Like all forms of energy healing, Reiki is of course best known as a technique to channel energy to a human client, or patient, to restore energy field balances. Lesser known — but becoming more popular and better understood — is that Reiki can also be used to the same effect on animals.
Like Reiki for humans, Animal Reiki balances the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical aspects of an animal. Animal Reiki is a meditation-like process that animals naturally respond well to, and raises the trust between the practitioner and animal as the animal’s aggressions, fears, or anxieties subside.
What Is Reiki?
Energy healing is a therapy that focuses on channeling healing energy to a client’s body to bring the client’s energy fields into balance. Doing so improves improving the wellness of the client’s spirit, mind, and body. Energy healing encompasses a range of therapeutic modalities (methods, procedures, or techniques), including Healing Touch (Therapeutic Touch) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is considered a type of energy healing.
Energy healing is based on the scientific knowledge that the human body is powered by energy and functions on energy. Energy pulses cause your heart to beat, and complex energetic pathways allow your brain and nervous system to interact and communicate with your entire body. A person’s energy field is dynamic, and constantly and continually reacts to the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of your body.
Physical injury and emotional pain can cause energy to stagnate — to bring about energy blocks that can cause illness, disease, stress, and anxiety. Energy healing techniques such as Reiki helps to correct the flow of energy and remove energy blocks, enabling the body to use its inherent ability to heal itself. A more balanced energy enables the body to speed healing, reduce physical and emotional pain, de-stress, and improve spiritual well-being.
The energy that’s transferred, or channeled, is often referred to as the universal, life-force energy called chi (pronounced chee). You may also see chi referred to a qi (Chinese)or ki (Japanese). While even modern scientific methods can’t measure chi, most people who have experienced a Reiki session say they become in tune to it and experience an intense relaxation.
Origin and History of Reiki
While not specifically called Reiki at the time, the basics of the technique go back thousands of years to Tibet — the remote Buddhist territory in the Himalayan region of China. It’s current form, and name, came from the Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui in the 1920s.
Reiki, which translates roughly to mysterious atmosphere, miraculous sign or spiritually guided life force energy, is the composite of two Japanese words. The word rei means universal, soul, spirit, or higher power. The word ki means life energy or vital energy.
Mikao Usui taught Reiki until his death in 1926. The practice of Reiki spread to Hawaii and then other parts of the United States in the 1940s, and by the 1980s it had gained some popularity in Europe.
Reiki is spiritual in nature, but it has no ties to any one particular, organized religion or religious practice. There is no dogma (incontrovertible truths or principles established by an authority) associated with Reiki, though for this modality to be most effective it’s expected that a practitioner act and live in a manner that promotes peace and harmony with others. Here again there are no explicit beliefs to follow, but rather one should abide by the simple ethical ideals that might be considered universal among all cultures.
How a Reiki Session Is Performed
Reiki, as practiced on a human, can be performed anywhere. Typically the practitioner will first engage in a conversation with the patient, or client. During this time the practitioner describes what will take place, and asks the client if there are any particular issues or problems being experienced. After that, the patient lies on a massage table or sits in a comfortable chair, fully clothed.
A Reiki session usually lasts an hour or longer. The practitioner either places their hands lightly on, or just above, a specific area of the body for a few minutes, using specific standard Reiki hand positions, before moving on to a different body area. The practitioner decides when to move to a different area based on a sense of when energy has stopped flowing — usually determined by the practitioner’s hands feeling tingly or warm.
How Animal Reiki Differs from Human Reiki
The biggest difference between Reiki for humans and Reiki for animals is that when practiced with humans, touch is usually involved, while when practiced with animals, touch is much less important. At first blush the hands-on, hands-off approaches may seem a dramatic enough difference that perhaps the two systems shouldn’t even share the same Reiki name. But on closer study you’ll find that two modalities are really quite similar.
For some wellness techniques, touch is everything. For example, with a massage, touch is crucial — it’s what loosens and relaxes muscles, and relaxes the recipient of the massage. With Reiki, physical contact itself isn’t always necessary to achieve results. Note that while Reiki with humans does often include touch, some practitioners will hold their hands over the body rather than on the body. Even when Reiki does involve touch, the physical contact is very minimal — the recipient is fully clothed, and no pressure is applied. Reiki is a form of energy healing. And either with or without touch, spiritual energy can be transferred — one person’s energy can be transferred to another to stimulate healing.
Animal Reiki isn’t as much about the practitioner healing the animal, as it is about balancing the energy of the animal to stimulate, or better enable, the animal to use the self-healing abilities and wisdom that is inherent to all animal species.
In a sense, a practitioner of Animal Reiki is practicing Reiki on themself, in the presence of an animal, and the positive energy flows from the practitioner to the animal. Kathleen Prasad has been involved with Animal Reiki for over 20 years, writing books on it, practicing it, and teaching it to others by way of her Let Animals Lead® method. An extended quote from Kathleen herself might be the best way to clarify this concept:
”This was exciting because animals seemed to be able to benefit from the peaceful space of Reiki even when I wasn’t purposely “giving” them Reiki or even touching them. Just being in their presence while doing my self-practice created a strong and reproducible peaceful response from animals.”
People are receptive to human touch, and a Reiki session that involves physical touch is peaceful and relaxing for a person. Animals, on the other hand, are more in tune to a humans emotions and state of mind, and typically don’t need a human’s touch to feel a connection. In fact, a hands-on approach with an animal can sometimes make the animal nervous or uncomfortable. Instead, the practitioner should be thinking of, and looking into, the spirit and heart of the animal. The positive, animal-focused energy will flow to the animal, where the animal then effortlessly uses its own healing properties to better itself.
The energy flow, or stimulation process, will bring about relaxation responses that act on the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical energies. Stress, nervousness, discomfort, and pain all lessen with the righting of imbalances that have been the cause of disease, discomfort, or unrest.
Animal Reiki sessions return traumatized or distressed animals to a more normal state of trust that allows the animal to build its confidence, renew its sense of purpose, and heal its spirit. Not only does Animal Reiki help the animal in its own right, it also brings about stronger bonds between the human and the animal.
Ms. Prasad often uses the words meditate and meditation when discussing Animal Reiki. That’s because in a sense doing Reiki with an animal actually means you are meditating with the animal.
There are many types and forms of meditation, and the meditation techniques you’ll use with Animal Reiki differ in some aspects from techniques used with humans. Reiki meditation in general has a healing intent, and this is especially true of Reiki meditation with an animal as the subject. Additionally, the meditation process helps the practitioner connect to the animal in a very deep and meaningful way.
Animal Reiki On-Demand Training Resources
Online, on-demand training allows busy people to receive Animal Reiki training on their own schedule. Courses typically include hours of video and audio instructions.
Animals Should Always Lead Reiki: Your Ethical Blueprint for Honoring Animal Preference
Volunteering Animal Reiki in Shelters and Sanctuaries, the Let Animals Lead® Way
Heart to Heart Animal Reiki
Helping Animals with the Japanese Precepts
The Heart Your Animals Series
Reiki for Cats
Reiki for Dogs
Reiki for Horses
The Animal Reiki Ethics Audio Course
How to Guide a Meditation Using the Let Animals Lead® Method
The Future of Animal Reiki