By: Ayce Bukulmeyen Ozerdem, Well-Being Program Specialist, Center for the Advancement of Well-Being
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson
Sophrology, which means “the study of conscious harmony,” is a dynamic relaxation method that can strengthen your well-being in multidimensional ways. It includes physical and mental exercises that promote all dimensions of well-being – from relaxing your body to focusing your mind. Here’s a look at how sophrology developed, the well-being benefits of sophrology, and a sophrology practice you can use to get started.
The Development of Sophrology
Sophrology, described by the Guardian newspaper as “the new mindfulness,” is a powerful tool to help people learn valuable life and stress-management skills.
Created in the 1960s by Spanish professor of psychiatry and neurology Alfonso Caycedo, sophrology combines Zen, Yoga, and Tibetan Buddhist meditation techniques. Caycedo was trying to find a way to effectively bring traumatized and suffering war victims to a healthy physical and mental state with minimum drug use. After Caycedo developed sophrology, people used those techniques in a variety of ways to manage daily stress and anxiety, and to enhance focus and concentration.
Europeans have embraced sophrology’s benefits for decades. In some European Union nations, health insurance covers sophrology. The sports world in Europe is also touting the benefits of sophrology. The French rugby team reportedly used sophrology while training for the last World Cup and French tennis player Stéphane Robert often talks about how sophrology helps him.
Americans are now discovering how powerful sophrology’s benefits can be. According to this NBC News article, sophrology might be poised for its moment here in the United States, with several decades of evidence supporting its well-being benefits. Well-being and business leader Arianna Huffington is among those who are working to increase awareness of sophrology in the United States.
In sophrology, the body plays a special role in growing your awareness. A Body Scan is one of the most fundamental techniques in Sophrology to bring the focus to the present moment.
The technique focuses intensely on body sensations and perceptions to conquer a new state of awareness through the practice. Sophrology helps you notice more about the state of your body and mind. You can practice sophrology either standing or sitting, using sound, visualization, or the alternation of stillness and movement.
Sophrology is all about awareness, so noticing where you breathe is important. You can do breathing exercises such as Alternate Nostril Breathing standing; however, you may want to sit or lie down while you do them as you may feel a bit dizzy at the beginning due to an increase in the oxygen that nourishes your brain.
A Sophrology Practice to Try
We process emotional stress by holding our muscles tense – mostly in our necks and shoulders. This takes so much energy that we end up spending our valuable body energy to hold this stress in our muscles unconsciously. To get rid of this tension in your shoulders and neck, you can practice this Sophrology exercise, either while you’re standing or sitting:
- Exhale completely, emptying all the air from your lungs.
- Inhale through your nose.
- Put your arms up above your head.
- Clench your fists and hold your breath.
- Tense all the muscles in your arms and shoulder.
- Exhale and breathe out fully through your mouth.
- Release all the tensions as you bring your arms down.
- Continue to exhale and release all tension.
In this exercise, when you consciously tense your body, you force your body to stop the flowing energy. Then when you release the tension, the body remembers this relaxation state, makes you aware of the tension, and tries to get rid of it.
Sophrology as a Medical Therapy
Although Sophrology is not a medical treatment, doctors in France widely prescribe it as a therapy alongside medicine or cure. A study of sophrology on children with asthma proved that those who experienced sophrology sessions alongside standard treatment had improved airflow compared to those who didn’t practice sophrology.
A study of sophrology on oncology patients at the Institute Curie observed that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy experienced less stress and fear while using sophrology techniques than those who didn’t practice sophrology.
Levels of Sophrology
You can practice sophrology with a qualified sophrologist or on your own. Sophrology is flexible and affordable. You can enjoy it anytime and anywhere, either alone or in a group, without requiring any special tools.
There are 12 levels of practice, which start from a very fundamental level and steadily extend as the practitioner guides. Sessions may include a guided focus on the body, visualizations, dynamic relaxation exercises, and more according to each individual’s needs.
This study from Healthline.com explains Sophrology as a well-being method and focuses on its positive effects.
This study published by the Complementary Medical Association gives general information about Sophrology.
This study from Psychreg.org explains the effects of Sophrology on a positive lifestyle.
This study published by Research Gate explains sophrology’s development over four decades and its scientific status.
This study published by the National Library of Medicine explains how sophrology can help people deal with anxiety.
This study from the South China Morning Post explains the relationship between Sophrology and relaxation.
This study published by the International Journal of Environmental Research shows the benefits that hospital staff experienced from sophrology.
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