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Sotai is a Japanese therapy used to correct imbalances in posture and ease muscle tension, pain, and headaches. It was developed in the 1970s by Keizo Hashimoto, a doctor who was also involved with martial arts and body massage. This movement therapy is a gentle realignment of muscles and balance, based on the principle that over time, muscles can become twisted into unnatural, uncomfortable positions. Sotai works to move body parts in a comfortable direction, retraining the muscles into proper balance.
Oriental medicine, including disciplines like acupuncture, bonesetting, and sotai, often works with the concept of energy pathways, or meridians. These pathways may become blocked or unbalanced for a variety of reasons. Sotai therapy focuses on the neuromuscular structure of the body, eliminating stiffness and postural misalignment, thus opening up the energy pathways of the body and relieving disorders of internal organs affected by structural imbalance.
A sotai practitioner will first work with patients to determine their range of motion without pain. Beginning at the neck and moving down the body to the feet, the practitioner gently manipulates muscles to determine how far each area can stretch without discomfort. The practitioner will also assess whole muscle groups and general posture to determine where muscles are too tight or maladjusted. Feedback from the patients during initial treatment helps pinpoint problems.
Once the areas of stiffness and pain are identified, the practitioner works with patients to design a stretching exercise program to lengthen the muscles. There are two ways to stretch and heal the muscles. Post-isometric relaxation is a technique of stretching or relaxing a muscle to its normal resting length, after the muscle has been worked. Reciprocal inhibition is used to relax a muscle that causes chronic pain, by tensing the opposing muscle; for example, a patient may stretch a sore bicep by flexing the opposing tricep.
Sotai therapy aims to teach patients to pay greater attention to comfort and pain sensations and gently move toward comfortable positions. The combination of slow, meditative breathing and prescribed exercises are intended to restore energy flow, flexibility, and proper muscle length. Over time, patients learn to assess their own body alignment and work to heal painful muscles. Sotai’s gentle movements and emphasis on comfortable alignment make it a suitable therapy even for people with severe, chronic conditions. As with all exercise and stretching programs, patients should check with a doctor before beginning this therapy.