Coach Michèle is very enthusiastic about sophrology. She calls it ‘mindfulness next level’. It is a self-help method, but also a way of life that combines Eastern and Western disciplines. “Sophrology teaches you to relax your body and keep your mind sharp.”
Sophrology combines techniques from positive psychology, physiotherapy, meditation and yoga.
The power of the mind
Mindfulness is so popular that you can find a good app with exercises in almost every language. They bring you a moment of peace and serenity. But there is a method beyond mindfulness that has been gaining prominence in recent years: sophrology.
Sophrology is a compound of the Greek words Sos (harmony), Phren (consciousness) and Logos (study). In short, it is the study of consciousness in harmony. This healing technique was born in Madrid in the 1960s. Doctor and neuropsychiatrist Alfonso Caycedo was fascinated by the power of the mind and the interaction between body and mind.
These were times when psychiatric patients received electroshocks and heavy medication. Caycedo did not support this degrading approach. He wanted to give his patients, including war veterans, mental peace and looked for applications that had a soothing effect.
Cross-pollination of East and West
At the end of the 1960s, Caycedo traveled through Asia for several years to immerse himself in all kinds of spiritual disciplines. Because he was convinced that his insights (a synthesis of Eastern and Western knowledge and skills) were a revolutionary way of living, he called this holistic method ‘Pedagogy of life’‘.
Sophrology is therefore more than a spiritual learning path. It is a combination of techniques from positive psychology, physiotherapy, meditation and yoga. It is a cross-pollination of numerous beneficial disciplines. This method ensures, among other things, that you feel more peace in the body in the event of pain, stress and anxiety and that your mind remains sharp.
Focusing on positivity
This self-help method pays a lot of attention to positively formulated thoughts. Today we call them affirmations. This way you can mentally prepare yourself for the coming week, an important conversation, a new project. You visualize a positive result. Many top athletes from Spain, France and Switzerland prepare mentally for a competition with sophrology.
When you combine a positive mindset with dynamic exercise and breathing techniques, you can bring both mind and body into the desired state in minutes. Sophrology teaches you to relax your body and keep your focus. If you have an appointment with the dentist that causes tension. If you want to focus on an important conversation or if you want to concentrate on an exam. If you want to learn to deal with performance stress or long for balance and meaning in your life. This method offers a lot of possibilities!
In schools and hospitals
Sophrology is especially popular in France. Since the 1990s, many French have been captivated by this wisdom of life. More and more public services such as education and the health sector are using it. Universities of applied sciences offer sophrology to make young people more resilient. In this way students get exam stress under control. Midwives use this technique, which allows for a natural delivery. Hospitals, sleep clinics and therapists are also interested in its versatile applications.
Be aware of your body
Young and old benefit from this method. If you go to a sophrologist, you will learn exercises that are specific to your situation. One of the first questions at a session will be: what do you feel in your body right now? If you don’t know the answer, a series of breathing and relaxation exercises with visualizations will help you. By doing these daily, you become more aware of your body. Training and repetition are fundamental. If you visit a sophrologist every week, but do not perform the exercises at home, the desired result will not be achieved.
Sophrology in brief:
- Practical: do you have difficulty walking or do you hate complex yoga poses? No problem! You can do the dynamic movement exercises both standing and sitting.
- Goal-oriented: Sophrology teaches you to achieve goals through visualization techniques.
- Performance-oriented: in top athletes, this technique ensures that they perform successfully.
- Three-dimensional: past, present and future are always central. For example, skills from the past can be stimulated, which gives you more confidence in your own abilities.
- Deep confidence: having the strength to face the future positively.
- Valuable and meaningful life: experiencing small happiness in everyday things.
- Transformation: because of the simplicity of the exercises you literally get moving.
- Next level: for those who want to go a step further than mindfulness.
This article came about with the valuable help of Livia Verlinden, board member of the Dutch-speaking association for sophrologists.