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Chaffin jumps into a new Thai yoga massage career, helping elders with self-care

The shoes of Melissa Chaffin
The shoes of Melissa Chaffin
Photo courtesy of Melissa Chaffin

Wheat Ridge woman and community leader Melissa Chaffin was born in Wichita, Kansas. Soon after, her parents moved the family to Estes Park, Colorado. Being raised in a small mountain town provided Chaffin with the opportunity to learn the importance of community, high morals and helping others.

Upon graduation from Colorado State University with a B.A. in Technical Journalism and Public Relations, Chaffin excelled in a 25-year-career in logistics, creating solutions for organizations and companies with growth and change needs.

After Chaffin's father died, she purchased a home with her mother and the two of them lived together until her mother's death. It was through this process that Chaffin discovered there was a growing need for more support for the caregivers of elder patients, as well as the elders themselves. Chaffin realized that she had the tools and experience to make a difference. Above all, she discovered that her true calling was to be of service in just this way.

She immediately set out to prepare herself for her new life journey. Her first step was completing a certification program as a patient navigator from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Next she graduated from the Denver Integrative Massage School and became licensed as a massage therapist. Soon after she opened a practice in Thai Yoga massage specifically geared toward the elder care population. She called it Saanti Massage Studio.

In her rapidly diminishing free time, Chaffin enjoys golfing, cycling, reading, and tending to her family, which include a partner and their son, along with three cats and two dogs.

What follows is my interview with Chaffin this month:

What made you want to start your own massage therapy business, Saanti Massage Studio, after your marketing career?

I was actually receiving a massage when I decided I wanted to be able to quite literally “touch” the senior/elder population and their caregivers and decided to go to massage school to start giving back.

When did you achieve your Licensed Massage Therapist credential and officially open your “doors” for business? What is Thai Massage Therapy?

I received my massage license in May 2013 and opened Saanti Massage Studio June 1 of that same year in my home.

What sets Thai Massage Therapy apart from other massage therapy models?

Thai Yoga Massage is often referred to as the “lazy man’s yoga” as the massage therapist is not only “performing yoga” for the receiver, but is also performing many yoga poses during the massage itself. Most Thai Yoga Massage sessions are 90 minutes long and are performed on a mat rather than of on a table. While other massage styles focus on muscles (soft tissue), Thai Yoga Massage focuses on joints and stretching. Another notable difference is that the receiver remains fully clothed throughout the session.

I have developed an abbreviated full body stretch that adheres to the Thai Yoga Massage principles of joint movement and assisted stretch in which the receiver is laying face up on a massage table. This full body stretch was designed for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s to reduce rigidity.

I currently have 40 clients and my practice is growing! About 90% are older adults.

Is there a particular benefit to older adults in participating in Thai Massage Therapy?

The benefits include relaxation, muscle tension release, improved circulation, increased range of motion, reduced stress, increased energy flow and improved balance for any age.

What makes you passionate as a woman about helping elders and other women in your community to achieve greater happiness and overcome their challenges, whether these are isolation, transportation, maintaining good health or economic instability?

My interest in older people started when I was very young and it grew “with” me. Somewhere along the line our culture has lost a sense of community; multi-generational interaction and has suffered for it. My passion about serving the elders and those who care for them stems from my own experience with my parents, most specifically my mom.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve addressed since leaving the corporate world? The biggest accomplishment?

My biggest challenge since leaving the corporate world is learning to market myself. And my most treasured accomplishment is that one of my clients has gone from not being able to dress due to rigidity to being able to independently dress.

What questions or ideas have been raised so far for you as you travel down this new career path? What was surprising or compelling in your view?

I am watching my new career evolve and unfold in a remarkable way and in so many unexpected directions. The right people are coming along my path at just the right time, and I simply take the next step trusting I’m right where I need to be on this journey. Surprises? I never expected to love the work like I do – bringing comfort, teaching self-care and the one on one interaction has been fulfilling beyond measure.

You have a young stepson. Would you comment on the impact, if any, you’re being a step-mother had on your choosing to start Saanti? You also speak often about the wonderful relationship you had with your mother, of blessed memory. Would you comment on the impact she and observing her with her care giver as she grew older had on your choosing to start Saanti?

My experience with my mom was and continues to be a stimulus for doing the work, making a difference in the lives of caregivers and receivers alike. The work is really a win-win situation on a mental, social, physical and emotional level.

Do you volunteer in your community? If so, what do you enjoy doing the most, in terms of community service?

I do volunteer work (Project WISE and HELP) and most recently donated two days of Thai stretch to the volunteers for Sky High Hope Camp for children with cancer. What an incredible experience.

You have seen a fair amount of research about the rapidly growing segment of the American population which is elderly? What challenge facing seniors in our state most surprised you and why?

The fact that housing and poverty in the elder population are at the top of the list is so disturbing to me…Actually the fact that our culture doesn’t value the aging population is something I cannot understand at all. You know – without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

If you saw a newspaper headline 5 years from now that meant your work had been successful, what would it say?

“Thai Yoga Massage improves life for people of any age….5-95!”

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