The word Reiki comes from the Japanese meaning a 'universal life force'. As a healing practice, Reiki is believed to have first been used in Tibet several thousands years ago.
Unlike other alternative therapies, Reiki involves a minimal amount of touching, instead the healer places their hands near your body, often just above your shoulders, but without actually making contact.
Though similar to other forms of spiritual healing, the principle difference is that the healer does not transfer their energy into a passive recipient. Instead they are aiming to release the energy that already exists inside you. The healer helps you to restore your body's natural balance by using your own natural healing capabilities. It is about achieving harmony within yourself rather than solely addressing specific symptoms.
This is based on the Chinese mystical belief that there is a life force within the universe and within our own bodies. It is this energy, or chi, which connects the mind, body and spirit. It also has a direct impact on your immune system as well as your mental and emotional state. All living creatures are believed to contain the life force up until they die. When this energy is flowing freely, you are more likely to feel strong and well in yourself. If it becomes blocked or the flow is restricted than there is a corresponding loss of vitality and you become more vulnerable to illness.
While this form of healing is not a religion, it does draw on ancient Chinese spiritual beliefs. However you do not necessarily have to share these beliefs for it to have a positive effect on you. Healers maintain that they are able to spiritually guide the life force so that it moves in a positive and beneficial way. It is about the balance of energy rather than any particular dogma or religious practice.