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Lower Burrell woman expanding ancient Japanese relaxation technique in area

Tribune-Review
| Sunday, January 24, 2016 9:00 p.m.
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Joyce Hanz
Reiki master Kitsy Higgins gives a Reiki treatment to Janet Simmons, of Allegheny Township, by 'lying on hands' while the client is fully dressed
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Joyce Hanz
Reiki master Kitsy Higgins gives a Reiki treatment to Stephanie Anderson of Allegheny Township, at the Jazzercise location on Freeport Road, where Higgins is starting a Reiki circle.
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Sara Kiley
Cynthia Kinney gives a Reiki treatment at Heritage Hospice in New Kensington

Reiki changed Kitsy Higgins’ life for the better.

Reiki (pronounced ray-kee) is a long-practiced Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation.

A few years back, Higgins was juggling a stressful corporate career and family, and the demands made a negative impression.

“I took it out on my family,” says Higgins, who resides in Lower Burrell. “My husband suggested a Reiki session, and I went that week.”

Higgins credits Reiki with transforming her once-hectic life to one of balance.

“Reiki somehow brought my stress level down,” she says.

Higgins has progressed from being a Reiki participant to Reiki master, now offering Reiki sessions throughout the Pittsburgh region.

She now wants to help others, “Release the baggage that is holding you back.”

What is Reiki?

Japanese founder Usui Mikao is credited with developing Reiki in 1923. A form of spiritual practice, it uses a “hands-on healing” technique.

Reiki is based on the Eastern belief in an energy that supports your body’s natural healing abilities, although there is no scientific evidence that such an energy exists.

In 2007, more than 1.2 million adults and 160,000 children in the United States received Reiki sessions, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Rei means “universal wisdom or truth,” and Ki means “life force,” and together Reiki means “spiritually guided life-force energy.”

“Though spiritual by nature, it is not a religion and allows one to have a deeper connection to your religion and faith,” Higgins says. “It is a natural approach to healing, and Reiki removes the things — thoughts or memories — that are no longer serving you a purpose.”

Higgins uses a plumbing analogy to explain Reiki.

“Reiki is poured into you like Drano into a pipe,” Higgins says. “Reiki finds the holes or negative thoughts that are blocking you, removes them, and leaves you in a better place mentally because you are not stuck on negative thinking.”

Higgins says some of Reiki’s benefits are increased energy, stress relief, restoring inner balance, increased mental focus, relief of anxiety or fears and management of chronic conditions.

“I am not asking anyone to change their beliefs,” she says. “This is a new thing for some people, but Reiki has been around before there was Tylenol or the latest surgery equipment. Reiki can help with any illness or life situation.”

Suzann Simons of New Kensington was introduced to Reiki through her cousin years ago.

“I will tell people it is nothing to be afraid of, “ Simons, 62, says. “It brings a sense of peace, calmness and relaxation to me. Each person’s experience is different, but, I assure you, it is safe, easy and natural.”

Simons says this ancient art helps her relax and have harmony in her world. She has participated in Reiki circles under Higgins.

In fact, anyone can learn how to give Reiki sessions. Teacher training classes are available.

What is a session like?

Reiki is administered by “laying-on hands,” Higgins says.

The client is fully dressed and seated or lying down, although Higgins prefers having participants seated during her Reiki circles.

A session usually lasts about 45 minutes to an hour, but shorter sessions are available.

A Reiki practitioner places his or her hands at locations around the head or shoulders, torso area and legs and feet.

Unlike a massage, the muscles are not manipulated and the practitioner’s hands are simply held at each location, either lightly touching or slightly away from the body.

Reiki energy flows from the practitioner’s hands and into the client’s body and energy field.

“Reiki sessions are a place to be able to release and shed those negative issues and can allow a person in a dark place to find light,” Higgins says. “There is no age limit with Reiki and it is great for any age.”

Use in hospitals

Reiki is now offered in over 800 hospitals nationwide.

A research study at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn., indicated Reiki sessions improved patient sleep by 86 percent, reduced pain by 78 percent and reduced nausea by 80 percent.

Heritage Hospice in New Kensington has offered Reiki to its patients for three years now.

Cynthia Kinney, family-service coordinator at Heritage Hospice, was hired specifically because she is a Reiki master, with more than 13 years experience.

“The most important thing is the sense of connection our patients receive,” says Kinney, who sees four patients weekly, on average.

The feedback from patients and family members at Heritage has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We had a gorgeous young woman here in the end stages of cancer, and she was moaning in pain, and her father couldn’t bear to see her like that,” Kinney says. “As I administered Reiki, she calmed and her father came back in, and he was able to sit with her, holding her hand — it was a very touching moment.”

Some families actually choose Heritage specifically because it offers Reiki, Kinney says.

“It is connection with warmth and love I can provide to the patients,” says Kinney, who is one of five employees who can practice Reiki at Heritage.

“I have a few patients I see on a regular basis, and they just love it,” Kinney says. “Reiki is beneficial in all stages of hospice and all stages of living.”

New Reiki circle

Higgins has offered Reiki circles in both Pittsburgh and Indiana, and is adding a new circle Jan. 30 in Lower Burrell at the Jazzercise location on Leechburg Road.

All circles are donation-based and there is no commitment.

“Every circle is different, sometimes maybe three people are there, or 20,” Higgins says. “Participants can expect a peaceful environment where letting go is a good thing. Participants are welcome to attend once or every month.”

Circles last about two hours and include a discussion about Reiki along with receiving energy for about 40 minutes.

Along with relaxing music, participants have their eyes closed in a meditative state while receiving Reiki.

“Very often, the feedback I receive is that people say they feel at peace and deeply relaxed,” Higgins says.

She will host a free informational workshop on Reiki on Feb. 11 at Allegheny Valley Community Library in Natrona Heights.

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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