A good entrepreneur never misses an opportunity to show off his product. So you have to give props to Roman Torgovitsky, founder of Soma System, who didn’t hesitate to demonstrate his start-up company’s foam rollers and rubber balls (typically used to work out muscles in a gym or a yoga studio) on my back and limbs in a Cambridge coffee shop the other day.
Yes, we got some strange looks. But he’s getting coverage now, isn’t he?
Torgovitsky’s goal is to create products that allow people to mimic on themselves the tension relief and muscle stimulation they would get from a session with a professional body worker. I’m not talking about simulating the luxurious hot stone massage you got on that cruise last year. I’m talking about the kind of therapeutic tissue massage designed to treat chronic conditions like lower back pain, neck stiffness and clenched jaw.
Torgovitsky is a Harvard-trained biostatistician who’s also an amateur martial artist. Like many athletes, he discovered that visits to a body worker could help him stay loose, limber, and pain-free.
“I’m a mathematician, so in my mind I was like, ‘I can model what he does with tools and just do it at home,’ ” he said. “Initially, I was just buying everything I could find on Amazon: foam rollers, tennis balls, lacrosse balls — stuff people have used for 30, 40 years in physical therapy and athletic training. But it couldn’t replicate what he was doing. So I decided I had to do it myself.”
Torgovitsky founded Soma last year with a line of equipment he designed. Some pieces look quite exotic, like a mat covered in plastic spikes that resembles a bed of nails. Lying on the mat for a short time is highly energizing, Torgovitsky said; longer sessions are supposedly relaxing.
Others are familiar items with slight tweaks: One type of roller features a channel in the middle, for instance, so that it can be used on the back without pressing against the spine, or on legs without pushing on the illiotibial band, a large tendon running from the hip to the knee.
An entire 13-piece kit costs $250.
Soma runs training sessions for massage therapists, yoga instructors, athletic trainers and physical therapists, who use the tools to complement their own techniques. But anyone interested in learning how to relieve muscle tension at home can attend a Soma clinic. The next one is Dec. 15 in Cambridge.