20-Minutes of Reiki: A whole lot of good
In a small 2008 study, researchers compared the effects of Reiki (light-touch energy work they call “relaxation therapy”) to those of classical music on post-acute coronary syndrome (ACS) inpatients. In the study, patients had to have had an ACS episode within 72 hours before receiving 20-minutes of treatment (either Reiki or classical music), or simply participating in a control group of minimal distraction.
How Reiki relaxes the body
So, what did the researchers conclude? “Reiki increases vagal activity and decreases anxiety in patients after ACS.” In specific, they found Reiki significantly:
- increased high frequency (HF) component of HRV
- increased respiration rate interval
- reduced reported anxiety
- increased sense of relaxation
What is the HF component of HRV?
The HF component will decrease during periods of time pressure or emotional strain; so seeing Reiki’s ability to increase this is consistent with the participants’ experiencing less anxiety and more relaxation.
What is ACS?
Acute coronary syndrome is an umbrella term for conditions in which the blood supplied to the heart is suddenly blocked, such as is the case in heart attack or unstable angina.
Energy work and the Heart
They say many healthcare providers die from complications to the heart because they tax the organ’s energy so extensively, in caring for others and especially in channeling its energy through the hands as is the case for many bodyworkers including massage therapists. While I can appreciate the sentiment, I think it’s notable to also reference Louise Hay’s work in which she references coronary thrombosis as a condition of “feeling alone and scared,” a manifestation of feeling, “I’m not good enough. I don’t do enough. I’ll never make it.” In the same book, You Can Heal Your Life, she also lists heart attack as a condition of “squeezing all the joy out of the heart in favor of money or position, etc.” Unfortunately, these sentiments are not uncommon to many individuals, especially those working such demanding jobs/hours as do healthcare providers.
Anxiety and the Heart
In Chinese medicine, we believe when the heart is balanced, one experiences joy. When the heart is unbalanced, one experiences anxiety about big-picture concerns. It’s not surprising then, to hear Louise Hay’s mapping of these conditions to thoughts like, “I’m not good enough. I don’t do enough. I’ll never make it.” More importantly, understanding Reiki’s effect to quell anxiety is an important finding when it comes to caring for folks post-heart attack (or other ACS episode). It means supporting the heart energetically, and reducing overall stress on the body. This is no small detail, as stress can affect heart beat regularity and, indirectly, this population’s risk of arrhythmic sudden death after myocardial infarction.
Consider treating yourself to care. What would deeply nourish your heart’s sense of joy, connection and love? How does it feel to allow yourself to fully receive support? Some of my favorite things to recommend for body-based heart support include Reiki, Watsu or floating. What are some of yours? Leave a comment!