The basic concept underlying Reiki is that the body has an energy field that is central to its health and proper functioning, and this energy travels in certain pathways that can become blocked or weakened. This idea of energy flow in the body has been around for a very long time and is also a central concept in Ayurvedic medicine  and traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and acupressure.

Reiki practitioners believe that everyone has the potential to access the universal life energy.  Over time most people's systems become blocked and the energy becomes weakened in them. A Reiki practitioner is trained to be able to detect these blockages, and practitioners will use their hands, thoughts, and own energy fields to improve the energy flow in a patient. Reiki masters believe that healing energy can even be sent to a person from far away the intention to heal playing a major part.

According to the original principles of Mikao Usui, who was responsible for developing a system of Reiki Healing that could be taught, patients must also have a proper attitude for Reiki to work most effectively. Patients must take responsibility for their own health, and must want to be healed. Furthermore, when energy is received from a Reiki healer, patients must be willing to give back energy to others. Finally, Usui claimed that a healing attitude was free from worry and fear, was filled with gratitude for life and for others, and placed emphasis on each person finding honest and meaningful work in their lives—all this, in order to complete the picture of overall health. He developed the 5 Reiki Principles as a guideline for good, healthy living:

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