There are lots of ways to cope with stress and anxiety. Sophrology, popular in parts of Europe, like France where it’s used in schools, businesses and professional sports, blends aspects of yoga, meditation and breathwork.
A LITTLE HISTORY
In the 1960s, neuro-psychiatrist Alfonso Caycedo was looking for a way to treat war veterans suffering from PTSD and depression. He combined techniques from Eastern and Western philosophies and practices to create a stress-management regimen that fosters the release of challenging emotions and encourages personal development.
“The aim is to empower you to unlock new potential,” says Dominique Antiglio, author of “The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology.” “It’s a unique way to use different modalities to help you become more aware of your mind, your body so you can be more calm, confident and empowered.”
HOW IT WORKS
A typical session, which lasts 10–30 minutes, includes gentle movement with a Tai Chi influence integrating various techniques like breathwork, muscular relaxation, visualization, hypnosis and more.
One example of an exercise is to close your eyes and tense every muscle you can while holding your breath for a few seconds, then releasing and breathing and noticing your body letting go. Another approach is to close your eyes and scan your body for areas where you’re holding tension, then breathing into those areas while imagining all the pressure releasing from your body.
While the practice may look like an amalgamation of other mindfulness practices, Antiglio says several differences exist. “We learn to be present like we do in yoga and meditation, but we’re also working to change our relationship with the future and the past. It’s a very safe and stable way of looking at your story and transforming the way you look at your past. There’s a focus on positivity, on how to move forward with our goals in an integrated, harmonious way.”
You can practice sophrology with a guide or on your own through online recordings or books. Though, if you’re interested in a specific goal or working on a particular issue beyond stress management, Antiglio recommends working with a sophrologist who can personalize the practice for you.
Many use it for stress management and better sleep, but for those who want to go deeper, there are 12 levels of practice for self-discovery and development. “In each level you connect deeper with the layers of the body,” explains Antiglio. “First, you start with the body. You’re aware of your skin and your bones. Level 2 is about the mind. Can I have awareness of my mind and everything that my mind can unveil? In Level 3, we bring mind and body together. In Level 4, we go deeper and look at what we want to do in our life. What are our values? What is our purpose? It’s not done in an analytical way. We let the consciousness reveal itself. And we just keep going deeper and deeper, tuning into the energy of the body. You don’t need to do all of these levels. You can practice Level 1 and get a lot out of it. You don’t have to do the big journey. A lot of people use it for stress management.”
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