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The Case for Starting at the Feet and Working above the Body with Reiki

Article by Amelia Beamer

As a Reiki Professional, I usually start at the client’s feet or knees, and I usually work a few inches to a foot or two above their physical body. Why?

My first experience with Reiki involved a person I had just met touching my face. I could smell her hands. It felt awkward to have someone I barely knew putting their hands on my face and hair. That kind of experience is going to be weird for many people, and as much as I gave Reiki the benefit of the doubt, the way the Reiki was delivered in that session did not help me feel relaxed.

Since one of the benefits of Reiki is natural relaxation, in my work as a Reiki Professional at Healing for People in Marin County CA, I want everything about the Reiki experience to be as natural and relaxing as possible for the person receiving Reiki. I find that if I start at a person’s feet or knees, and work a few inches to a foot above the physical body so that I am not directly touching them, this distance often gives a person the mental and physical space to relax and let the Reiki do its job. Touch itself can be incredibly healing, and I will often incorporate a gentle resting touch on the person’s knees or shoulder, if it feels right. But I usually wait until the person has received a few minutes of Reiki before I will consider touching their physical body, because I want to give them the best chance to experience pure Reiki, without having the distraction, and for some, the discomfort, of being physically touched.

But why start at the feet or knees, when many Reiki Professionals start at the head? Deep down, humans have all of the natural reflexes and instincts of primates. We like to be able to see where other people are, especially if that other person is doing something to us. Starting at the feet or knees helps calm that primate instinct for self-protection, and allows the curious person a chance to see what it is the Reiki Professional is doing.

The case for starting at the feet with Reiki

Image by rhythmuswege

For similar reasons, I am careful not to put my hands too close to the heart, the genitals, and the face. Personally I find it uncomfortable to receive Reiki, even from a trusted colleague, when their hand is very close to a sensitive area like my heart. For many people, the only time they would be comfortable with another person’s hand close to their heart is with a lover, or a child, or perhaps with a medical professional performing an exam. I find I can maximize the effects of Reiki by respecting that many people are going to simply have an easier time receiving Reiki at their heart or other sensitive areas if my hand is a foot or two above their physical body. And they’ll have an easier time receiving Reiki at these sensitive areas if I’ve started somewhere less sensitive, allowing the Reiki to support them in achieving a relaxed state.

Reiki is absorbed whether the Reiki Practitioner is working directly on the body, or above the physical body. But if the person receiving Reiki is uncomfortable for any reason, their ability to receive Reiki can be diminished. Not because they don’t want Reiki, but because their body’s natural need for protection becomes more important than their need for Reiki, which is not a conscious choice but a natural human energy response. By starting from the feet or knees, working above the physical body as appropriate, and keeping a distance from sensitive areas of the anatomy, I feel Reiki Professionals can offer the best chance for clients to receive the benefits of Reiki.

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Amelia Beamer

Amelia Beamer

Amelia Beamer is a Reiki Professional at Healing for People, an Energy Medicine clinic in Marin County, California. She feels that Reiki is a human right, and that all human beings should have access to receive Reiki from another, as well as the chance to learn Reiki themselves. She can be contacted through the clinic’s website, www.HealingforPeople.com.

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Tracey October 10, 2015, 10:21 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. This was actually the way I was taught to do Reiki by my Reiki Master. I always explain to my clients that I start at the feet as so many people who have had previous Reiki treatments have had the practitioner start at the head. I have had feedback from one client in particular who said she really prefers it to be started at the feet. Now I know that Reiki works regardless of how it is given but this article has validated for me that it is ok to do it this way (because sometimes if you are doing something different to the majority, you start to doubt yourself and is there a ‘right’ or better way) and the importance of making sure our clients are comfortable and have a great Reiki experience.

    • Amelia Beamer October 21, 2015, 8:54 pm

      Tracey, this is Amelia Beamer, the author of the article, I’m so glad the information resonated with you, and you’re so welcome! Your comment shows how much care and commitment you put into your Reiki practice, and I’m really pleased that the article could support you in trusting your instincts and experience. There’s a lot of misinformation and missing information in the Reiki community, and I highly recommend the book Understanding Reiki: From Self-Care to Energy Medicine, by Chyna Honey, to help fill in gaps and correct misunderstandings.

  • Dong October 11, 2015, 2:17 am

    It is funny that you mentioned about smelling of the hands of the practitioner. The practitioner must wash his/her hands with soap before the treatment. Some even put some essential oils on their palms to make their hands smell good for the clients, etc…That is basic hygine. I never heard someone complained that my hands smell bad. Most said that they smell some heavenly smells. Also regarding touching, the first thing I teach my students is the Ethics of Reiki and one of the most important things is not touching the clients’ private parts. I may touch their heads or shoulders, knees, or feet to let them feel the difference between touching and no touching when I work on the other parts (especially near the private parts) I put my hands above those areas. As for starting from head or feet and I have tried both. Based on my experiences, when I started on the feet first (and concentrate on the feet alot), the clients will have a lot of energy and cannot sleep, he/she is like a energizer bunny rabbit. My client said that he has too much energy and cannot sleep, so he had to do some exercises. I started from the feet and concentrated on his feet beause he has polio. If you want to the clients to relax, start at the head and concentrate more on mental/emotional/spiritual healing, then they will be relaxed. Many said they have had many good sleep after the treatment when I did it from the head. The bottom line is Reiki will bring up to the surface and heal whatever it is that neeeds healing. Your intention is very important. Use your intention and ask Reiki to help you heal and it will.

    • Amelia Beamer October 21, 2015, 9:25 pm

      Hi Dong, this is Amelia Beamer, the author of the article. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It’s clear how dedicated you are to your work, your clients, and your students. In response to your comments, I can say that Reiki affects the energy anatomy similarly to how water affects the physical anatomy, which is to say, Reiki can do wonders, but an intention isn’t necessary, the same way a person doesn’t have to intend to be hydrated when they drink water. For me, learning that an intention isn’t needed helped me relax in the knowledge that Reiki will work regardless of my thoughts or intentions. Reiki will go to wherever it is in the client’s body or energy that needs Reiki, but I’d add that Reiki cannot correct all imbalances or problems in the human condition, simply because Reiki works only on the physical body and parts of the energy anatomy. I really recommend the book Understanding Reiki: From Self-Care to Energy Medicine, by Chyna Honey, for any Reiki practitioner who seeks a deeper understanding of the practical applications of Reiki as an Energy Medicine. Thanks again for your comments.

  • Fernanda Pires October 14, 2015, 7:11 am

    I Have a small business where I make some reiki sessions. When I oppened I had clients ,now I have few. What have happened?I am a good profissional of course I have a lot to learn but I wonder ir anyone can explain to me what happen and how can reiki help me having more clients.
    Thank you.

    • Tiffany Hunter October 21, 2015, 9:00 pm

      Hi Fernanda, this is Tiffany. I am the Clinic Director at Healing for People, the Clinic where Amelia (the author of this article) works. She asked me to respond to you as I have experience building a business and might be able to support you. The first thing I would say is that business skills, Reiki skills and client skills are completely different things but all three are important to be successful. Start by understanding what is required to be good at each of those three. Then you can look honesty at yourself and see where you can improve. I hope that helps, and good luck. – Tiffany

  • carol w October 26, 2015, 8:41 pm

    I really like this suggestion. Thanks for bringing it to our attention as an alternative way to do this work.

  • VG October 27, 2015, 7:52 am

    I also felt it was too personal when on the first session I received, the practitioner just plonked her hands over my face, touching my eyebrows, eyelashes and worst of all, my lips. Yuk! 20 years later the sensation is still imprinted in my memory!

    A very physic colleague who taught me Metamorphic Technique was very insistent I never touched or went near her Crown Chakra and this is also something I bear in mind when doing Reiki or during the Oriental Face Massage which incorporates some aspects of Reiki

    Another colleague / Reiki Master attuned me to several different Reiki systems and one does begin at the feet. It was amazing and much more powerful as the energy built up, so like Amelia, I try and remember if it was like this for me, it must surely be similar when I do it for others

    Thank you

  • Miesa November 28, 2015, 11:59 pm

    I’ve just returned to studying reiki again in hopes that I will feel that becoming a practitioner is my right path.
    As soon as I started, once again, reading the Manuel for reiki 1, the thought came to me that it would be better to start at the feet.
    For the reason mentioned in this article and also to follow the chakras.
    It intuitively makes more sense to me to start at the feet and then move up through the root chakra to the crown chakra.
    Since I haven’t started working with reiki except on my cats, a few friends, through prayers and on myself, I wasn’t sure if it was ok to go with my instincts and start at the feet.
    Thanks for putting in words what my heart was trying to tell me.

    • Amelia Beamer December 2, 2015, 11:37 pm

      Hi Miesa, this is Amelia Beamer, the author of the article. Thank you so much for what you share here, and you’re very welcome. It’s wonderful that what I wrote supported you in trusting your natural instincts. Since you’re looking into working with Reiki professionally, I highly recommend the book Understanding Reiki: From Self-Care to Energy Medicine, by Chyna Honey. This book really supported me on my path to becoming a practitioner.

  • Kat January 1, 2016, 2:20 am

    The reason to finish at the feet is to ground the person, so working your way the person is not grounded and come away feeling out of kilter. This is why from Master Usui the Reiki was started at the head and worked down.
    As for not touching the genital area this is NEVER done anyway! It sounds like you are placing your own hang ups about people touching your face and hair to the client. You need to work on this yourself first.

    • Magictouch January 10, 2016, 8:35 pm

      Kat- you didn’t read that article, skimmed mabie? She never said any of what you are implying. And grounding the person in the beginning is totally valid and lasting, so your point is mute. I find your comment rude and unconscious. And calling her personal feelings about being touched a “hang up” shows a lack of integrity and caring on your part. When being a practioner for others, you must respect people’s truths and experiences and judging them as “hang ups” will be felt by the person beneath your hands- which is an awful thing. I hope you would reconsider your comment and turn the mirror towards yourself. The healing arts are not to entered into lightly- it requires, empathy, consciousness and grace.

  • Magictouch January 10, 2016, 8:57 pm

    Amelia- I also begin at the feet most times- as the negative pole of the body, this makes sense. And for the reasons you stated- comfort for new clients to fully relax and feel safe as they dissolve their defenses as well as allowing the primate instinct to relax. And grounding! You are spot on! I haven’t met other therapists who understand this and you expressed it perfectly. The only thing I have found differently than you is the heart issue- so many people, I find, respond to touch here- desire it even. After they release and feel safe, of course.
    Thank u for an amazing article.

    • Amelia January 13, 2016, 5:16 am

      Magictouch, thank you so much for your comments. It’s clear how much passion and commitment you bring to your Reiki practice.

  • Laura March 5, 2016, 1:48 pm

    Amelia, Thank you for your time and words of guidance. Doors and windows are opening at this stage and my heart has lead me back into this field. I have been attuned distantly by two Reiki masters Steve Murray and Martin Lee in 2004. Back then you could talk to them personally. But now one I can not find the other is…more busy. Always felt it needed to be in person but…it does not. I feel never having known the name Reiki,..this Healing energy is already within each person,.. as well as being a conduit for the stronger as needed. Its like I am re-remembering things having working on mom when I was a child and others but saying anything for fear of ridicule Finding your words was a Blessing for me, am much older now and wish to continue my purpose not only to heal but to teach others They can heal themselves and others. Before we got our genes from our parents that energy came direct first …its where we are from :). I may sound silly but this is something have always Known not just believed. Thank you again for your gentle heart and good teaching. I have just ordered the book you mentioned in the above notes. Understanding Reiki: From Self-Care to Energy Medicine, by Chyna Honey. May the guidance we need to move forward helping others..find all. We never stop learning,..starting at the feet would be a first form of grounding as well.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
    Blessings Laura

  • Joy March 5, 2016, 3:51 pm

    Thank you so much! As a practitioner, I was intuitively more comfortable with this approach, and yours is the first information I have found reflecting my own knowing. I feel ridiculously relieved. 🙂 I have found that the Reiki flows strongly and immediately (for me) when I start at the client’s knees, but takes a while to get going when I start at the head. Probably more to do with my own comfort level/going with or against my intuition than anything else. Anyway, I enjoyed this, and thanks for your recommendation (to others) of Chyna Honey’s book.

  • Donna March 5, 2016, 9:40 pm

    I have practiced Reiki for 15 years now and always enjoyed giving and receiving Reiki. I read the article today because I was taught to always start at the clients head. This has never been a problem until 18 months ago. Whenever I give Reiki or massage (I am a therapist) and work on the clients head I have a strange scratching feeling at the back of my throat and either struggle to hold in a cough or break into a coughing fit. As soon as I leavvthe head to work on other parts of the body I feel fine. Could anyone help shine some light on this for me please or any advice. Thanks

  • Aliandra B. Adelin June 25, 2016, 2:44 am

    By healing others we are healing ourselves. I had a time in my Reiki practice when my clients were my messengers (could it be your case also?). I would suggest to check you thyroid gland or find someone to talk to. The throat chakra indicates problems with expressing yourself. Do you have and issue in your life you can’t share with others? If this is the case: write it down on a piece of paper and burned it. Do it as many times needed.
    As for starting the treatment from the feeds-I have tried this on my students and two times I asked them to it on me. The result was terrible: headache and confusion. All the energies in the body were ‘unhappy’. I will not recommend it.

  • Lorie June 29, 2016, 12:45 am

    I’m starting out with Reiki … so I’m still learning and adoptingand experimenting with many own flow. I come from a background of neutral craft or balanced craft is what I call it, so bringing in all my own teachings and incorporating it with Reiki is what I do best. Needless to say, I use my intuition with every session and go with what my intuition guides me to do. I really like the starting at the feet and during a scan however, and simple conservation, I feel is the best way to know what the client’s best needs are. If I sense their energy needing a pick me up, I really feel that starting at the feet would be an excellent way to gather that from for them. If a client has allot of scattered energy and needs to relax, I find that starting at their head is an excellent option so that when working down to the feet, they’re “grounding” out that scattered energy! Knowing that Reiki works even without touching really helps me feel more comfortable myself and I’m definitely going to use that technique more. Thank you for confirming my thoughts about that and your article all together was very educational. Blessings to you.

  • Ronel Labuschagne June 29, 2016, 10:32 am

    Hi. I was taught with the hands on the body approach but could never bring myself to touch others. I feel the flow of Reiki energy at its best with my hands a few inches from the body. I often start at the feet but mostly with a reflexology massage, then progress with a Reiki session. I find my clients much more responsive to this and they receive greater sense of relieve and relaxation this way. Mostly they end up in a state of deep slumber from which they arise relaxed and revived. Thank you for a good article. I live in South Africa in a small town. Reiki is not well known as a healing practice but the few clients I have believes it of great benefit to them. I would have loved to live abroad where it is well known and respected and preferred as a healing practice. What a joy that would have been for me. Namaste to all.

  • etherealsoulandoursomaticwisdom August 28, 2016, 5:06 pm

    Thank you very much!!

  • Wanda Jean Lord October 24, 2016, 6:58 pm

    Very much agreed – I only have ever practiced Reiki without direct touch (above the body) and enjoyed this article’s reasoning very much.

  • Leonard April 1, 2017, 12:56 am

    Why start at the feet; very simple, you work through the meridians and clear blockages in all parts of the body before you work through the Chakras.You can do the same working with the hands but through the Feet is the most effective.

  • Pete June 30, 2017, 10:28 am

    Hi Amelia, Even if it is a while ago you wrote this great article, I got a great reminder how it can feel to be a client and how people may react. Great advice, thanks a lot!

  • Sol Seeker August 1, 2017, 1:00 pm

    Do you only do this with new clients? I really like the reasons behind it but here is one point to consider…I was taught in massage school to always end for feet, for a couple reasons. Energetically, ending with the feet is very grounding. But a more “mundane” reason is, feet are generally considered “dirty” and a lot of people won’t want to have their face or head touched after you’ve touched their feet. So maybe start at he knees but end at feet? Just a thought…

  • Ruth January 3, 2019, 3:38 pm

    Dear All:
    I believe that as Reiki practitioners the most important is to follow your instincts, and be open to other colleagues ideas.
    I also think that having a conversation with the client before the first treatment and explaining what you are going to do, and asking them for example: if they would prefer I Place a tissue on their face before the first position and following their preference is a must.
    Still, I always have a few minutes talk before each treatment and it develops a trusting feeling, and more so, the practitioner gets to know what is best for that person.
    Again, trust your intuition and communicate with your clients. After each session write a few notes of details you might want to remember on the client file.
    Wishing each of you a blessed year,
    Much love and heighten instincts !

  • Suparna January 12, 2019, 7:57 pm

    Great article! I would also add that starting treatment at the feet chakra allows for any negative energy build up in the feet to be cleared so that the recipient’s body is flushed and s/he is reconnected to the earth and grounded. I have found this especially effective when treating people with emotional, stomach or headache issues. 🙂 Starting at the feet definitely ups the effectiveness of the healing session.

  • Shakti Rathore August 20, 2019, 8:55 pm

    The article makes so much sense. And then the discussion in comments has been very informative. Thanks a lot !

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