Reiki. It’s a popular buzzword in L.A.’s wellness circles, but what exactly does it mean? We consulted yogi and energy healer Michelle Weinhofen, who filled us in on the ancient Japanese healing technique, how it transformed her own life, and a couple exercises you can do at home to bring some healing into your practice.

How would you explain Reiki to someone who might not be familiar with it?

Reiki is a healing modality, commonly activated by the laying of hands, in which life force energy is used to promote harmony, wellbeing, and balance. “Reiki” is Japanese and means “universal life force.” In yoga we often hear the term “prana,” which is Sanskrit for “life force energy,” an energy that is in every living thing. Reiki essentially works with this same energy, just in a different way. In yoga, we move this prana around with our breath as we hold different postures to rid ourselves of toxins and tightness and aid in emotional release. In Reiki, the healing practitioner brings this energy through their hands to rejuvenate and relax the recipient as well as move energy through the chakras to balance the energetic body.

Reiki can shed light on areas in our life we might be avoiding or aren’t aware of that need more attention. As the practitioner, I work with intuitive guidance on what areas need more focus and what might be causing imbalances. We are too often in fight or flight mode and reside in our sympathetic nervous system; Reiki, like savasana and certain yoga practices, helps bring the body back into the parasympathetic nervous system.

How did you get into Reiki?

Reiki and energy healing unfolded naturally as my yoga and meditation practices progressed. I realized that I’m an empath and am highly sensitive to the energy around me on a daily basis. There were certain people in my life who I felt like I was an energetic trashcan for, for lack of a better word. It was an interesting and somewhat difficult point in my life—having a lot of different emotions and sensations for reasons I couldn’t explain. My friend who led all of my Reiki trainings suggested I do her Reiki 1 training to be able to work on myself and my anxiety and feel more grounded overall. I didn’t know much about Reiki, but a week later I did her training, and the very first night I knew that this was the missing piece to the puzzle. It felt like I was meant to be doing Reiki. I continued to do all the trainings with her, all the way to Reiki Master Teacher, as well as another 200-hour energy healers training.

Are there any resources you would recommend to people who want to learn more about Reiki?

I recommend researching trainings in your area. Yoga studios and teachers are good sources since many yoga teachers practice or teach Reiki. There are many different styles, so you can research which style would best suit you. I studied under the Usui method, which is considered the traditional style of Reiki, “rediscovered by Mikao Usui.” The book Reiki for Life: The Complete Guide to Reiki Practice for Levels 1, 2, and 3 goes into depth on many of the things you would learn in a Reiki training, but it doesn’t replace an actual training you would receive from a Reiki Master Teacher.

How to Incorporate Healing into Your Meditations

Reiki is a lineage-based practice that is passed from teacher to student through the tradition of training and initiation, but everyone has the capability to access this life force energy. Here are a couple exercises you can try.

First, after a little time in a seated meditation, once you feel settled and centered, take your hands out in front of you. Hold the palms facing one another, a few inches apart, for several moments. Focus in on the energy between the palms and notice any characteristics of it. Once you feel called to, start moving the palms toward and away from one another. Move out 8 to 12 inches, close back in to a few inches, and repeat. It might feel like there are resistant ends of magnets between your hands or it might feel sticky or taffy-like. That is your aura! The etheric layer is the layer closest to the body and the most visible to the naked eye. You can also practice staring between your palms with a softened, blurred gaze to tune into this energy with a different sense. If you don’t notice it the first time doing these exercises, keep practicing. It will come with time!

Next, visualize a ball of white light between your hands. Imagine the light emanating from your palms and moving outward in all directions. After holding your focus on the light coming from the palms, place your hands on an area of your body that needs attention and healing. You might place them along your chakras or any other part of the body that you feel inclined or intuitively guided to work on. Focus on the light filling this part of your body. You may wish to set an intention as you do this. Hold your attention and hands here for as long as you need, then, if you wish, continue on to another part of the body.

If you work with crystals, you can also place crystals in the hands and tune in to their unique energy. You might also move crystals to different areas of the body;  sometimes lying down is better for this method.