The human body easily loses its balance. The natural healing power will be enhanced when the body is brought into balance. In order to restore the body balance, there are a number of different methods such as acupuncture and moxibustion, chiropractic, massage, or physiotherapy using the modern technology.
- Judgment Criterion
Sotai method has a completely different approach in order to treat physical problems. While most therapeutic methods focus on the affected areas, Sotai aims to re-align the body by your own comfortable feeling. This makes Sotai unique because its judgment criterion is your own receptive senses. This point is the biggest difference from most other treatment styles in which judgment or diagnosis is up to the therapist's own decision. The concept of Sotai was developed on the basis of philosophy that 'regaining your health by yourself.'
Intrinsically the human beings have natural receptive senses in their subconscious level. We explain natural receptive senses as:
"The instinctive human ability used as a survival tool, which enables to make an instant judgment on whether the direction moving towards in life is correct."
The above definition means that the body will feel 'uncomfortable' when the movement direction is incorrect, but when it moves towards the correct direction, the body will feel 'comfortable.'
- Checkup Method
When we talk about body malalignment, it does not normally indicate distortion of the bone itself. Rather, it means loss of symmetrical balance of the muscles around the bones. Let us take a look at an example of an individual who suffers from pain in his right middle back, caused by overuse of one side of the body only and resulted in tension and distress in the involved muscles. When these muscles lose their symmetrical balance, the bone will be pulled towards the side of the muscles which have greater tension. When this condition becomes chronic, it can affect alignment of the whole spine. A common example can be seen in the individuals who have different shoulder level in the standing position.
In Sotai, in order to find out muscle tension and body imbalance, the Mobility Check ('Doshin' in Japanese) which consists of various joint movements, is employed. Mobility Check is a method which enables you to identify malalignment of the specific regions of your own body by using your own feeling. There are a total of 18 check points ・nine points respectively for the supine and prone positions. Each check point involves different kinds of symmetrical movements. Your task is to compare your movements of the right and left directions, and then mark down your 'comfortable side' (either right or left). For instance, you lie on your back with your both knees bent. You can move your knees together to your right smoothly, but you feel pain in your low back when you move your knees together to your left. In this situation, the 'right direction' should be marked down as your 'comfortable movement.
Mobility Check is an epoch-making method in a way that it can be used as two powerful tools. Firstly, you can instantly identify the specific regions of your body malalignment by yourself. Secondly, it can be used to sharpen your own receptive senses. In today's busy lifestyle many of us have lost our natural abilities to distinguish comfortable feelings from uncomfortable feelings. Thus the Mobility Check method not only can help us identify our own body malalignment, but it can also train our own receptive senses by carefully listening to our own inner voices. The method takes the approach of 'killing two birds with one stone!'
- Diagnostic Method
First step in the diagnostic method is to use the Body Alignment Chart as shown in Chart 1. Your task is to mark down in the applicable box the easier or comfortable direction chosen according to your own feeling. You may wonder why the two categories 'R' and 'L' are listed irregularly in the chart. The reason for the irregularity will be discussed later on.
In a movement of finger flexion, a common explanation for the specific movement is:
"In order to flex the finger, the muscles and tendons in the anterior side of the arm need to be contracted."
However, if we are to create an artificial arm following this principle, our attempt would most likely fail. Why?
When we pay attention to the mechanism of the body movement carefully, we will soon notice that the movement of finger flexion will require the muscles on the posterior side to relax gradually (eccentric contract) at the same time the muscles on the anterior side to contract. Without the help of the muscles on the posterior side, the moment of inertia (caused by finger flexion) will not be controlled. Furthermore, it is important that the muscle movements in the other parts including the wrist, the forearm and the upper arm need to be controlled so that they won't be shaken away by the moment of inertia. This example tells us the whole body is linked together and a series of effective body movements is required even for a simple finger movement.
As shown in the above example, there are a number of muscles involved in a body movement. In Sotai, we call this Linked Motion (Lendo in Japanese). Through years of clinical experiences, we have discovered certain rules in the Linked Motion. In a standing or sitting position, the Lined Motion will be complex, but as long as in either prone or supine position, the Linked Motion will be less complex due to the fact that the body is in direct contact with the floor, the condition of which will limit the body movements. By focusing on this point, we have developed a theory of Linked Motion and categorised them into two groups. The Linked Motion Theory can be defined as follows:
''"There are specific rules in the effective body movements ・when a part of the body is moved, the other parts of the body will also be involved in the same movement because the whole body is linked together."
let us return to explain the reason why the two categories 'R' and 'L' listed irregularly in the chart. According to Chart 2, there are two group categories listed vertically. In the supine position, for instance, the right neck turn (#1) and the left heel push (#9) are in the same category as ticked in the boxes in Chart 2. In the prone position, the movement to twist both knees to the right direction (#13) and another movement to drag the left knee up towards the left elbow (#16) are in the same category. As you can see, Body Alignment Chart instantly allows you to identify body alignment in the specific regions, and it enables you to establish treatment strategies easily.
Physical flexibility may vary from individual to individual depending on factors such as age, sex, physique, and fitness level. The ideal body is that the body feels equally comfortable, that is, no discomfort or pain in both right and left direction in any movements in the Mobility Check. Nonetheless, it is almost impossible to find an individual with such a perfect body balance. Most individuals have some kinds of physical imbalance. Let's examine the previous example (movements of neck turn (#1) & heel push (#9)). Based on the Linked Motion Theory, the right neck turn matches the left heel push. However, if an individual finds it is easier for him to push out his right heel when he turns his neck to the right side, these two movements are conflicting with each other according to the Linked Motion Theory. From this example, we can assume that there is malalignment somewhere between his neck and feet.
By learning how to read the Body Alignment Chart based on the Linked Motion Theory, you will be able to assess body alignment of yourself as well as to pinpoint the exact part of your body where out of balance. It is also note worthy that in the Linked Motion, a total number of more comfortable movements and a total number of less comfortable movements turn out to be almost equal for most individuals. This is because each individual has his own body habits. When the body reaches the limit where it almost loses its balance, it is forced to use the opposite sides of the body, in order to bring the body into balance.
- Sotai Maneuvers
Sotai Maneuver (Soho in the Japanese, literally translating into the English language as 'manipulation method' or 'maneuver'). There are a number of maneuvers in Sotai technique, which can be applied to re-align the body imbalance. Two main points in treating the body malalignment are:
Moving the body towards the comfortable direction by focusing on the inner feeling.
Moving the body naturally and spontaneously towards the comfortable direction by focusing on the inner feeling.
(Body looses its balance gradually and unconsciously; therefore natural and spontaneous movements are more effective for the body to regain its balance.)
Let us have a look at these two points in detail.
As explained earlier, Mobility Check can help you identify the comfortable movements of yourself. According to the Sotai method, the body can regain its balance just by moving towards its comfortable direction. But what makes it possible?
Imagine a situation where you feel comfortable turning your neck to your right side, but feel pain in your neck when turning your neck to the opposite direction. In this case, you may ask someone to support your neck by his hands with a certain amount of pressure so that you can turn your neck towards your right side (= your comfortable direction) gently and slowly against the resistance. After repeating this technique for a couple of times, you may find your neck pain is relieved. (Caution! Do not try this technique without a professional assistance.)
There is no scientific explanation of why muscle tension can be released by this technique. However, it may be easier to understand how the technique works by the theory of PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation). The muscles are normally contracted to a certain degree. According to PNF, before the contracted muscles reach its tension limit, tendon organ of Golgi will catch the signal (that the muscle tension is about to reach its limit) and send this information to the motor nerves in the spine, which will in turn control the further muscle contraction (spinal reflex). This way the muscles and the surrounded organs can be protected from being damaged by excessive muscle contraction. This theory based on the spinal reflex is well reflected on one of the PNF techniques called CR (Contact Relax).
In the PNF treatment, the amount of resistance applied to the muscles (by the practitioner) or the amount of muscle strength used (by the client) during the movement, are totally up to the practitioner. On the contrary, the client is the one who takes initiative in the Sotai treatment, based on his own 'comfortable feeling.'
Sotai focuses on the client's feelings such as 'comfortable feeling' and 'pain.' This means that a self treatment is possible by the Sotai method. Moreover, the interrelations between the whole body and the local areas are constantly assessed by the Linked Motion Theory throughout the Sotai treatment. This often enables the practitioner to treat imbalance in the multiple body regions by only a simple Sotai maneuver. On the other hand, the PNF method is more complex. Its techniques developed based on the principle of treating each joint individually, requiring skills and a longer treatment time for the practitioner. In this regard, the biggest advantage of Sotai is that its unique treatment method allowing to prevent from damaging the muscles of the client. The practitioner will always check the client's own feeling during each Sotai maneuver, so he will be able to avoid injury resulting from applying excessive amount of pressure to his client's body. Furthermore, the Sotai method is quite simple to learn so that even the beginners may be able to effectively treat certain types of disorders of others. This is because the role of the Sotai practitioner is to enhance the client's own receptive senses, in the maneuvers with some gentle resistance against the direction towards which the client is going to move.
However, there are many feedbacks both from the Sotai practitioners and their clients that it is not always effective in treating body malalignment by comfortable movements. In order to solve this problem, we need to move on to Point.
When you try to move your body by following your own 'comfortable feeling' as described in Point ?, you may soon find that you tend to move 'consciously'. As mentioned already, the body tends to lose its balance unconsciously and gradually. This implies that treating body malalignment with a 'conscious movement' can be quite challenging unless the malalignment is not too severe, or a 'comfortable movement' can be induced 'naturally' by the experienced Sotai practitioner.
The most efficient way of treating body malalignment is by 'unconscious movements'. The Linked Motion Theory is its secret.
Let us once again return to the earlier example of the Neck Turn movement (#1). An individual feels more comfortable in his right neck turn and feels pain in his neck when turning his neck to the opposite direction during the Mobility Check. If this individual feels more comfortable with pushing out his right heel in the movement of Heel Push (#9), his neck turn and heel push do not match according to the Linked Motion Theory.
In the Sotai treatment, the individual will be guided to push his right heel (his comfortable side), and by repeating this movement for a couple of times, his neck pain can be relieved. This is possible because he will be turning his neck unconsciously to the left direction (his less comfortable movement) while he focuses on his leg movement. The key point here is the muscles in his neck region regain their balance by his unconscious neck movement (to the left direction).
As shown in the example of Point ?, as long as the individual can move his body comfortably and unconsciously, his 'less comfortable' movements in the Mobility Check will eventually become 'comfortable,' and as a result, the body will be brought into balance.
As touched in ３、Diagnostic Method, most individuals end up with equal numbers of 'comfortable movements' and 'less comfortable movements' in the Mobility Check. In the case of treating your own malalignment with the Self Sotai Exercises, the tip is that it is more effective not to think too much and try to enjoy your own 'comfortable feeling' when you move. This way your body can take advantage of the Linked Motion Theory and correct the 'less comfortable' movements marked in the Mobility Check. In the case of treating body malalignment of your clients by the Sotai maneuvers, you as a practitioner need to have a profound understanding of the Linked Motion Theory in order to relieve serious pain or to treat severe malalignment effectively and efficiently.
Unfortunately scientific researches or documents on the therapeutic effects of the technique by Point ? are not yet available at this stage because the Linked Motion Theory is a new concept which was discovered only recently. Although Sotai is still a new field, the assessment techniques using the Mobility Check method and clinical application of the Sotai maneuvers based on the Linked Motion Theory have already been developed by Sotai Canada. In respect of scientific proof of the Linked Motion Theory, academic studies such as by sports medicine specialists will be awaited.