REIKI: THE HEALING TOUCH (and a self-care routine)

Yoga teacher and reiki therapist Joanne Silver gives us an overview of this ancient technique and shares a self-care routine that we can use at home to reset our energies.

Words: Joanne Silver // Images: Jill Futter

How would you describe reiki to someone who has very little to no idea what it is?

Reiki is a gentle method of energy healing that promotes balance, encourages healing and facilitates relaxation. Reiki is effective on many levels, including the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. This ancient technique, which originated in Japan, encourages harmony in the body and enhances its ability to heal, to release stress and to reduce tension.

What one experiences during a reiki treatment varies somewhat from person to person. However, most recipients usually have a sense of deep relaxation. The reiki energy is often felt as heat or a tingling sensation. During a session, some people drift off to sleep or experience a heightened dream-like state. At the end of the treatment, most people report feeling refreshed with a more positive and balanced outlook.

What drew you to Reiki in the beginning, and what inspired you to continue on and train to become at practitioner?

Before having my first reiki treatment, I really had no idea what it was. I had always been interested in complementary therapies and healing, but was not very familiar with reiki.  I was reading a free magazine on alternative therapies in New York, and decided to book a session with reiki master Mary Mallon, with whom I went on to do my training.

During the session, I felt an immense sense of calm, peace and well being. I felt like I wasn't really awake, but wasn't asleep either, and saw lots images and colors.  It was similar to a very deep savasana. After the session, I felt wonderful. I felt lighter in my body and in my mind and felt as though something had shifted energetically.

After a few more sessions, I decided to pursue reiki training. I wanted to be able to offer it to my friends and loved ones and also to be able to use it on myself. I actually didn't have an intention of using it professionally, but now it is an integral part of the work I do, as a yoga teacher.

Have you found a relationship between reiki and yoga and, if so, how would you describe it.

Yes, I believe there's a definite relationship between reiki and yoga.  Both seek to bring balance and harmony to the body, mind and spirit and both help to create space mentally.  While yoga works with asana and pranayama to achieve this balance, reiki is pure energy.

Besides a consistent yoga practice, how could someone restore a sense of balance in their physical and emotional selves? Is it possible to have some kind of simple, daily reiki routine for the self?

In order to practice reiki, it is necessary to receive training and "attunements" from a reiki master. However, there are many other things a person can practice for self care.  Self care is hugely important in this day and age.  We are constantly multi-tasking, over-committing and running from one place to another, which leads to imbalance and stress. A daily self-care routine of even ten minutes, such as the one below, offers huge benefits.


1. Inhale. Exhale. Pause.

Start in a comfortable seated position, make sure you're feeling grounded through your sitting bones and that your spine is long.  Place one hand over your heart and the other hand over your belly button.  Close your eyes and start to observe your breath.  As you breathe softly through your nose, feel the breath moving your hands.  Notice if you're breathing is focused in your upper chest or if your breathing is balanced between your chest and your abdomen.  Notice if your inhalation and your exhalation are even.  If you find that one breath is longer than the other, over the next few rounds of breath, begin to balance out the breath in and the breath out.

2. Constructive Rest Pose

Fold a blanket into a quarter (the edge of it should be about one inch thick).  Lay the folded blanket across the top quarter of your yoga mat.  Lie down on your back and step your feet mat width apart, with just the balls of your feet on the blanket and your heels on the yoga mat.  Bring the insides of your knees to touch.  Place your hands on your abdomen and start to observe your breath.  Once your breath in and breath out feel even, start to inhale, exhale and then pause at the bottom of the exhalation.  Keep repeating for a number of rounds, inhale, exhale, pause.  You are not holding the breath during the pause, it is just a slight gap between the exhalation and the next inhalation.

3. Legs on a Chair

Place a chair (ideally a folding chair or chair without a solid back) on your yoga mat, with the chair facing you.  Sit with one hip facing the chair.  As you start to lie back, swing your legs up and your body around so your bottom is towards the chair, and your calves and feet are supported by the chair seat.  Your legs should be bent at a 90 degree angle, with the edge of the chair seat meeting the backs of the knees and the heels resting comfortably on the chair seat.  Stay here, watching your breath, for as long as your are comfortable. 

While practicing these breathing exercises and poses, I like to play restorative, soothing music. I also incorporate my favorite essential oils, adding a couple of drops to a cotton ball or tissue and placing it by my yoga mat.  My favorites are Valor by Young Living, which is a combination of spruce, rosewood, blue tansy and frankincense, and Altitude Oil by de Mamiel, which is a blend of lavender, eucalyptus, frangonia, peppermint, pine, lemon and patchouli.  A single oil, like lemon or lavender works very well too.


It was after discovering a yoga studio in her West Village neighborhood that Joanne began to deepen her exploration of yoga. She went on to complete her yoga teacher training with the Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in 2002, and has been teaching yoga ever since. Her interest in Eastern philosophy began while studying at Ithaca College, where she minored in Mystical and Spiritual Religion. She enjoys weaving theories from varied spiritual traditions throughout her classes. Joanne has also studied restorative yoga with Judith Hanson Lasater and is a certified “Relax and Renew” teacher. Her therapeutic yoga training was completed with Cheri Clampett and Arturo Peal, and she is certified in pre-natal yoga with Mary Barnes. In addition, Joanne completed her training in Reflexology through the New York Open Center in 2000 and her Reiki Master training with Mary Mallon in 1999.