Developed in 19th-century Japan by the Buddhist healer Mikao Usui, reiki is an oral tradition handed down from master to studen. "Rei" means "boundless and universal", while "ki" means "energy".

It's an intuitive treatment, in which a practitioner works through 12 basic hand positions on your body.

To test it out, I visit Melanie Hoffstead, a reiki master for 14 years. As I lie on her treatment table in a bright loft room in Archway, north London, she puts on some meditative music and tells me to relax. She starts by touching my shoulders; then lays her hands on my face, neck and body.

The transfer of energy in reiki can be felt as a sensation: heat, cold, heaviness or tingling. I was sceptical, and am surprised to feel a prickling in my hands and toes.

After about half an hour, she asks me to turn on to my front. While some people recall the past and find reiki emotional, after a few mundane thoughts of the "must remember to pay my rent" variety, I find myself lulled by the chanting music.

Melanie says that everyone reacts differently. "It instils a deep sense of safety. It's a melting experience that can provoke tears or laughter or snores, but I have never had a patient left cold by it - everyone has been moved. And I have the most sceptical people coming for treatment. Reiki really is open to anybody, from businessmen to football fans to pregnant women. It is also good for the grief process."

Feel-good factor *** Surprisingly relaxing, will definitely try this again

Finding a reiki practioner To contact Melanie Hoffstead, call 020-7263 2628 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She also teaches reiki in small classes here and abroad. One-hour session costs £45. Visit the Reiki Association website to find teachers:

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