Sophrology – a mind-body technique
What is sophrology and how can it help as a relaxation technique for stress control?
In Switzerland and France, sophrology is widely used for stress control, but it’s a term that is not as widely recognised as it is elsewhere in Europe. That could soon be set to change though as the trend is beginning to migrate and is becoming increasingly adopted across Europe. Sophrology is a relaxation technique based on the same principles as yoga and it is somewhat similar to the more recognised study of mindfulness.
The method was developed in the 1960s by Professor Alfonso Caycedo, a Columbian neuro-psychiatrist, as a way to support a patient he was treating to find more serenity in daily life. It was born from his studies on human consciousness and, at the first International Sophrology Conference in 1979, he explained how it was both a philosophy and a way of life, as well as a therapy and a personal development technique. Sophrology has been recognised as a method to address a wide range of concerns from stress management to insomnia, emotional management and interpersonal relationships1 .
What are the health benefits of sophrology breathing?
Sophrology brings about a calm and controlled state of mind through focused breathing exercises and, as with other relaxation techniques, Sophrology is a learned discipline that becomes better with practice. There are 12 levels that are administered by a sophrologist (a guide) with the aim of progressively bringing you deeper and deeper into the body. These begin with a body scan where you are guided to breathe into the areas where you’re holding the most tension. It moves on to the more mental elements of visualisation, then an awareness of the body and the mind together, and concludes with the identification of your personal values.
How is sophrology different from other types of relaxation techniques?
The practice of using relaxation techniques to quiet our minds and enhance our mental wellbeing is not new, and there are various methods of meditation and reflection from across the world that have been used to capture the importance of stillness and ‘living in the now’ for centuries. Sophrology is different though, in that it is typically more goal-oriented than other forms of meditation and breath work. Rather than simply focusing on the now, sophrology helps you prepare for the future, helping to calm and relax you in preparation for situations you are nervous or anxious about. In France, Sophrology is already recognised as a way of understanding mental health and it is taught in schools and used by midwives to help relax the body during birth for faster healing afterwards.
How can you try Sophrology?
To truly reap the rewards of Sophrology, you can use a guide to help you through the stages. There are various audio recordings that offer a taste of the practice. To give an idea of what sophrology is like though, you can try the following exercise: close your eyes, breathe in, and hold your breath for a few seconds while tensing up all the muscles in your body. Then, as you exhale, release all the muscles and let go, allowing the body and mind to slow down2.