Introduction to Tai Chi with Em Burnett (Wellspring Internal Arts)
Reiki: An Evidence-Based Practice? with Dr Jelena Nesic (INNERNATION Coaching & Development)

Tuesday, 10th January 2011 @ Cornerstone Community Centre, Hove

The evening started off with Em Burnett, experienced energy arts instructor and the founder of Wellspring Internal Energy Arts, who gave a brief introductory talk about Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Because of their gentle nature, these internal energy arts are practiced by people of different ages and abilities. We also had a chance to try out a simple stress-reducing exercise of body tapping: easy to do every day to promote the flow of our life energy ‘Chi’ and calm our minds, bringing our attentional focus to our own bodies and to the ‘Here and Now’.

Effects of the Tai Chi Demo on EFI ScoresIn what has already become the Hove StressBusters tradition, this event also had a twist. Everyone took part in a mini scientific study evaluating the mood effects of the TaiChi/Qi Gong demo. We used a mood questionnaire called Exercise-Induced Feeling Inventory (EFI) which has been used in several brain imaging studies and shown to correlate with the levels of brain's own anti-anxiety compound, the neurotransmitter called GABA.  While we could not see what was happening to the neurotransmitters in our brains, the results of our study showed that even this brief session with Em made us all feel significantly more revitalized than we did at the beginning of the session. Although we did not do a full session of Tai Chi or Qi Gong, the effects of this one simple exercise were striking and left us wanting more. For most people this was their very first encounter with Tai Chi and at the end of the session they bombarded Em with questions about the internal energy arts and her classes.

The second half of the event was dedicated to the discussion of Reiki healing. Dr Jelena Nesic, a research psychologist at UCLH and the co-founder of INNERNATION Coaching & Development, presented an overview of the research which evaluated the benefits of this healing practice. A number of controlled studies have shown that Reiki and the related clinical practices called the Healing Touch and the Therapeutic Touch have significant positive effects on mood (particularly anxiety) and the physiological stress response in healthy individuals as well as in clinical populations. In particular, a lot of research has been conducted with cancer patients and, in addition to the positive effects on mood and stress levels, one well-controlled study showed that Reiki helps preserve immune function which is usually suppressed by chemotherapy. The effects of Reiki were found to be significantly greater than the effects of placebo treatments not just in many studies with human participants but also in studies with rats. And, if that isn’t convincing enough, even the test-tube (in vitro) laboratory studies showed that Reiki suppresses the development of human osteosarcoma (bone cancer) cells while it promotes the development of human osteoblast cells which are necessary for bone formation and growth.

While scientists were able to detect and measure the frequency of the pulsating electromagnetic field emanating from the hands of Reiki and Qi Gong practitioners, the mechanism by which this can bring about the beneficial effects seen in the studies we discussed is not yet understood within the framework of the scientific approach. The question is though: Do we need to understand the underlying mechanism if we can see an objective outcome? Several Reiki practitioners as well as people who have been on the receiving end of Reiki healing contributed to our lively discussion by sharing their experiences and insights. We also discussed the possibility of Hove Stressbusters conducting a controlled study of Reiki effectiveness and we hope that we will be able to update you about the development of this proposal soon. In the meantime, we are looking forward to having a full Reiki demo session at one of the upcoming Hove StressBusters events.