Sophrology might sound like a new fad, but it has been around for fifty years. A Colombian professor of psychiatry and neurology by the name of Alfonso Caycedo came up with a set of guided practices, with the intent to help war veterans deal with mental anguish and get off medication. He was inspired by ancient meditative notions, and comingled them with modern psychiatry to derive a holistic set of mindfulness, breathing, visualization, and body awareness techniques. He then tried this on sports athletes, and found measurable improvement in performance. Nowadays Sophrology is in the main stream for athletes and students in Europe, and is even prescribed in medical practice. It is slowly making a mark in the U.S. after the publication of Dominique Antiglio’s The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology in the English language.
The American Sophrology organization describes it as, “Sophrology is a discipline that boosts mental strength while consciously relaxing the body. This relaxation therapy blends mindfulness, breathing techniques, gentle movement and visualization. It is used as a stress management tool increasing inner calm and mental satisfaction as the mind reaches a deep sense of relaxation. This feeling of calm can last hours even weeks afterwards.” They list the following benefits:
|Relationships / Family / Self||Work / School / Sport|
|· Mood Enhancement||· Public Speaking|
|· Improve Relationships||· Increase motivation & concentration|
|· Increase self-esteem & confidence||· Improve study & exam preparation|
|· Increase state of mind||· Sport – Access peak performance zone|
|· Manage life challenges||· Stress management|
|· Increase positive awareness||· Burnout & management fatigue|
|· Better sleep|
Sophrology literally means “the study of conscious harmony” and the practices, according to Niamh Lyons, the founder of American Sophrology, are to “work the power of the mind to relax the body.” But rather than general well-being, the various practices have a specific goal – like performing well on an exam, or excelling in a particular professional sporting event, or other life achievement. Although it is also a great way to relieve stress.
There are 12 levels to Sophrology, each guided by a trained Sophrologist. This person’s goal is to bring you deeper and deeper in touch with your body. The process begins with scanning the body one part at a time with a deep level of awareness and relaxation. Then comes the mind, and visualization. Third comes the combination of the mind and body together. Fourth considers individual personal values. Beyond that, the Sophrologist will tailor progressive steps towards the end goal of the practitioner.
So it’s apparent that to practice Sophrology, you do need the help of a guide. Although these days there are pre-taped guided sessions that can be used. But the more specific your goal, the higher the need for a professional to guide your development. Accomplished practitioners describe a sense of near hypnosis where they are able to effortlessly tackle areas of life that previously had given them a high degree of anxiety. People also use the practices to tackle personal fears. Because of the focused application, they do report higher levels of effectiveness as compared to yoga or general meditation.
So for those who are looking for personal guidance to tackle a particular life challenge, Sophrology could provide an answer. And for those who are still a bit skeptical about yoga’s transcendent benefits beyond the physical, Sophrology is also a gateway from western medical psychiatry into eastern meditative practices.
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