Wat Pho will forever be considered the spiritual home of Thai massage, and in the same way that a trip to Hollywood is a special occasion for movie buffs or Wembley Stadium for football fans, this majestic temple complex retains a special relationship anyone interested in traditional therapies.
It is popular for visitors to experience a relaxing and beneficial Thai massage when visiting the temple, but there is also the option to learn the techniques that have made Thai massage famed throughout the world. The length and difficulty of your course can vary from a five day introduction to Thai massage, right through to a 30 day professional massage therapy course.
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History of Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage School
The ancient practice of applying pressure along the muscular and nervous system has been used in Thailand since before the Sukhothai period in the 12th century, but methods and practices were continually improved until finally the centre of knowledge came to rest at Wat Pho (Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan) in Bangkok.
In fact, this was the first centre of higher learning in Thailand and within the temple there are many tablets inscribed with instructions for practicing Thai massage and a pharmacopeia with over 1000 herbal cures listed for a range of ailments. Best of all, all the necessary herbs and ingredients were planted in and around the temple and available to everyone.
Following a visit to the temple by King Rama 9, the abbot of Wat Pho was asked to create a formal school from which to teach four traditional courses: Pharmacy, Medical Practice, Midwifery and Massage. In turn, WatPo Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School was opened in 1955. Even though the school has since expanded to four separate locations, Khun Serat, the manager of Wat Pho Massage School, is the grandson of the founder and most of the teachers are second or third generation practitioners of Thai massage. The Chetawan Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical School recently outgrew its premises inside the temple and moved across the road, but still close enough to hear the monks chanting their morning prayers.
Study Thai Massage
In total there are 15 different massage courses taught at Wat Pho Massage School. These are split into four categories: Basic, Advanced, Professional and Special Short courses.
The introductory modules of General Thai Massage (THB 9,500) and Foot Massage (THB 7,500) are both five day courses and are compulsory starting points before moving onto more technical lessons. Each student is matched with a partner, ideally of similar weight and height, and each pair is instructed by their own teacher. Teaching is done with use of a text book and many hours practicing on the lines of beds they have laid out in their classrooms. Studying the introductory modules at Wat Pho Massage School is so convenient because they can be started on any day of the week. Although this is a school, everyone is still easygoing, laughter rings out freely and there is no competitive edge whatsoever – this is Thailand, after all. Classes run from 09:00 to 16:00 with one hour lunch break.
Once you have mastered the basics there are many options for furthering your skills. You might take the four day Infant and Child Massage course (THB 6,000), Anti-Cellulite and Slimming Massage (THB 8,500), or continue with the Advanced Thai Medical Massage Therapy module (THB 14,000), which takes 10 days to complete and builds on techniques learnt at basic level. All completed courses are recognised by accredited by the Thai Ministry of Labour, but if you want receive recognition from the Ministry of Public Health in order to practice abroad then you need to take the 26 day Professional Thai Massage for Health module (THB 30,000). With this certificate you are recognised as a proficient Thai massage professional, but as Khun Serat was keen to explain, you never stop learning and this ancient therapy takes a many years to master. For international students who wish to attain professional level there is a dedicated campus in Salaya, an hour north of Bangkok, with instructors there specialised in teaching in English.
4 Branches of Chetawan Wat Pho Massage School
- Chetawan Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical School: Wat Pho (Basic courses designed for International students)
- Chetawan Thai Traditional Medical School: Chaeng Wattana
- Chetawan Thai Traditional Medical School: Salaya (Professional courses designed for International students)
- Chetawan Thai Traditional Medical School: Chiang Mai
Chetawan Wat Po Thai Massage School
- Opening Hours: School Open Daily: 08:00 to 18:00 – Classes run from 09:00 to 16:00
- Address: 392/25-28 Soi Pen Phat 1, Maharaj Road, Pranakhon (the school is opposite Wat Pho temple. Look for a sign for Coconut Palm Restaurant. The massage school is close by).
- Tel: +66 (0) 2622 3533