What is sophrology?
Created in the 1960s by Spanish psychiatrist Alfonso Caycedo, sophrology is a structured and easy-to-practice method designed to reduce stress and improve focus.
Sophrology is so popular in France and Switzerland that it is even taught in schools and universities and is often covered by health insurance.
The word sophrology comes from the Greek:
The term signifies the “science of harmonizing consciousness”. Caycedo later defined sophrology as “the science of the consciousness and the values of existence”.
The method uses breathing, relaxation, body awareness, and visualization techniques as well as physical movements which can be practiced by practically anyone, anywhere.
What are the benefits of sophrology?
Regular practice of sophrology can help you strengthen your mind-body connection, manage your thoughts and emotions, relax, (re)focus and increase your resilience.
The techniques can positively affect how you view others and the way in which you deal with life events. They can help you to live mindfully and to participate with joy and confidence in every area of your life.
Commonly experienced benefits include:
- Lower stress levels
- Improved sleep
- Better concentration
- Increased energy levels
- Greater ability to manage pain
- Improved relationship with oneself and others
- Higher self-esteem and self-confidence
Who can practice and benefit from sophrology?
Practically anyone, at any age, can benefit from sophrology. However, if you suffer from seizures, dizziness, faintness, or are on any kind of any medication, you should consult with your doctor before starting this or any other new practice.
It is also important for you to understand that sophrology is not a substitute treatment for serious psychological conditions such as major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and panic attacks. The proper specialist (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist) must be consulted first.
What are some examples of the most common applications of sophrology?
Sophrologists work within the Swiss and French school systems to help students manage exam stress and boost self-confidence. Swiss hospitals employ sophrologists to help patients cope with examination-related stress, childbirth, and surgical interventions. Reportedly, it is part of the training in the Geneva police force and was used by the French rugby team while training for the last World Cup.
How can you learn to practice sophrology?
Sophrology is taught by a therapist called a sophrologist, in both private and group sessions. The sophrologist will assess your needs and guide you through a series of physical and mental exercises which you can then learn to eventually practice on your own.
How to select a sophrologist?
A sophrologist is eligible to practice after having completed a minimum of two years of training at a recognized university or sophrology school and should be able to present a diploma or a certificate. When choosing a sophrologist, don’t hesitate to ask for such credentials as well as the number of years of experience and one or more references.
What is a sample exercise?
This simple exercise will help you become more aware of your present state (sensations, emotions, state of mind). At the same time, it has a calming effect. You can do it anytime, anywhere, while either sitting or standing.
Gently close your eyes. Start by noticing your posture – is it the most comfortable posture for you at this moment?
Now inhale deeply, then exhale and feel your shoulders release.
Notice your thoughts now, at this moment. Observe where your thoughts are: are they in the present moment or do they take you elsewhere? Maybe to something in the past, to something in the future? Just notice these thoughts.
Then shift your attention to your body. Take the time to observe how you feel physically at this moment, observe your bodily sensations. Are there any parts of your body that are tense, contracted? Are there other parts with more pleasant sensations, or no sensations at all?
Focus now on your emotions. Notice any particular emotion at this precise moment, maybe it is one that is not usually present in your daily life but only at this precise moment, maybe you’re experiencing a single emotion, or many, or none at all.
Take these few moments to appreciate this presence with yourself. Then, whenever you want, take a few deep breaths, gently move or stretch, and open your eyes.
Consider keeping a small journal where each time you complete this exercise, you note a description of the thoughts, sensations, and emotions you observed – without analyzing or judging yourself.
If learning practical ways to manage life’s stresses and challenging situations, thereby improving your performance, health and well-being is something that interests you, why not give sophrology a try?