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Guest post by Janice Gagnon
I met Lek Chaiya on my first sojourn to Thailand in 1997. At that time I had no idea that she would come to mean so much to me. Lek Chaiya, affectionately called “Mama Lek,” began to learn Thai massage and healing medicine at a young age from her mother, a healer and a practitioner of midwifery and massage in the village of Jom Thong, Chiang Mai. Lek’s given name was Lek Thiwong. The name “Chaiya” was handed down to her later by her teacher when Lek was made the lineage holder prior to her teacher’s death. Lek also studied herbalism and traditional massage in northern and southern Thailand, raised 2 sons, and eventually founded her own style of Thai massage, called “Nerve Touch” or Jap-Sen (meaning “to grasp” the Sen lines).
Jap Sen is a deep tissue approach that improves joint function and mobility by restructuring and aligning muscles, tendons and bones, and by stimulating pathways in the nervous system. This unique style of Thai massage works to stimulate the flow of energy or “lom” throughout the body by “twanging” or thumb rolling over the intricate system of sen lines and the ridges of muscles. This creates a deeper release of blockages in energy flow and a resonating affect through dense or tight muscles, tendons and nerves. Lek’s style is a very specific approach with the intention focused on relieving painful and even debilitating conditions. Lek Chaiya refined her technique to especially benefit people with numbness and paralysis.
I was fortunate to have private study with Lek in 1997, as she did not advertise to tourists at that time. I learned by workingside by side with her in sessions that treated conditions like persistent back and knee pain, or easing andfacilitating a smooth pregnancy, as well as more serious cases such as paralysis. With regular treatment, a manwho was paralyzed and in a wheelchair was able to walk and even to garden once again. I was fascinated andmoved by Lek Chaiya’s knowledge, confidence and trust in her own abilities. I came toappreciate the nearly miraculous therapeutic changes that took place in her clients, and I began to understandthe potential of Thai massage to evoke deep healing on all levels; physical, mental, and spiritual. I observed one of her clients, an elderly man hunched over with pain and walking with a cane, after only two sessions with Lek (3 days apart) he was able to stand straight and walk unsupported. In another case, a recent stroke victim, 95% paralyzed on one side, was restored to 100% functioning after just a few months of weekly sessions. Witnessing Lek Chaiya and working closely with her gave me a lifetime of inspiration for this work.
The impact of watching a master working in their element is both fascinating and emotionally moving. What is it that makes her a “Master?” A refined and polished sense of touch, lead by purity of heart and excellent intuition. An intention for healing with the focused guidance of an ancient foundation and tradition. She begins and ends each day with prayers to the Buddha, the ancestors and the founder of Thai massage, Shivaka Kumarabhacca. To her, this healing art is an integral part of her everyday life.
I brought Lek to California seven times from 2002-2010, we co-taught together several trainings Basic to Advanced Levels of Nerve Touch Herbal Thai Massage. One night when we were in San Francisco for a sightseeing weekend, I couldn’t sleep. She advised me to recite the traditional mantra “Om Namo” until it calmed my mind. I realized that the spiritual foundation of this ancient healing art is available at each moment. These teachings are handed down through the generations from an early age. I hold dear to me the beautiful image of Lek in the mornings with my young daughter sitting at her side with hands in prayer, eyes closed and hearts open. When Lek Chaiya is giving a Thai massage, she holds this consciousness, this prayer in her movements with a child-like curiosity. This type of mindfulness and confidence clearly evokes change and facilitates deep healing.
Lek Chaiya dedicated most of her life to the study, practice and teaching of Traditional Thai Massage. She developed a style that has helped tens of thousands of people within her lifetime and through the transmission of her work in her teachings will continue to benefit the world.
LEK CHAIYA PASSED AWAY ON APRIL 19, 2013 at the age of 74 years. Lek Chaiya became a mentor, teacher and motherly figure in my life. I know that she has touched the hearts of so many people. She has truly graced us through her loving stewardship of the tradition of Thai massage.
Janice Gagnon is the founder of Spirit Winds School of Thai Massage located in Nevada City, CA. She has been studying throughout all regions of Thailand since 1997. She studied at the Institute of Thai Massage and The Old Medicine Hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Janice has also studied extensively one-to-one with Master Lek Chaiya in “Jap-Sen” or Nerve Touch Thai Massage. Janice has hosted and co-taught with Lek Chaiya at Spirit Winds since 2002, Lek has been a primary influence in her therapeutic work. Janice is recognized as an Advanced Instructor and Therapist.
Spirit Winds School of Thai Massage
Nevada City, CA