Sandra Delgado wasn't held much as a child growing up in a stern, Catholic, Mexican-immigrant home in the San Fernando Valley.
A high-stress job and spiking blood pressure led her to discover the healing power of human touch a year ago when she walked into her first Reiki session.
"Reiki saved my life," said Delgado, a lawyer with Bank of America. "I cannot live without it, and I don't want to know what would have happened to me if I hadn't found it."
A spiritual touch practice based on the notion that human hands can redirect one's "life force energy" to heal stress and disease, Reiki is the hottest new Eastern healing practice making its way into the Western health industry.
Like acupuncture, yoga and other once fringe practices, Reiki is now viewed by many as an effective, accepted alternative practice in mainstream America, where at least 1.2 million adults have tried the energy healing therapy.
But for a relatively safe and side-effect-free treatment, Reiki has garnered quite a conflicted reputation among health researchers and medical professionals and in the Roman Catholic church.