This is a question I get asked every single day. Sophrology is a body mind method that has been around for half a century and that is widely used in French and Spanish speaking countries. Just to give you a rough idea of its popularity, there are currently over 12 000 Sophrologists in France with over 100 practitioner training schools – conversely in the UK, it is practically unknown.
Sophrology was introduced in the UK a few years ago by a handful of French speaking sophrologists scattered around the country. The opening of the first English speaking school five years ago, the Sophrology Academy, based in Kent, expanded the network of practitioners and we can now count around 40 Sophrologists throughout the country.
Sophrology engages both the body and mind through breath work, concentration, physical movement and visualisation to achieve a sense of wellbeing and serenity.
It is a gentle and structured versatile method inspired from Eastern and Western practices that is very well adapted to our modern hectic lifestyles. The beauty of the discipline lies in the fact it can be used pretty much anywhere at any time and by anyone from small children to elderly people. With regular practice, Sophrology becomes an integral part of your way of living.
Why is Sophrology a life-enhancing practice?
Sophrology offers wonderful techniques to reduce stress in our lives and ease a variety of ailments including anxiety, burnout, insomnia, depression and even tinnitus but it also goes a lot further than that. It is a way of life and a powerful tool of personal development.
The practice of Sophrology positively and gently brings about profound changes within ourselves, enabling us to move through life feeling deeply alive and in harmony with ourselves and our environment.
Here is how Sophrology changes our outlook on ourselves and, as a result, our existence in the world.
We learn to let go of judgment of ourselves and the world around us.
The method is structured across twelve levels, starting with bringing our awareness into our bodies and gradually opening up to the world and looking at our place in this world. Phenomenology is the philosophy at the core of Sophrology: letting phenomena (physical sensations, feelings, emotions) arise in our consciousness without judging, comparing or interpreting them. We consciously put aside any knowledge and judgment that we have of ourselves and the world around us and we allow ourselves to rediscover things as if for the first time. We learn to see ourselves and the world as it really is rather than how we think it is. Through a series of pauses during practice, we give ourselves time to welcome the sensations and feelings experienced in the moment in order to connect deeply with our inner world. This approach enables us to unveil aspects of our consciousness allowing us to move towards a more harmonious life and an improved quality of our presence.
We learn to listen to our bodies’ messages
In modern society, the emphasis is very much placed on the image we project of ourselves in the world, particularly physical appearance. We worry a lot about what our bodies look like but not so much about how they feel. This means we are often disconnected from our physical sensations and what’s happening within ourselves. As a result we miss out on major information regarding our state of health. We carry our bodies around as packaging, taking them for granted, putting them under a lot of stress but still expecting them to perform at their best and be reliable. So eventually, when the body starts falling apart, we stop and start listening but it’s often too late. It is vital to reconnect with our bodies and learn to listen to their wisdom. Body awareness is a key element in Sophrology. Through dynamic relaxation and movements, we explore our proprioceptive, interoceptive and exteroceptive senses. We connect to the sensations within our tissues and cells our skin, muscles, bones and vital organs. Through this fundamental work, we develop a deeply felt sense of our presence and existence in this world; we perceive our body as a lived experience rather than a mere vehicle.
We activate our positive resources and potential.
Sophrology works on the principle that any positive action towards our bodies and our minds has a subsequent positive effect on the rest of our being. In Sophrology, we do not focus on the negative; we acknowledge it but choose to heighten the positive aspects within ourselves. The techniques stimulate our health and vitality, rallying resources and capacities to develop a positive relationship with daily situations.
In our very hectic world, human beings tend to be wired to focus on the negative. Research has shown in recent years that negative emotions and stress can cause physical symptoms like tension headaches, digestive problems, chest pain, back pain, skin disorders, and sexual problems. This process is called negative somatisation. However, we are also capable of the reverse process: positive somatisation. We can communicate consciously and positively with our bodies to boost our immune system, to increase vitality and improve health. The problem is that we are under-exploiting this wonderful capacity. In Sophrology, we focus on this area; rediscovering our positive inner resources through breathing, movement and visualisation, pulling out the layers polluting our lives and boosting physical and mental health to reinforce vitality and life within ourselves. We all have positive capacities and resources waiting to be revealed so we can feel truly alive and balanced.
Befriend the past, live in the moment and approach the future with serenity
Embrace your three-dimensionality. I am talking about our fantastic capacity, as human beings, to have awareness of our past, our present and our future. In Sophrology, we set aside past negative experiences and worries about the future. We draw our attention to the positivity lived in the past so we can experience it in our bodies in the present moment and take it forward for an existence full of vitality and hope. We also explore the three dimensionality of
- Our bodies – How did I experience it in the past? How do I feel in it right now? How do I imagine it in the future?
- Our mind – Our feelings, thoughts and emotions
- Our values – We come back to what is essential for us, what gives sense to our existence
- Objects – Our relationship with the material world
- Others – Instead of projecting my judgments on others, I welcome their difference, accept them as they are and appreciate that they have their own histories. Where do they come from? What have they been through to be who they are today? Which values are important for them? Where are they heading?
I could talk about Sophrology for days but theory will never depict exactly how profound and powerful it is. It is most importantly, a practice that must be experienced for the benefit of its gentle and transformative power. Sophrology can be practiced in one-to-one or group settings.
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Have you experienced Sophrology before? If you have, I’d love to hear from you. Share your experience in the comments below.