While in Bangkok, Thailand researching a Thai massage article, I had the opportunity to sit in on a class of therapists learning the ancient art of Thai massage. The neat thing was, anyone could register for courses, which I thought was a great way to enhance a vacation, and come home with a Thai massage certificate. And it’s all legit.
People from all over the world have been making their way to Thailand to learn the technique from those who have been doing it their whole lives. The most famous temple in Bangkok, called Wat Po, has been welcoming students to its medicine school since 1955, becoming the first Thai medical school to operate under the approval of the Thai Ministry of Education.Students who have completed their training are now certified by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour in Thailand. The school is recognized by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada.
History of Thai Massage
There is evidence that Thai massage was practiced over 2,500 years ago, originating with the simple healing property of touch. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the technique was actually taught in a school, as it was mostly handed down from generation to generation, from grandparents and parents to children.
The Wat Po Traditional Thai Medical and Massage School is now the oldest and most well-known of the schools, but there are three other branches to train at in Thailand: Chetawan Thai Traditional Massage School at ChaengWatthana, Chetawan Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School at Salaya, and Chetawan Thai Traditional Massage School at Chiang Mai.
What is Thai Massage?
Therapists use their fingers, palms, elbows and knees to push on pressure points in their clients’ bodies, pull tissue away from those points, and stretch the body along the nervous and muscular systems, without the use of oil. The compression initiates blood flow and encourages stimulation in the internal organs. The Thai philosophy is that there are 10 sens (meridian lines) through the body, and by balancing them, the body can be at its optimal wellness.
Clients wear loose fitting pyjamas and therapists put them through a series of positions, starting with the feet, while pushing on their pressure points. They then stretch the clients’ bodies in another series of positions to stimulate the blood and lymphatic systems.
Thai Massage Courses in Thailand
Travellers interested in learning Thai massage can train at any of the locations mentioned above. The curriculums mirror each other and run year round. They are usually taught in English.
According to Preeda Tangtrongchitr, the Director of Wat Po, students are about 50/50 local and foreign. “The last few years, it has been lots of Korean, before that, Japanese, and now from the west of Asia like India and Pakistan. From everywhere. In Europe it’s very popular now, in Spain, Ireland, Germany. We have students from more than 125 countries, even South America.”
The general massage course is a prerequisite for any of the advanced courses. You’ll learn about the philosophy of Thai traditional medicine and massage, posture, safety precautions and technique. This is a very basic course, but even Registered Massage Therapists must take it before continuing. It runs daily throughout the year for five consecutive days (30 hours).There is also a basic (30 hours) Foot Massage course that integrates Chinese reflexology with Thai massage, and Ascetic Self-Stretching (Rue-Si Datton- five hours) that studies 18 of the 80-posture exercise and complements Thai massage.
The Advanced Massage Course digs deeper into the Thai medical philosophy and teaches anatomy, physiology and how to diagnose before treating. This differs from North American schooling and focuses on the 10 sen lines and acupressure points along these lines. The course runs over 10 consecutive days (60 hours).
For those with more time, there are also professional courses that run over 26 days (165 hours). As well as massage, lessons cover pharmacy, Thai medicine, and herbal massage, another traditional treatment. Courses typically start on the first day of every month.
More advanced courses are the Oil Massage and Aromatherapy (30 hours), Infant and Child Massage (21 hours), and the Professional Thai Massage for Health, which runs over 165 hours at the Salaya branch.
Thai Massage Training
Marlayne Robinson, RMT and Light Worker at Wings of Reconnection, took massage courses at Wat Po in Bangkok about nine and a half years ago. This is what she had to say about her experience:
“The instructors that I was blessed to have instilled a deep love of Thai massage. I felt honoured to take the classes at Wat Po, spending lunch each day walking through the Wat grounds and traveling back and forth on the ferry, or walking through the streets and the people to my hotel. With my background, it was a wondrous choice for me to study there, getting it ‘from the horses mouth’ so to speak. The information is taught at a fast pace, each class being five days long. Each day there are new students arriving for each teacher, to a maximum of 6 students at any one time. It is possible, then, that each day he/she is teaching a student at each level of theory and practice.
“The beauty of that is that as we progressed through the course, each day we were able to review the basics and pick up things that had slipped past our memories. We practiced on each other and those of us who had been there the longest assisted with the ‘newbies’ to a small extent. Before we began class we chanted, reciting the chants honoring our teachers and had a brief moment of silence. It was very comfortable for me as the chants were the same as those I use in my meditation classes.”
Thai Massage Course Prices (please check with the school for the most up-to-date costs):
- Basic Massage course: 8,500 Baht ($270 CDN)
- Advanced Massage course: 12,000 Baht ($380 CDN)
- Professional Thai Massage for Health course: 24,000 Baht ($762 CDN) and includes books
- Foot Massage course: 6,500 Baht ($206 CDN)
- Ascetic Self-Stretching course: 2,000 Baht ($63 CDN)
Register for Thai Massage Classes:
Registration takes place in-person at the school of your choice. (Not all courses are taught at all locations.) You can register for the Basic Massage course on the morning that it starts – cash only. If you decide to continue with an advanced course, you can register for that in-person once you have completed the first course.
Check the website for the most up-to-date information.
And if you want proof that Thailand is known for it’s massage therapy, they received a nod from the Guiness Book of World Records this year:
NOTE: My trip to Thailand was sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.