For two years, Elsa Swyers has been bringing her healing touch to Casa de la Luz Hospice patients through our volunteer program.
Before moving to Tucson and becoming a Casa volunteer, Elsa worked as a physician with Kaiser Permanente. “As time went on, I began to realize there was something more to healing and to medicine than what Western medicine offered.”
She started out by reading about complementary or integrative medicine, and then through a patient, had the opportunity to learn Reiki. This is a hands-on healing technique involving light touch. The word is derived from two Japanese words: rei, meaning universal, and ki, meaning life energy. The history of the practice goes back to Dr. Mikao Usui, a late 19th-early 20th century Japanese scholar and philosopher. It was introduced in the United States in the 1930s, after an American, Hawayo Takata, learned it in Japan and brought the practice back to the West, according to the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Elsa learned Reiki from a Reiki master visiting Denver in 1998, undergoing training for both Level 1 and Level 2 Reiki. She describes Reiki as a self-healing practice, and felt its benefits during the instructional class. “I think of the Reiki as helping the person open to that universal life force,” she said, an energy that is more acknowledged in Eastern practices. Reiki helps people access a universal energy, supporting and facilitating the body’s ability to heal itself (but it’s not a curative practice).
Reiki can have an effect physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, explained Elsa.
Studies have shown Reiki can help lower blood pressure, help with pain management, and reduce stress. This healing practice can also aid the immune system or help an individual with grief work, explained Elsa. “At the very least, it’s a nice chance to relax.” Reiki provides healing through a light touch in 13-14 positions on the body, with 3-5 minutes per position. A Reiki session usually takes almost an hour. However, a Reiki session can be shorter to accommodate the situation and individual. The saying from Takata goes, “Some Reiki is better than no Reiki.”