If you were to observe a cat rousing from a nap, you would notice that it does not make any sudden movements. It stretches its body lengthwise first, in slow languid motions, and takes turns stretching its limbs before moving on to more strenuous activities, thereby preventing strain of muscles. This instinctive action is perhaps the simplest illustration of the Sotai Ho method.
Sotai Ho is a traditional Japanese physical therapy that balances the body’s nervous and muscular systems and its literal meaning is to “work or manipulate body alignment”. It was in 1933 that Dr Hashimoto Keizo established a clinic for general treatment in his native Japan. During his years of practice, he encountered several illnesses that were extremely obstinate and could not be cured through modern medicine. Then began an interest in the various manual healing therapies and acupuncture procedures that were prevalent in the country. After 10 years of research and investigation into these alternative practices, Hashimoto developed a holistic technique that would restore the natural body alignment while relieving stress.
Hashimoto’s discovery was based on the knowledge that distortion in the frame is the main cause of disease. Sotai Ho treatment, with its therapeutic benefits, was quickly adopted by many countries, and it soon evolved into Self-Sotai. “The reason why Sotai became so well known in such a short period of time, was because it was simple and effective,” says Torakichi Akita of the SOTAI Body Balancing Centre in Pulchowk. “It speeds up the healing process and also serves to maintain health.” Set up by Torakichi’s father Yoshi Hiro and his mother Dharma Laxmi about a decade ago, the centre is the only one of its kind in Nepal, and currently accommodates a selection of both expatriate and local clients.
In the West, ‘exercise’ is perceived as a programmed mode of strenuous physical activity. But a broader understanding would reveal that any activity must simultaneously engage the mind in order for it to integrate well with the body. Vigorous, strictly-physical exercises like aerobics are intended for discharging energy, while practices like Yoga and Tai Chi promote internal development; they build energy. “Our modern and fast-paced lifestyles make us prone to stress and abnormal tension that accumulates in the body,” explains Dharma Laxmi. “We are victims to poor posture and poor breathing, which is the root of all our physical problems. Sotai Ho aspires to reverse these very illnesses simply by allowing the body to move freely and naturally.”
The Sotai Ho technique, a combination of oriental Hatha yoga and modern physiology, operates on four basic principles: right breathing, nutritious diet, right movement and balanced thoughts, all of which are incorporated into the fifth element – the environment. Harmony between these five aspects will result in optimal health. “People are reluctant to try this sort of therapy because they expect instant results,” says Torakichi. “But since it is a completely natural process, unlike modern medicine, the effects are also gradual but sustain longer.” Sotai professes to alleviate many chronic illnesses including migraine, arthritis, neck/shoulder/lower back pain, scoliosis and other physical imbalances. It is even effective in treating sports injuries, through the application of elastic patches (Kinesiology).
Going against the common idea of “no pain, no gain”, Sotai Ho encourages relaxed positioning and gentle movements of the body in directions that are not painful. The key is to ease over-strained muscles, not exert them further. This is why we must first assess our body alignment to determine which posture is the most comfortable and try to maintain it by tightening the muscles and relaxing them periodically. “The human body is very responsive,” claims Dharma Laxmi. “Once we focus on our breathing while we move, our bodies will regain balance on their own.” Moving away from exertion into ease, the Sotai Ho treatment offers us a simple, stress-free ride to good health.
For details: SOTAI Body Balancing Centre, Pulchowk, 5543045