness that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Julie had warned me that some old emotions would get stirred up and surface, sort of like a purge. Luckily, my loving husband helped me work through them, so it seems pretty important to be around people you trust when integrating after reiki.

The upcoming full moon would be the perfect time to release old energies and issues, according to Julie. This is when she burns her clients’ letters to the universe to release the intentions into the world. I already had plans to go camping in the mountains, so it was a serendipitous opportunity to take a moon bath and cleanse my crystals (that I don’t even pretend to know how to really harness just yet).

It’s hard to tell if it was the reiki, or the healing energy of the moon, or whatever—but a week after my first reiki session, I certainly do feel re-energized, renewed, and just plain happy. My guess is over the next few weeks and months, more will be revealed, and per Julie’s guidance, I’ll let my intuition lead me through whatever comes my way.

The Before and After

I highly recommend taking the reiki plunge and seeing what it brings up for you. Here are Julie’s pro tips to prepare for and follow up a session, in her words.


  • Relax + reflect: Give yourself at least 30 minutes prior to the session to sit and reflect, particularly checking in with how your body is feeling and anything you are noticing with regards to emotions, thoughts or physical sensations.Take some time to breathe and also tend to whatever your body's needs might be on that given day. You may also want to reflect on any intentions you want to set for your session.
  • Eat + hydrate: Be sure you’ve eaten and hydrated a few hours before the session, mostly so you will be as comfortable as possible and not distracted by hunger or thirst. However, it's best to avoid eating a heavy meal beforehand, as you don’t want all of your body’s energy to be directed toward digesting while you’re receiving your treatment.
  • Get comfy: Comfort is key for being open to taking on and integrating the energy of reiki. Be sure you are wearing comfortable clothes. I usually recommend wearing or bringing socks since shoes are removed during the session and the feet can get cold. You’ll also want to use the restroom before the session.


  • Integrate: Many of the treatment benefits can occur as soon as after the session is over, so it’s important to find somewhere quiet and relaxing to integrate what may arise. I recommend taking at least 15 to 20 minutes after the session to meditate, lie down, go out for a walk, go to the ocean, or even take a nap. Try not to book or schedule anything immediately after your session.
  • Hydrate: After doing any type of energy work, it’s important to hydrate, so be sure to drink one to two glasses of water. I prefer giving my clients crystal- and reiki-infused alkaline water, as it helps to replenish the body.
  • Eat: Energy work is often hungry work. Be sure that you listen to your body and choose a healthy snack or meal afterward if needed. Eating can also help ground the body, and as a bonus, you may find that a piece of dark chocolate can be quite restorative—and it's healthy and yummy!
  • Reflect: It’s often helpful to spend some time after the session reflecting, so I recommend journaling, drawing, or somehow capturing any insights you had during and immediately after the session. I like to suggest to meditating afterward or listening to calming and/or inspirational music. Whatever you choose to do, find an activity that helps you connect to what you've experienced so you can draw from it in the future.
  • Contact your practitioner: Please get in touch with your practitioner immediately if you experience any overly challenging emotions, physicalsensations, or issues after your reiki treatment. Reiki is extremelygentle and yet, because energy blockages are being cleared in the body,issues may come up as a result.

About the Author

Dana is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer and editor with a focus on eco lifestyle and beauty—from vegan cooking to natural, cruelty-free skin care. Also a wildlife enthusiast, naturalist, and advocate for conservation and environmental stewardship.