Sophrology may soon come to a yoga studio, wellness center, or spa near you. While this mind/body discipline has been around for over 50 years, it’s relatively new in the U.S and Great Britain. Sophrology gets many of its core teachings from other mind/body disciplines, such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, and Zen Buddhism. But, it also has elements of psychology and self-hypnotism.
It combines gentle exercise, mindfulness, visualization, and breathing techniques (called Dynamic Relaxation) to reduce stress and strengthen the mind’s resilience to negative emotions. Practicing sophrology is said to help you become more resilient, balanced, and detached from stresses in your life.
The word “sophrology” comes from the Latin “sos” for harmony, “phren” for the mind, and “logos” for the study of. It denotes the study of conscious harmony. Neuropsychiatrist and professor, Alfonso Caycedo, developed sophrology to treat Spanish veterans with PTSD after Spain’s civil war. Caycedo also worked with Swiss psychiatrist, Ludwig Binswanger to further expand the principles of sophrology.
In addition to pulling from his knowledge of psychiatry and work with Binswanger, Caycedo traveled to India to learn yoga and to study consciousness, Eastern psychological theories, and philosophical practices, such as Japanese Zazen. Sophrology has its beginnings in Spain, but it’s also well established in Switzerland, France, and Germany.
It’s taught in schools to reduce test anxiety, help pregnant women prepare for birth, and prepare patients for surgery. Both the Swiss and French rugby teams practice it. Sophrology is so widely used in these two countries it’s covered by health insurance. In 2005, a center was set up to bring sophrology to Great Britain and other English-speaking countries.
Sophrology is similar to yoga in that it includes body movement, breathing, body awareness, and mindfulness. It differs in the type of exercises: Yoga has many poses that are either held for a certain amount of time or are part of a flow. Sophrology’s exercises are simple, quick, and easy to do. Also, yoga has many styles where sophrology has only the one method. Although, sophrology has 12 levels, but the person decides how deep they want to delve.
Exercises focus on being mindful of physical sensations, the body, and emotions. Sessions with a Sophrologist are progressive. The first class may only include gentle movement, breathing exercises, and guided meditation. Follow-up sessions may consist of mindful breathing while learning to detach from negative emotions by saying “no” followed by saying “yes.” The “no” releases negative emotions while the “yes” reinforces the release.
Exhaling negative feelings and breathing in detachment are followed by exercises to reinforce the detachment. Sessions also include visualization, such as walking away from negative emotions. The practices are supposed to be done daily for optimum effect.
The practice is considered to be dynamic because the person controls how they will experience events in their life even if things can’t be changed. Compared to other forms of mindfulness, Sophrologist, Niamh Borrel, says, ‘“The main difference between sophrology and other methods is that you can reach a deep level of Zen state much quicker – sometimes even in one session, depending on the individual.”’
Sophrology also differs from Western psychotherapy in that it’s not necessary to discuss your life’s narrative. With Sophrology, you create space around your emotions and feeling. Feelings are released and redirected using movement and breathing exercises.
One of the best benefits of practicing sophrology is that it can be done anywhere. It can be done sitting down, standing up, or lying down. It can be done in the office, hospital room, classroom, or about anywhere. Also, mats, special clothing and equipment are not necessary. Sophrology is said to help helps with:
- Managing stress and anxiety including situational anxiety, such as sport’s participation, test and performance anxiety
- Improving sleep
- Boosting energy
- Managing pain
- Building confidence and repairing self-esteem
- Increasing mental alertness
- General well-being
Sophrology is simple in its approach and easy to learn. It may resonate with those who tried other mind/body disciplines, such as yoga and tai chi but didn’t feel a connection to these practices or found them too difficult or time-consuming. It’s also appealing because it can be practiced about anywhere and all you need is yourself to be present.
- Belluard, Vincent. What Is Sophrology? Retrieved from https://www.vincentbelluard.com/english-1/sophrology/what-is-that-how-does-it-work/.
- Biographie d’Alfonso Cacyedo. Retrieved from https://www.vincentbelluard.com/english-1/sophrology/what-is-that-how-does-it-work/.
- Caycedo, Alfonso. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfonso_Caycedo.
- Harrington, Suzanne. Sophrology Is Set To Be The Next Big Wellness Trend, But What Is It? (March 03, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.msn.com/en-ca/health/mindandbody/sophrology-is-set-to-be-the-next-big-wellness-trend-but-what-is-it/ar-BBKfHA3.
- Harrington, Suzanne, “Sophrology Is Set To Be The Next Big Wellness Trend, But What Is It?” March 03, 2018. Web.