Standard Hand Positions or Freestyle?

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One of my favourite topics when I’m teaching my Reiki First Degree students is the subject of ‘standard hand positions’ or ‘freestyle’ treatment techniques.  By this I mean whether to work on a client with the 12 standard hand positions taught on most Reiki courses, (often, it seems as the be all and end all of conducting a Reiki treatment), or whether to go with the energetic flow of the treatment and flow through an intuitive, ‘freestyle’ session. I have seen therapy centre and health spa websites which describe Reiki as a treatment whereby the practitioner channels Reiki into the client in 12 different positions… fair enough, if that’s the system their Reiki practitioners choose to work with. But… guess which style of treating I prefer? I’m a person who doesn’t cope too well with the grind of a dictated routine; I’m creative and intuitive, and I’m afraid that I have a relatively low boredom threshold. Some or all of these qualities probably apply to you as well, so perhaps you can see where I’m going with this. Following 12 standard hand positions is great. To begin with. While you’re learning Reiki it’s a really sound idea to give some standardised treatments, it truly is. You really should know what they are and get comfortable with them. The hand positions are pretty convenient, they work well on clients on a treatment couch, and they are the basics that you ought to know. Definitely. But don’t feel that is all there is, please! Those hand positions can start to feel mighty restrictive when everything in your head, or indeed your hands, or heart, is telling you that the Reiki needs to flow to a different area from those standard positions.

Far more fun is there to be had, far more opportunities for amazement and challenge and ultimately learning, are to be gained by going where the energy guides you. I love the feeling of exploring the client’s energy system and supporting it by providing the Reiki as I feel it flow more strongly. I love not knowing where I will be lead for that period of time. Trust me, you have the ability to feel the flow of Reiki, to notice the varying qualities of what you are feeling in your hands. I’ve seen it hundreds of times on my Reiki courses; students are regularly startled by what they find they notice, even on day one of working with Reiki. They very quickly learn to be guided in this way. I really hope that, if you’re a Reiki person, you’ve had this experience as well.

My favourite way of working on clients is by what I call ‘listening with my hands’. I always advocate for my students to listen to their intuition because, yes, that’s what is directing you, along with being merged with the energy of the person before you. Now there are so many ways that intuition can manifest itself that I can feel another blog, or even a book coming on! But hey, you don’t have to call yourself clairvoyant, be a medium or read the tea leaves to be able to pick up intuitive information from the person you’re treating with Reiki. I have had a lifelong a passion for psychic work and have had a wonderful range of formal and informal teachers over many years, but I still maintain that anyone can learn to listen to their intuition during a Reiki treatment, with none of this kind of experience, training, or background whatsoever. And through my experience of working with my students, this has been born out over and over again. The approach is really very simple when you’re starting out: where your hands feel busy with energy, that’s where the client is drawing more Reiki through you, so stay there longer. Where your hands feel nothing much, move on and scan somewhere else until you find a busy area. Go with your gut instinct. With practice, this simple method alone will grow and evolve into a more sophisticated, intuitively informed treatment approach. And your approach will quite possibly be unique to you once you’ve learned to listen to the language through which your intuition is communicating. Keep an open mind, and explore what happens when you go with your instinct.

The vast subject of working with intuition is something I’d like to tackle in subsequent blogs, so please watch this space. In the meantime, (if you don’t already,) please, listen with your hands as a starting point for developing your own freestyle Reiki treatments. If you’ve never tried it before, you have an exciting journey ahead of you! Just get your hands on some folks and put in some regular work. You’ll teach yourself so quickly, and in any case, the Reiki will flow to support your learning. And you’ll always find giving a Reiki treatment an adventure. Trust the intuitive process and enjoy the ride!


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Louise Heseltine is one of the Reiki Evolution team of teachers, running courses in Kent.   Louise began teaching Reiki in 2005 and has worked as a complementary therapist, offering Reiki, aromatherapy (Tisserand trained), reflexology and Indian head  massage. Louise also runs Reiki Retreats and has taken Reiki people to Egypt and run regular retreats to Spain to develop their healing  skills.

Her website can be found here:

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17 thoughts on “Standard Hand Positions or Freestyle?

  1. Right there with you Louise, feels far more natural to me to let myself be guided to where the energy seems to need to be.

    When I was using the standard hand positions I always felt a little awkward because that nagging intuition would be almost urging me onwards to get to the bit that needed attention. Now I try and just stay open to whatever comes up, those who receive treatments always feel good and I feel more relaxed after.

    Congratulations on your first blog!

  2. Thank you Michele, I’m sure most experienced Reiki people would agree really – your hands do certainly get guided to work in places of need when treating. It’s great once you start to go with it and let it happen!

  3. Interesting ideas here! As a reiki beginner with very little reiki knowledge, I almost always fall back on my own understanding of energy gained through a lifetime of Chinese martial arts in that energy is alway moving and changing and can be ‘pushed’ and ‘pulled’ by letting your intuition guide your hands (and your body and mind) in a flowing motion rather than being constricted by ‘standard’ hand positions. Be like flowing water; always moving, always directive towards a point of blockage or constriction, soft yet powerful, yielding yet all encompassing. For me, this always pulls me towards where my energy or chi is needed and most useful.

    1. Thanks Simon, good to see you read my blogs! 😉
      And so glad you like my ideas – just go with the flow, let the waves take you where you need to be and enjoy the ride.

  4. That approach makes a lot of sense to me, Simon, and in fact I wrote a blog post a while ago called “Be Like Water” I believe that the best approach with Reiki is to get out of the way, with no expectations, just be in a meditative state, be there with the energy and the recipient, merge with the energy, and let it happen. So the energy can guide you in terms of where you rest your hands and how long you spend in a particular position. Standard hand positions are useful for beginners because they provide you with some basic instructions to follow to ‘get going’, but people can move on from that quite quickly, I find. And in practice, intuitively-guided treatments seem to be more powerful and effective IMO.

  5. Dear Louise
    Reiki was introduced to the West in the late 1930’s and the hand positions that were taught were rigid in their format. In the 1980’s my English Reiki Master taught these same positions but I never felt comfortable as I always believed that Reiki was much more than that, not restrictive but that these hand positions should be fluid. In the 1990’s thanks to inquisitive western Reiki Masters they learned that the original Japanese form of Reiki was indeed fluid and I am grateful to those Reiki Masters for all their efforts to find, learn and introduce the original Reiki to the west. I am now much more comfortable when I administer my Reiki treatments. Your style of training is also fluid and you are an excellent teacher.
    I also feel it is absolutely essential that Reiki Practitioners have positive intentions when giving treatments.

  6. I agree Peter, without Chris Marsh meeting with and learning from one of Usui’s original students we’d be in the dark about a lot of what Usui was teaching to his students. I’m glad you feel happy with the style I taught you! I try to be in the moment and respond as the whim takes me (when I can), it’s amazing how guided you can feel when you put pre arranged plans to one side and go with what your instinct is telling you. I find plans are often there to be ignored once you have ‘arrived’ not just in Reiki treatments but also in life, and very often when I’m teaching the children at the school where I work. Things always work out better when you surf the wave don’t they? How can you plan effectively if you’ don’t know what it’s going to feel like?

  7. Well said Louise 🙂

    Standard hand positions are great for confidence building on the start of a Reiki journey, moving on though, it’s liberating to throw those hand positions out and literally ‘go with the flow’.

    Lots of love,

    Ann xxx

    1. Thanks Ann, agree they are great to get folks started with Reiki, most certainly, but most people can move on pretty swiftly and chuck it all away and be freeeeee! Thank goodness, eh?! Louise. xx

  8. Hi Louise, I could not agree more, having spent many years in the Forces being regimented in my ways I met a lady (now my wife) who introduced me into the spiritual side of life, I started to lose the regimented ways and when introduced to Reiki I was Attuned to the Western way of Reiki and felt very uncomfortable with it having to work to such a rigid format.

    When I felt ready to move onto my Okuden I was drawn to Reiki Evolution and found that I could work without hand positions and since attending my Master course have found a new way of working with my clients I am looking at putting on my first ever course later this year and know that intuitive Reiki will be my main focus getting my students to work with what they feel and the only way I can say it is “to go with the flow”.

    I enjoyed your piece and will return to the blog regularly to see if there are any other tips I as one just starting on my journey can collect. Thanks and be Brilliant Ron

    1. Hello Ron.

      Thanks for taking the time to reply to my article, nice to hear your story. Good to hear how you’ve managed to work out your own treatment system with Reiki, this often seems to happen to my students as they practice and develop. I think of it as learning to listen to your own intuitive language and building on what it teaches you. Be brilliant – I’ll have to start using that phrase… I’m also a primary school teacher, I shall instruct my pupils to do just that from now on! Good luck with your first Reiki course later this year, you’ll have a great day I’m sure. Louise. 🙂

  9. Really enjoyed reading this, thanks Louise. I’d like to share it on my FB page, hope that’s ok? I’ve just started out teaching and it’s a perfect explanation for new students. Thanks, Jacquie

    1. Please do share any or all of the Reiki Evolution blog posts on your Facebook page, any that you find useful or interesting.

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