Treating both sides: is this necessary?

reiki treatment both sides turn over backs

An unnecessary Reiki rule?

In many Reiki lineages, students are taught that they need to treat both sides of a client, asking them to turn over half-way through a treatment so that student can gain access to the client’s back. But is this really necessary?

Might the treatment be just as effective if we left them where they were?

I think that most Reiki people would accept that when we treat someone, the energy is drawn according to the recipient’s need to the right places for them on that occasion, to do whatever they need to have done on that occasion, so we aren’t ‘pushing’ the energy to where we want it to (or think it ought to) go.

We are a necessary bystander in the process: we need to be there for the healing to happen, but we have metaphorically stepped aside, created a ‘healing space’ for the client, and they do the healing that they need to do, in the way that they need to do it, experiencing whatever is appropriate for them to experience as this happens.

Could we just hold their hand for 60 minutes?

So, in theory, we could just hold someone’s hand for an hour and the energy would be drawn by them to the areas of need, and we’d need to do nothing further than that.

But given that when we work intuitively we can be drawn strongly to areas of need – ‘hotspots’ – and given that we can experience the flow of energy subsiding in those areas after a time, and given that when we work intuitively we can be guided to hold a series of hand positions, sometimes symmetrical, sometimes not, in a particular sequence, this suggests to me that there is value in allowing the energy to guide you (which is what I believe is happening when you work intuitively), and there is a value in placing your hands in different positions as you treat.

There is something special, I believe, in working in partnership with the energy and allowing it to guide you in terms of where you rest your hands, and for how long you hold each position.

So going through a series of hand positions, whether a set of ‘standard’ positions or intuitively-guided hand positions, helps to ‘fire’ the energy from lots of different directions, and it’s drawn into the areas that have the greatest need.

We don’t just treat the square inches underneath our palms

The energy doesn’t just go into a small area of the body underneath our hands when we treat: it moves through the body and you could imagine the energy travelling to chakras, through meridians, into the aura, into all the different aspects of the energy system, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, whether or not we ‘sent’ the energy there, because it’s being pulled by the recipient’s need.

Many of us will have experienced the situation where you’re treating one part of the body and the client comments that they can feel the heat, or coldness, or tingling or whatever in a different part of their body.

And because the energy will move from where we ‘put it’ to where it is needed, this suggests that we do not need to place our hands on every square inch of the body in order for a treatment to be successful, and I do not believe that it is necessary to specifically ‘treat’ the back in order for the energy to flow to the back of the body from wherever we place our hands.

Turning over routinely is so disruptive

On a practical note, disrupting the flow of a treatment so that the client has to wake up half way through, drag themselves half into the seated position and turn themselves over and get comfortable again, really does break the ‘spell’ that they are under and, since the relaxation that people experience when receiving Reiki is greatly beneficial, I wouldn’t want to wake them up and lessen the depth of their relaxation in this way routinely.

That’s not to say that I never treat people’s backs, of course.

No rules should be followed slavishly.

But I only do this when someone has a specific back problem and what I do is to start by treating the back for a while, and then turn them over into the ‘face-up’ treatment position, and carry on with majority of their treatment that way.

In fact, in my First Degree manual I provide a series of hand positions that you can use when treating backs. But I don’t recommend that you do that routinely because it’s not necessary.

Over to you

If you routinely turn people over half way through a treatment, why not try not doing this and see what happens?

And post a message below to let me know what happened and what feedback you received from your client.

Here’s lots of advice about giving treatments

reiki books first degree manualIf you’d like some guidance about giving Reiki treatments, I have a whole load of advice and suggestions for you in the Reiki Evolution First Degree course manual.

This isn’t just available to Reiki Evolution students: anyone can work with our manuals.

You can order a professionally-printed copy, or you can download your manual right now.

Here are the links that you need:

Reiki First Degree manual

Reiki First Degree eBook





26 thoughts on “Treating both sides: is this necessary?

  1. I do not often treat the back, for time’s sake, but when I do, the client’s “spell” is not really broken – and when I have been the one turning over on the table, I was just as relaxed afterwards. Also, I have had clients say that they perceived the Reiki energy more strongly on the back than on the front.

    Plus, with all those nerve endings there, and everyone’s chronically sore shoulders — it just feels so darn good! 🙂

    Great blog, really enjoying it.

  2. Thanks for these comments. For some time I have been mostly treating clients with them lying on their backs the whole time, unless they have a particular issue with their back or request being treated on both sides. I always explain my preference for having clients remain on their back, which is because, as you describe, clients may fall deeply asleep during the treatment and it became clear to me that they relaxed more completely when they knew they were not going to have to rouse themselves mid way through the treatment. I always ask clients if they are happy to stay on their back and a few do choose to be treated on both sides. It is similar to my treating clients hands-on or hands-off: I go with my intuition but also check with the client. It is their time and their choice. I do discuss my practice with my students, while, of course, still teaching all the hand positions on front and back but haven’t actually discussed this aspect of my practice with other Reiki practitioners. It is good to know that Reiki people out there work in similar ways to mine.

  3. Some times I place one hand under the table whilst other hand over client giving both sides a treatment without having to turn the client over .

    1. Yes, that can work, can’t it? They do that a lot in Jin Shin Jyutsu, to reach particular ‘locks’, even with two treatment table covers so they can slide a hand underneath more easily.

  4. Hi Linden, I’m glad that my blog was affirming for you. There’s something quite special, I think, about an uninterrupted session of Reiki, free from clambering about on the treatment table.

  5. Personally when I have a treatment I find it very uncomfortable lying on my back so I have it whilst lying on my front all the way through. When giving treatments I go with whatever the client wants but have never turned anyone over mid way through as I feel it disturbs the person on the treatment couch. ??

    1. Hi Lou, I agree that we should go with whatever feels most comfortable for the client, for example treating pregnant ladies who are lying on their sides etc. Some Reiki people are taught that they *have to* or *should* treat both sides always, so my blog was a way of saying that you don’t actually have to do that, Reiki will still do what it does and it might give the client a better experience if you didn’t flip them over half-way through. 🙂

  6. If I am giving a “full” treatment, I will generally treat the front, unless the person has a back problem say, in which case I think the touch and proximity of the hands is comforting and can help the muscles etc to relax, but I’ll only treat the front *or* the back generally. But every session can be different of course, so no hard rules for me, but in terms of “do you need to turn the toast over”, no I don’t take it to be a necessity 😉

    1. Hi Mo, yes I agree with that. If they have a specific back problem then there’s something very lovely and powerful about resting boiling hot Reiki hands directly on the back.

  7. I mostly use a recliner chair which is comfortable anyway,so of course they don’t turn over.It works well–most people prefer it.
    I agree rules should never be hard and fast.Go with your intuition.

    1. Well that’s fine, Elfriede. You should do what feels right for you. What I object to is the “you have to treat both sides” rule where students are told that they *have* to do this, and I find the client-having-to-wake-themselves-up-and-turn-over process disruptive.

      1. I do agree that the “you have to…” is objectionable. I always teach my students to listen to what their intuition is saying and not to follow any set rules. I appreciate you Taggart.

  8. When giving a full treatment for some one who has back problems.I would treat their back first either lying on their front or the use of a chair, depending on the mobility of the patient.continuing the treatment with them lying on their back.I spend one day a week as a volunteer in my local hospice and over the years working there I have developed a intuitive way letting the patients body guide the the hand positions plus i ask for help from my guides and the persons higher self. and trusting in the Universal life force to do what’s necessary In my mind I think of the Reiki energy as Divine Love and Healing.

    1. I agree that it’s a good idea to treat the back when a client has a specific back problem, and that the best approach is to allow the energy to guide you in terms of where, and for how long, you rest your hands.

  9. I always treat both sides of the body. I feel the shadow side and issues the client has pushed away into their subconscious mind as well as any karmic issues reside on the back side of the human energy field. For these reasons, I was taught to turn the client over and treat the back. I do feel many times, the energies are different than what I pick up on the front, and the client can often notice a shift, as well. I have never noticed a real disruption by having the client flip over, especially if it is done slowly and quietly. I allow myself to by guided intuitively, and only on two occasions, have I not been drawn to have the client flip over for treatment.

    1. Each to their own, Mary-Anne. I wouldn’t say that you *shouldn’t* treat both sides because you have a different experience and doing so is important to you. I think that students should have a choice and, for me, treating both sides is unnecessary because, for me, by treating one side you are treating all sides.

  10. I am a Reiki Therapist level 2 and have back problems. Whenever I have had a Reiki treatment directly on my back you can feel the energy doing its work, not so when just treating on the front. So in my opinion, I don’t mind turning over half way through a session if it is done solemnly without talking. The full treatment just carries on in its own way. When treating the front and back you generally get feedback better in the areas that you treat.

    1. Hi Carole, I agree that if someone has a specific back problem then it’s a good idea to work directly on that area, and it would feel wonderful if you did. But Reiki will still get to areas of need even if you don’t specifically touch a particular area, and even if you are sending from a distance, where you’re not physically touching anywhere 🙂

  11. I am a Reiki Master Teacher and I always treat the back second because at the end of the sesson I do blood cleaning and my clients have to be on their frunt for me to do this. I feel that to lay in one possion for over 30 mins can become uncomfortable and where there is pain in the body warm hands help.

    1. Hi Chris, I haven’t noticed people becoming uncomfortable after lying on the treatment couch for more than 30 mins, so our experiences differ, and yes, if you were doing the blood cleansing then you’d need to do that with the client face down, or standing up 🙂

  12. Hi Taggart, This is very interesting I became a Reiki Master last December and opened a Reiki Centre in May I was taught to treat both sides but am increasingly feeling that it would be better not to disturb the client, especially when they are fast asleep, and just work on the front only. As you say Reiki will go where the body needs it but I have found placing my hands directly on a particularly painful area does seem to help better. I’m thinking perhaps I might ask clients whether they would like their back treated.

    1. I came to the same conclusions, Cheryl. The energy is drawn to where it needs to go, you can work intuitively and rest your hands in just the places that the recipient needs on each occasion, you can imagine that an extra set of hands is resting on other parts of the body (so you could have imaginary hands underneath the person’s body while you treat the front). If they had a specific back problem then it’s nice to actually treat that area, with the client face down, because of the intense ‘Reiki deep heat’ feeling that people can get, but I see no reason to disrupt the treatment half way through to turn someone over. On the subject of imaginary hands, what’s nice to do is, while treating the temples, to imagine extra sets of hands behind the head and hovering in front of the face, so their whole head is engulfed with energy!

  13. I don’t not turn people over and have had great success with treatment for back problems, will occasionally sit someone up at the end and treat the back for a short time but not usually. I do often imagine extra hands on someone’s back when treating and this seems to work well

  14. When i first started to have reiki treatments the lady always asked me to turn over half way. I told her that i would lie there dreading the request to please turn over no matter how gently she said it. So she stopped asking me to turn over. It meant that i messed the special flash of energy which she did at the end while i was lying on my front. Shr explained that she still did it, but i didn’t feel it cod my back was more sensitive than my front. I chose to continue staying in the original position as it was much more relaxing.

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