There’s a wonderful world of alternative therapies out there just waiting to be discovered. Today, I shine the spotlight on sophrology. The latest mindfulness trend promises to reduce stress and increase performance, but how well does it really work? Its a fantastic relaxation therapy gaining momentum on the well-being scene.
In this post, you’re going to learn the secrets of sophrology. This guide also includes details on how to try a sophrology hand scan.
Fans of the discipline say that it helps manage stress levels, reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. It is also proving its worth as an antenatal practice, enabling women to prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for childbirth. This invaluable relaxation technique also helps you become aware of your mind, body and its movements.
Although sophrology has been around in Europe for more than 50 years, it’s still relatively new in the UK, but it’s rapidly gaining traction. Created in the early 1960s by Colombian psychiatrist Alfonso Caycedo to help war veterans deal with depression and PTSD, the modality became popular in Switzerland and France over the following decades. Caycedo, who spent decades exploring yoga, Buddhist meditation, hypnosis and Japanese Zen, named his technique from the Greek words “sos” (harmony), “phren” (consciousness) and “logos” (the study of something) to signify the study of harmony and consciousness.
The Secrets of Sophrology
In practice, sophrology is sort of a cultivated version of several types of mindful techniques. “It brings together aspects of guided meditation, breathing techniques, visualisation and other mindful elements to create a clear mind and a relaxed body,” Niamh Lyons, a certified sophrologist, explains. Sophrology teaches a series of mind-body exercises that users can rely on whether they feel stressed or anxious or simply want a boost in performance.
Unlike general mindfulness practices, which focus on being in the present moment, sophrology has a more directed approach. “You are intentionally allowing yourself to look toward the positive in life. By setting your intentions, you can rewire your brain to be more positive,” says Lyons. But like anything, she warns, you need to be open to the idea of sophrology to experience the benefits.
Through training, practitioners can help determine where they are holding tension, then use the exercises or techniques to relax the body and calm the mind. “You’re physically relaxing your body so the mind can also reset,” says Lyons. When you are more relaxed, you’re able to be more transparent in your intentions and carry on whatever tasks are before you, whether giving an important speech or hitting a golf ball a few hundred yards off a tee.
The aim of sophrology is to reach a state of balance, find your inner harmony, and bring serenity to daily life. It has been described as the new frontier for stress management. From students struggling with concentration and exam worries to busy professionals wanting to improve their ability to cope with the pressures of the business world, sophrology is suitable for all.
Sophrologists generally follow four main principles, known as the Four Attitudes, says Patti Lindsey, a certified sophrologist in Cincinnati. “The first is to be non-judgemental, including not judging yourself,” she explains. By withholding judgement, you’ll be more open and willing to engage in some of the mindful practices.
The second principle is to truly be aware of your body. “A lot of times we are aware of how we feel when something hurts, but we don’t pay attention to our sensations as a day-to-day practice,” Lindsey says. This is often folded into the body scan techniques and can help bring heightened awareness to the mind-body connection.
Next, there’s the concept of “putting things into brackets,” says Lindsey. “That means putting aside what might be bothering you and focusing only on what’s before you.”
Finally, there’s practice. “By repeating the exercises, we consciously integrate new habits,” Lyons explains. “The neurons in the brains are fired up in a positive sense.” This helps us subconsciously form healthy habits, such as looking at the positive in life.With practice, you'll fully integrate living a life of conscious harmony Click To Tweet
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Who Can Benefit
Like most mindful practices, sophrology has the potential to benefit a wide variety of users, from athletes to executives to those of us who just feel on edge. Practitioners say sophrology will reduce stress, anxiety, anger and frustration while improving self-confidence, focus, sleep and overall health and well-being.
Lyons, for one, said she started doing sophrology while living in Switzerland after a variety of treatments were unsuccessful at helping her manage chronic pain after a car accident. Within three months of daily practice, she says, her pain was gone. “The relief was welcome, but it was my mindset that had really changed,” she explains. “I realised I was constantly rushing about and causing stress; I got rid of unnecessary worry and felt happier and more content.”
Lyons also tells of a client who got over a severe phobia of the dentist and a teenager dealing with severe anxiety and credited the techniques with helping her regain control of her life. The French rugby team reportedly used sophrology while training for a World Cup match. An early sophrology teacher, Raymond Abrezol, secretly trained Swiss athletes in the 1968 Winter Olympic games (three ended up on the podium with medals).
“You get back what you put into it,” Lyons says, so it’s essential to practise the techniques both with a professional and on your own. Do it often enough, and she promises you can tap into this sense of positivity and calm. “You can always bring yourself back to a relaxed state, wherever you are or whenever you need it.”
Try This Sophrology Hand Scan
Body scanning is a critical component of a sophrology session, heightening awareness and relaxation and decreasing stress. Lyons shares how a practitioner might guide a scan of one hand.
Sit calmly, eyes closed, feet flat on the ground, arms relaxed with hands on lap (palms facing downward). Allow your breathing to become settled by focusing on breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth (as if blowing slowly through a straw). With each out-breath, allow the body to become more relaxed and consciously allow tension to be released.
Become aware of your right hand. Keeping your eyes closed, experience the right hand as if for the first time. Notice the energy. Become mindful of the sensation of touch of the palm on the surface below and the sense of air around the top of the hand.
Allow the bones, muscles and nerves to relax by consciously thinking of each part of the hand.
Right Hand vs Left Hand
One by one, become aware of each finger, starting with the little finger, the finger’s length, the air all around the finger, the sensation of the nail at the tip of the finger. Move on to the fourth finger, with the same awareness (length, the air around it, the sensation of the nail). Continue to move through the rest of your fingers to the thumb. Then become aware of the whole of the hand.
Compare how your right hand feels to the left hand; the size, the temperature, the weight.By setting intentions, you can rewire the brain to be more positive Click To Tweet
Three Key Techniques
Sophrology encompasses a variety of practices, but most sessions will include the following techniques.
Body Scan: A sophrologist will guide her client through an internal scan of the body, divided into six different systems.
- The head
- The neck/throat/shoulders/back of arms/back of hands/back of fingers
- Chest, upper back, the underside of arms, palms of hands, front of fingers
- The area between the chest and navel, middle of the back, internal organs
- Lower belly, lower back, hips, legs, feet and toes
- The whole body (looking at everything in its entirety)
Breathing Techniques: Deep-breathing exercises help focus on breathing out negative thoughts and relaxing the body and mind.
Visualisation: Using positive affirmations helps visualise energy coming in and out of the body.
Your First Session
Sophrology can be practised during one to one sessions or in group settings. Solo therapy is the ideal way to target specific concerns and will begin with the sophrologist asking a few questions to tailor the session to your particular needs. They will then guide you into a state of consciousness called the sophroliminal level and take you through a series of exercises to enable you to reconnect with your mind and body.
How to Become a Certified Sophrologist?
As sophrology is a highly effective stress management treatment, it is used in hospitals, clinics and private practice throughout Europe. Florence Parot, author of Instant Serenity, and founder of the Sophrology Academy, describes it as “a non-invasive therapy standing at the crossroads between meditation and life coaching, Zen and classical relaxation techniques.” Thanks to its growing popularity in the UK, you can now train as a Sophrologist in England. For more information, visit sophroacademy.co.uk.
I hope you enjoyed learning the secrets of sophrology. As always, please consult your doctor before undertaking any changes to your lifestyle. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please leave them below, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.