By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein
How many times have your Choos caught a street grate today? How many people were you shoved up against on your subway commute this morning? How many coworkers got credit for something you did at work this afternoon? The stresses of life and particularly New York City can affect even the best yoga devotees out there. And finding refuge in a spa only to be poked at, prodded at, and rubbed to soreness can end up being yet another source of stress. Perhaps it’s time to open your heart and mind to the power of Reiki. Founded by Buddhist Monk, Mikao Usui, in 1922 in Kyoto, Japan, Reiki (its 2 characters meaning ‘spiritual’ and ‘life force’, respectively) has become an international phenomenon and powerful healing force.
I arrived at Kneaded Bodyworks, the aptly named midtown yoga studio space and massage therapy practice where Barbara Purcell works with her clients, both curious and open-minded. Barbara is a NYC-based relationship & wellness coach, and is a certified Reiki II practitioner. Friendly and down-to-earth, Barbara strikes a nice balance between spiritual guru and self-aware realist. She recognizes that Reiki may leave a big, fat question mark lingering over the head of any given deep tissue massage loving, energy- healing skeptic. But with a thorough explanation and some compelling evidence of its physical healing power when used as a complimentary treatment in the medical community (i.e. with Cancer patients), Barbara managed to show me the ‘Reiki-light’.
Fully clothed, I laid face-up on the massage table. While I lay with my eyes closed, Barbara took a few moments to silently enter a calm and meditative state of mind, mentally prepare herself and create a conducive space in which to perform the Reiki, using various hand movements through the air. Although some practitioners use a non-touching technique, where the hands are held a few centimeters away from the recipient’s body, Barbara began by placing her hands directly over my eyes and then working downward to each of my chakras. The hands are usually kept still for 3 to 5 minutes before moving to the next position.
The recipient is instructed to simply breathe deeply and be aware of images or colors that may enter the mind during the treatment. Each of the body’s seven chakras correlates to a different level of consciousness. The root chakra, which is located at the base of the spine, forms our foundation or survival instinct. The first three chakras are all associated with more earth-bound or human themes (greed, sex, food), and as one moves up to the seventh chakra (the crown of the head), the associations become more spiritual in nature (creativity, love, intuition, and bliss).
Throughout the hour Barbara worked on me, I felt warmth or tingling in the given area being treated, even when a non-touching approach was being used (i.e. when face-down and while working on joints). After only a few minutes, I fell into a state of deep relaxation. Barbara describes the process as symbiotic in that both the recipient and the practitioner feel a sense of well being from Reiki. The stomachache I had upon my arrival dissipated entirely and I was relaxed yet energized for the remainder of the day. However, I didn’t experience the emotional release that can sometimes occur during a Reiki treatment. It is not uncommon for recipients to cry or experience a catharsis of some sort when energy is unblocked and able to flow freely. Unlike many spa treatments that require you to come back on a regular basis to see tangible results, Reiki can be approached however you like. That being said, the more you have it done, the more benefits you’ll experience from it.
One might say the same thing about Reiki as they do about reading “The Secret”: If it doesn’t work, it’s you who’s doing it wrong. I’d venture to say that there is, perhaps, some truth to that, for Reiki isn’t the type of treatment for those who need rational, scientific explanations for everything, or who often use the word ‘psychosomatic’ in a judgmental way. But for everyone else, Reiki is definitely an interesting, non-invasive, painless approach to alleviating both emotional and physical issues; and although not a substitute for it, it can be a very effective supplement to westernized medicine. In other words, you won’t walk away with clear skin, flexible muscles or a reduction in cellulite from this particular ‘alternative spa treatment’…..hmm…on second thought, maybe you will.
Barbara Purcell offers a variety of services that balance and enhance the often kinetic lives of New Yorkers. A published author, classically trained ballet dancer, certified yoga instructor and Reiki-II practitioner, Barbara is also an expert in promoting inner peace, human sensuality, intimacy, and personal empowerment. Her extremely popular Reikitini mixes energy work with intuitive touch, which, her clients would attest, is a true bliss cocktail. Barbara’s study of energy work and the body’s seven chakras (energy centers) led to her Reiki-II certification in 2005.
Kneaded Bodyworks Wellness Center
518 Fifth Avenue, 2nd floor @ 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
Open 7 days a week