There's a new relaxation technique in town and it's here to stay. Sophrology may not sound familiar to you, yet: as a complementary health technique Sophrology has only been around for just over fifty years in Continental Europe, and it is currently being established in the UK. With only a handful of qualified therapists who offer it, and with great reviews from those who have tried it, Sophrology is the new frontier in stress management.
Sophrology is a mix of Eastern and Western approaches with an emphasis on body and mind awareness: it blends the mindfulness of yoga and meditation with the more rational approach of hypnotherapy and psychology.
In a nutshell, Sophrology is a method, a practice and a philosophy. It assists the individual in finding a new state of balance and serenity in daily life.
History of Sophrology
Introduced in Spain in 1960 by Professor Alfonso Caycedo, a doctor and surgeon specialising in psychiatry and neurology, Sophrology contains the essence of Yoga, Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Zen philosophies, adapting their practises to achieve harmony of body and mind. Professor Caycedo also went to Switzerland to study the phenomenologic branch of psychiatry with his mentor Ludwig Binswanger, then to other parts of Europe to learn hypnosis and relaxation methods, notably autogenic training from Schultz.
Over the years, Professor Caycedo has regularly updated and completed his approach which now includes 12 gradual degrees (levels) of practise.
You can practise Sophrology either in individual or group sessions. Sophrology can be used therapeutically or as a practice to bring mind and body into harmony.
In terms of track record, Sophrology has been used to manage stress levels, improve the quality of sleep, reduce anxiety and even address self-image issues.
Instead of being a "quick fix" Sophrology is a whole toolset to use daily to manage life's stresses and challenging situations. In a way, it is like learning to drive your body: instead of letting illness or stress rule your life, you train your mind to be better equipped to stay healthy and to listen to your body for any sign of discomfort and immediately address it.
Sophrology is also particularly suitable for birth preparation. In fact this discipline can help the mother accept the changes in her body and enhance her bond with the baby. It can be useful to overcome any anxiety the mother has about the labour too and give her tool to use on the day to manage pain and energy levels.
The technique is based on relaxation, breathing and visualisations. Unlike meditation you can perform it standing up and engaging your body with the breathing, noticing how the body works and noticing the sensations within the body. This will allow you to connect to yourself more deeply, reach states of dynamic relaxation and work on yourself with great efficiency.
The aim of Sophrology is to reach a state of balance. One to one sessions are more tailored to the individual and their needs and can achieve faster results.
One-to-one sessions allow you to work on specific issues, whether physical, emotional in a therapeutic context. They can also be very useful to prepare yourself for a specific future event. As these sessions are bespoke, the Sophrologist will help you to define your needs and work with you to tailor the techniques to suit you. A safe space is provided for you to work at your own pace guided by the therapist and learning the method that you will than be able to use on your own.
The role of a Sophrology Therapist is to tailor a specific programme for a client's issues based on breathing and relaxation exercises as well as simple movement in the form of a guided meditation where the client is in a state of deep relaxation but fully alert. In state of awareness, the client can make a transformational experience and learn to connect to his/her inner resources. Sophrology also teaches to feel fully grounded in the now as a way to become at peace with the past and prepare for the future positively.
As mentioned earlier, there are only a few practitioners in the UK who offer Sophrology. One of them is Dominique Antiglio from BeSophro, based in Central London. Dominique's background is in osteopathy and she later trained in Sophrology to be able to offer her clients additional tools to deal with physical manifestation of mental stress.
Here Dominique shares her relaxation tips that you can do anywhere, anytime.
Picture credits Paola Bassanese
To release mind/body tension:
In a comfortable standing position, close your eyes, and focus your attention on your body. Are you feeling any physical tensions? Is your mind so busy that you just can't concentrate anymore?
In an effort to release any and all body or mind tensions you are experiencing at the moment, bring both arms straight above your head.
Inhale deeply, inflating your abdomen first, then your chest, and hold your breath. Whist holding your breath, physically tense every part of your body, including your face and toes for 3 seconds.
Release the tension as you exhale and lower your arms back to the side of your body. As you breathe out, try to be fully aware of the tension being released from your whole body and let go of it.
Do it 3 times without rushing, taking the time to explore the relaxing sensation this exercise offers.
To calm and focus the mind:
1. Inhale counting on 3 or even 4 or more if you have more lung capacity. Exhale counting on 5 or 6 (or more). To enhance awareness and focus, you can place a hand on the lower tummy. This should allow you to breath correctly. As you inhale your tummy should rise, as you exhale the tummy should deflate. Allow 3 to 4 minutes for this exercise and feel the benefits.
2. Humming: Inhale, and as you exhale gently hum. Make sure your humming (exhalation) time is longer that the inhalation time. Notice how the sounds are making different parts of your body vibrate. Do it as long as you need to feel the benefits. Humming calms the mind and makes you more in tune with your body.
For more information on Dominique Antiglio Sophrology individual or group sessions: www.be-sophro.co.uk