Updated: Aug 14
Structural Alignment through Neuromuscular Reeducation
Sotai is a method of movement therapy for the purpose of restoring structural alignment through neuromuscular reeducation. Sotai is unique in that it addresses the active engagement of the nervous system and recalibrates the patterns of subconscious holding tension that perpetuates many of our problems and misalignments.
Unlike most methods of treatment, this form of movement therapy involves the active participation of the recipient with the guidance and assistance of the practitioner. This is deeply complimentary to more passive forms of therapy such as Shiatsu, as active involvement of the participant is necessary to release certain nervous system holding patterns.
Sotai is most commonly delivered as a therapy performed on a recipient by a trained professional, but there are also simple and effective single-person exercises that can be learned and employed by anyone.
Health & Balance through Natural Movement
Sotai has a more widely encompassing lifestyle approach. It was developed to enable humans to adapt to their circumstances and environments by harmonizing physical movement, mental activity, respiration and ingestion. These are the five factors of life that we have control over, and our lifestyle in regards to these factors determines how we influence our health. Aside from basic lifestyle guidelines, Sotai delves much more deeply into the integration of breathing and natural movement. The overarching purpose is to take actions and build a lifestyle and habits that support vibrant health and balance in all aspects of life, without overcomplicating things.
The Method of Sotai Therapy
In Sotai, tiring and painful movements are avoided. Gentle movements are made in the most comfortable direction. Principles of natural movement are applied through mobility examination (Doshin) to determine the direction of least resistance. Flexing, extending, rotating, and articulating the joints in question in all different directions allows us to take note of different sensations and restrictions in certain ranges of motion.
Sotai is divided into two parts, the first part is just this slow, comparative movement in two directions, where we focus deeply on the sensations we are feeling to determine if there is any restriction or discomfort between one side and the other. This is "doshin".
The second part of the practice is the actual Sotai therapy practice. This involves moving slowly, only in the direction of least resistance, ideally against some pressure given by the therapist. This movement must be coordinated with the exhalation.
While exhaling, movement in the comfortable direction is made slowly (against light resistance if done with the assistance of a therapist). When the extent of the person’s comfortable range of mobility is reached, that position is held for a few seconds, after which tension is released all at once, wherein the therapeutic effect takes place.
This process can be repeated a few times in a row on the easier side before comparing the two sides again to observe the improvement made. It is surprising to feel discomfort released on the opposite side to the direction that you are doing the Sotai, but this is the power of the "reverse-motion" method of Sotai, and one of the things that distinguishes it from similar approaches like PNF.
The Effect of Sotai Therapy
Complete relief or reduction of pain and discomfort is most often experienced as a result of this method. When practiced regularly, subtle shifts in a person’s structural alignment are observed as the body rebalances itself. This can also relieve mental and physical symptoms arising from organic disorders, as well as reducing restrictions in mobility that have developed as the result of various causes.
When received as a part of treatment, a single-person Sotai exercise may be recommended for daily practice. One Sotai exercise should not take more than 5 minutes per day, and can truly bolster the effectiveness of ongoing treatments and the speed of your recovery from injuries and chronic problems.
In Sotai, active movement is the kind of motion that is used. This means the person actively makes the movement themselves, rather than having a therapist move their body while they remain passive. Synchronizing breathing and slow, controlled movements help the body learn how to better coordinate during the more complex actions of life.
The Musculotendinous Meridians
One of the reasons that Sotai is so complimentary to Shiatsu therapy, is that both methods are based on treatment focused on the meridian system. The musculotendinous meridian system acknowledges the functional longitudinal connection of different muscle groups in the body, and helps us understand how to effect distal parts of the body by treating seemingly unrelated areas that are critical to releasing the problem area. The musculotendinous meridians illustrate the way that the body operates as a whole, rather than treating the body as a sum of parts.
History of Sotai
Sotai is a form of therapy created by the late Dr. Keizo Hashimoto M.D. of Sendai, Japan. He developed it through his study of various forms of traditional Japanese medicine in concert with his knowledge of modern medicine and science. Dr. Hashimoto's vision was to create an effective form of exercise therapy that anyone could learn to heal their own bodies.