A Passing of an Icon, Leon Chaitow

With great sadness I share the news that Leon Chaitow passed away September 20, 2018. It’s hard to put words to the utter admiration I have had for him or the inspiration that he has given me.

At age 23 I found myself at my first NeuroMuscular Therapy course in St. Petersburg, Florida. I have no business being here was my first thought as I walked into a room of licensed massage therapists, career bodyworkers, and people who were at least ten years older than me. I’d only just started my Master’s program and held no titles or licenses. I flew under the radar, kept quiet, and took in this learning, hungry to understand all that I wasn’t learning in my studies. Leon delivered.

It was Leon who helped me understand my odd ability to feel vibration, movement, and unnecessary tension in a body. As he shared how the precision of the right pressure, in the right direction, with the right amount of intention can change a body, I knew he had answers to questions I’d had for years. I’d asked if he felt movement and vibration under the skin as he worked on people. His simple reply – “There’s many vibrations in the body: heartbeat, blood flow, cerebral spinal fluid, and breath all create vibration and frequency.” Rather than being dismissive or shaming, he encouraged me to keep seeking and to keep an open mind as I pursued what I wanted to understand. He was a true teacher.

His knowledge, humor, and specificity was breathtaking and inspiring. I’ve been privileged to know Leon and have moments with him beyond just classroom time. Last year I had the opportunity to do an interview with him – sadly the audio was so poor much of the interview was inaudible except to my ears in the moment. One question I asked him was, “Leon, you’ve been an educator and teacher – a pioneer and to me a legend in the bodywork world for decades. Now, as you enter those older years are you satisfied with the legacy of work you’ve put out?” His basic reply was “yes” but he had much more to share.

Leon was always supportive to me. He challenged my thinking and that of many of my colleagues. He was and will always be a legend and force of nature in the field of manual and complementary medicine. He was the founder and editor of our only peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, as well as the author of over 80 books and articles. A pioneer in the field of manual therapy and research, he was instrumental in the development of the Fascia Research Congress.

I’m sure many of my colleagues see him as a special mentor and out-of-the-box thinker. I’ve never taught a training without sharing about my experiences with him, giving him credit for a great deal of my understanding, and expressing my gratitude for all he shared.

Leon and Judith DeLany introduced me to the hands-on techniques of NeuroMuscular Therapy, and I spent years fine-tuning my skills to evaluate muscle timing and neurological stability. The changes that I and my clients experienced from this work were nothing short of remarkable. From their teaching, I was inspired to create what I called MELT NeuroStrength, enabling people to gain these changes on their own, without a highly trained practitioner. I have to say, Leon was skeptical – but eventually I was able to simulate some of these complex hands-on techniques to help my clients achieve similar results. Now people who don’t have access to a NeuroMuscular Therapist can improve their own stability and reduce their risk of injury. My second book, MELT Performance, is set to be released next spring. It will, of course, be dedicated to him.

Leon had wit and tenacity, and his sarcasm and banter truly made me feel special when I was around him. He believed in me and for me. He loved his daughter, a brilliant artist whose work expresses the energy of Leon in many of her paintings. The love he had for his wife and the story of how they met truly uplifted me and made me believe you can have love and work and family and be relevant. His passion was infectious.

I was asked to write a chapter in his 2nd edition of Fascial Dysfunction. Although the chapter was ultimately not accepted, his faith in me never wavered. In one of my last conversations with him, he said to me, “I know this is as disappointing to you as it is to me but dear Sue, keep writing. We need you to keep writing. Keep trying.”

I’m still working on that chapter even though it didn’t end up in his book. I know he’d want it to be completed. I know he’s watching us, waiting for us to continue to share his work, learn from him, and push the industry further.

Despite the sadness in my heart, I feel so very blessed to have ever known him, and to have learned from him directly. I only hope to make him proud by keeping his energy and teaching alive. His generosity and knowledge cultivated a deep desire in many of us to continue to research, treat, and discover more than what’s easily accessible.

Although he’s left his form and body on this earth, I am quite certain his energy lives on in his words just as his spirit lives on in our hearts and minds. I am forever grateful for his kindness and the supportive care that he’s given me. I am a better person and therapist because of Leon. I send a heartfelt appreciation out to the universe and deep condolences to his family and the vast community that loved him so.

His daughter, Sasha, sent an email and asked to pass it along:

It is my sad duty to announce that after a long and uneven battle fought with courage, strength, and the humour you know so well, as of tonight, September 20th 2018, Dr Leon Chaitow is no longer with us. In the few months that he was ill, he was able to complete his last book, Fascial Dysfunction 2e, soon to be released by Handspring Publishers, and made arrangements for editorial succession of JBMT. Dr Jerrilyn Cambron is now acting Editor-in-Chief, flanked by a strong team of associate editors and Dr Sasha Chaitow. For all professional queries and correspondence please contact Sasha in the first instance. For those of you who knew him well, please know that, in the words of Dylan Thomas, Leon raged like few against the dying of the light and did not go gentle into that good night. His legacy lives on in his many books and articles, in the students he taught, in the patients he treated, and in the family to whom he was a most beloved husband and father whose loss will never fade. The greatest way to honour him is to continue to carry that torch. Please respect his family’s need for privacy and peace at this time.

I encourage any of you to read his books and learn how much a single person can share in a lifetime simply because he loved what he did and was gifted in it. A powerful force of nature departs this earth, and I for one am so grateful to walk a path that man created.

Farewell, dear Leon.

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