What is Sophrology?

Definition of Sophrology

The word Sophrology comes from the ancient Greek; SOS meaning serenity and/or harmony, PHREN meaning spirit and/or consciousness and LOGOS meaning science and/or study. In other words, Sophrology means the study of consciousness in harmony. 

Sophrology is a structured method of physical and mental procedures. It uses easy movement postures, breathing and visualisations techniques which can be done anytime, anywhere. The goal is to create balance between mind and body. More specifically an alert mind with a relaxed body.

Practice

Sophrology needs to be practiced regularly for the benefits to be established in the mind and body. Regular practice and repetition is the key for Sophrology to work. That means committing time to do the techniques outside of the sessions with the Sophrologist.

The 3 fundamental principles of Sophrology:

Positive Action

Sophrology is about focusing on the positive in our lives, however small, large, insignificant or poignant that is. We focus on the positive elements in our lives whether this be from our past, present or future that will help us to move forward. Sophrology is about strengthening and reinforcing the positive so that we can reach our potential. It helps us to discover what our resources, learnings and gifts are.

We cannot eliminate the negative elements in our lives but we can bring in the positive elements to create a more balanced life. We don’t just see, sense or think things through “negative tinted glasses” only but also from a positive perspective, as they really are, with balance.

Objective Reality

Phenomenology has had a great impact on Sophrology. This looks at the conscious experience of the phenomena, from a subjective or personal point of view.  The techniques used in Sophrology ask us to look at things “for the first time,” through the eyes of a child. This means without any judgement or expectation and with a neutral approach. It is about going back to the beginning of experiencing something as if for the first time.  That means without the influence of your culture, your parents, your peers and education. Letting go of what you trained to do in terms of your profession and your values and beliefs. Experiencing the phenomena is the key to this. Suggestion by the Sophrologist is left to a minimum, so that each person experiences the techniques in their own way.

Body Consciousness

This is about being fully aware of what your body can or can’t do. You can do this by experiencing the sensations, boundaries and volume of your own body. It is about getting to know yourself again, not just in your mind but also in your body. Feeling fully alive in the here and now and building that connection and awareness between your mind and body.

Where is Sophrology currently being used?

Sophrology is used in France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland. It can be used to help people in many areas of their life, such as:

  • Physical and mental health – anxiety, panic attacks, depression, phobias, addictions, pain management, palliative care, obstetrics – pre-natal, sleep disorders, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries, burn out issues.
  • Sports – self-confidence, performance, energy levels, concentration/focus, nerves, technical difficulties.
  • Education – exam preparation, memory, attention span, anxiety, motivation.
  • Arts – stage fright, creativity, performance, memory, self-expression, self- confidence.
  • Corporate – stress management, self-confidence, managing change, interpersonal skills, preparing for events such as interviews, public speaking, presentations and performance issues.

How does Sophrology work?

Sophrology is a structured method of physical and mental procedures using easy movement postures, breathing and visualisations techniques. The goal is to create balance between mind and body. More specifically an alert mind with a relaxed body.

The idea is to learn a set of techniques that are best suited to the individual and to re-use these techniques in everyday life, as and when needed.

In order for Sophrology to work, your body needs to be in a relaxed state which then helps your mind to relax as well. With your eyes shut and remaining silent throughout the session, the Sophrologist talks you through a set of instructions which starts off with the body scan. The body scan is experienced by yourself in a systematic way from head to toe. As you go through the body scan you become aware that tensions are released and relaxation is established in your body.

Following the body scan, Sophrology techniques are used. For these techniques to work, the mind needs to quieten down.  A state of consciousness between being awake and asleep but alert, needs to be attained. The techniques used have a greater impact when the “mind chatter” is much less or not there at all. This allows you to get in touch with your deeper, wiser, intuitive mind.  

Where does Sophrology come from?

Sophrology was created by Professor Caycedo in 1960. He was a neuropsychiatrist of Spanish extraction, born in Bogota, Columbia. While he was practising medicine at the University of Madrid in Spain, Dr Ceycedo wanted an alternative way of healing depressed and traumatised people with the least use of drugs and surgery. He was also interested in the study of human consciousness.

He explored western treatments such as hypnosis and phenomenology . He also looked into relaxation techniques such as Jacobson’s progressive muscular relaxation and Schultz’s autogenic training.

In 1963, he married a French yoga enthusiast. At the same time he began working with the phenomenologist and psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger. Encouraged by his mentor, Dr. Binswanger, Dr Ceycedo travelled to India and Japan. He studied Yoga, Tibetan Bhuddist meditation and Japanese Zen. He explored each discipline to discover what exactly improved people’s physical and mental health. His idea was to help the western person use eastern methods in a simple way, leaving out the philosophy and spiritual framework. He did not want to mimic these techniques at all, as he had great respect for these spiritual practices. But he did want people to gain the benefits of physical and mental health in the mind and body, away from a spiritual framework.

On his return from his travels, he developed the first three levels of Sophrology which he called dynamic relaxation. He initiated a Sophrology group in Paris and began to spread the word of Sophrology at scientific conferences in Spain, Switzerland and Belgium.

As Sophrology spread, Dr Raymond Abrezol a Swiss medical doctor became interested in Sophrology and completed his Sophrology training. He used the techniques to help a friend with his tennis skills. His friend’s performance and concentration improved dramatically. He then helped another friend with his skiing performance. Similarly, his friend’s performance improved. The news spread about how Dr Abrezol was able to help his friends sports performance. A national ski coach heard about what Dr Abrezol was doing and asked him to help train his skiers for the Grenoble Olympic Games in 1968.Three of them won medals. Dr Abrezol went onto train other athletes including boxers, sailers, cyclists, tennis players, water polo and golf players. Those who were trained by Dr Abrezol, between 1967 – 2004, won over 200 medals.

Following the success of Sophrology in sports, it moved from medicine and sports into other areas.  The field of education, the arts, as well as the prevention and promotion of health in the corporate world all started to use Sophrology.

While Sophrology was spreading to different areas of life, Dr Ceycedo developed the forth level of dynamic relaxation in 1985 in Columbia. By 1988, he created the notion of Caycedian Sophrology. By 1992 he created a Master’s degree. By 2001 he had developed the last eight levels of Sophrology. There are twelve levels of Sophrology altogether. The most commonly used levels are the first four levels.

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