Freedom of Movement

Sotai is a term that was invented by the Japanese physician Keizo Hashimoto, it uses the Chinese characters SO 操 meaning control and the character TAI 体 meaning body. Actually the characters are commonly used in reverse order TAISO meaning exercise but these exercises work as a kind of controlled movement that is used to help the body realign it self and improve its function.

Sotai is founded on the principle of always moving the body in the most comfortable direction. Many of us often have stiff joints or pain in our muscles and its tempting to think we just need to stretch out this stiffness and work against the restrictions head on. The Sotai method is different it directs you to move in the way that is most comfortable and feels nicest, the movements can be done solo for general maintenance but for therapeutical reasons would require a partner to offer mild resistance to the movement.

One example might be if you have backache you might try moving the knees from side to side to see if one direction is more difficult. If so then move from the difficult side towards the easy side and the parter puts light resistance at the end of the movement, then after a count to three the whole body relaxes. This can often be enough to realign the structure and your symptom is relieved.

This summer while in Japan I was lucky to meet the great grandson of Hashimoto sensei, Suzuki Kensuke, who practises and teaches sotai in Tokyo. We received treatment from him and were encouraged to look for more opportunities to study and practice. The simplicity of the ideas behind Sotai and its applicability to a wide range of physical constriction makes it easy to integrate in other kinds of treatment as well as to be adapted to self treatment. Actually there is something to the idea of the path of least resistance as a method of both therapeutic intervention as well as an approach to living that has much to recommend it. In keeping with the Daoist notion of effortless action it is not a call to capitulation but optimising ones outcomes by minimising unnecessary ‘effort’ that impedes as much as it moves. Whatever the situation there is probably a fulcrum around which we can glide into freer more unencumbered state of being.

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