I have learned over the last 15 years as a practitioner and teacher of yoga, meditation, and Reiki – that the forms and styles available to us are not all created equal.
I practice Anusara® yoga (a style of hatha yoga), Kriya Yoga (a meditation path), and Japanese Reiki. They all share a very important and fundamental element in common – they are spiritual practices with deep roots in a meditation tradition. Because of this, they are perfect complements to one another, and are seamlessly woven into the fabric of my life.
Most of the yoga that is currently practiced in the Western world has been stripped of its more philosophical and spiritual foundations. What remains unfortunately, is a physical form of exercise that is generally regarded to be better the more intense it is. Most individuals are not familiar with beautiful yogic texts, such as the Yoga Sutras, or more specifically, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which taught that yoga poses or asanas were to be practiced in order to prepare the body to sit in meditation.
In the same way, most of the Reiki that is taught in the West bears little resemblance to the Reiki that Mikao Usui practiced and taught which was first, and foremost, a spiritual practice. Usui who was a Buddhist practitioner, and no stranger to meditation – normally gave his students a meditation to work with until it was mastered. This could take months or more typically years until the student embodied the essence and teaching of the meditation itself. Only then would the student proceed to the next meditation or teaching.
Paramahansa Yogananda, who brought the meditation practice of Kriya Yoga to the West, took a similar approach in his own teaching. He often told the story of being given one sutra from the Bhagavad Gita to study by his own guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar. Yogananda was not allowed to progress to the next verse in the text until he had imbibed and literally masticated the sutra – and had become one with its essential teaching.
Recently, when I studied with my own teacher, John Friend, the founder of Anusara® yoga, he impressed upon his certified teachers in our annual gathering, the importance of practice and deeply embodying the Universal Principles of Alignment™ which are foundational to the Anusara® yoga system, in order to prepare our vessels and bodies to receive more Shakti energy – which is the energy of the Divine. John told us, that if we did not adequately prepare ourselves and our body temples, going to the next level would be like trying to run a higher voltage or current of energy through the wiring in an old house.
Reiki as a spiritual practice likewise prepares the body, mind, and spirit – just like yoga recognizes the intrinsic union of all three aspects of our beings. Through the Japanese art of Reiki and its spiritual practices which includes meditations, the chanting of precepts and “jumons” or mantras, we transform our essence and gradually come to dwell in a place of oneness and non-duality where healing can ultimately occur. The styles of yoga and Reiki that I choose to practice focus on the spiritual development of the individual. As a teacher of both disciplines – I can only be of service to my students if I commit to my own daily practice. I believe that my practice truly enhances my teaching.
Students of Western Reiki typically sign up for a class expecting to learn a healing modality or technique over the course of a weekend. They are not familiarized with the origins of Reiki as a spiritual practice, since this was not emphasized or taught by Hawayo Takata, the woman responsible for bringing Reiki to the West. I did not know of these origins myself until I read the first edition of Bronwen and Frans Stiene’s landmark book, The Reiki Sourcebook, and was fascinated with their depth of research into the origins of Reiki. It truly was and remains the most comprehensive work there is on the subject of Reiki.
When I had the opportunity to study with Frans years later, I realized that this style of Reiki not only resonated with me, but that it was also the perfect complement to my yoga practice – because the operative word in both disciplines is – practice. I had found the piece that was missing for me. Shortly afterwards, my regular Reiki clients noticed the difference in their own experience on the table. I believe the quality of the Reiki was different because it was rooted in my regular meditation practices.
Many of Yogananda’s teachings bear a distinct similarity to Usui’s Precepts. Both contribute to balanced living and enable practitioners to truly transform their lives through dedicated practice.
I can’t even imagine practicing or teaching Reiki the way I once did. While it served me well at the time, the depth of Reiki as Usui taught has enriched my life and deepened my spirituality beyond articulation and complemented my yoga practice as well.