What is sophrology? How to relax in the 21st century

Do you feel tired all of the time? Maybe you’re stressed, anxious, or find it hard to concentrate. Sophrology might help. This relatively modern relaxation technique is popular in mainland Europe; so much so it’s recommended and covered by health insurance companies across France and Switzerland. It's only a matter of time before it lands on our shores.

Founded by neuropsychiatrist Alfonso Cayedo at the University of Madrid, the practice combines various relaxation techniques; including yoga, Japanese zen, Buddhist meditation, and hypnosis. It promises to boost physical and mental health (for people of all ages) by increasing inner harmony.

Related: 8 ways to relax that aren't meditation

Sophrology doesn’t require too much of your time or strenuous activity. All you have to do is sit comfortably in a chair and follow your sophrologist's instructions for a few minutes each day. You can practice on the train; on your sofa; on your lunch break in work; or even on the loo. It involves mental and slow physical exercises for dynamic relaxation. While there are few (if any) sophrology classes in Ireland, you can access guided lessons online.

Depending on what aspect of your life you want to improve (such as sleep quality, stress levels, or mood), you'll follow different instructions. The sophrology lesson in the video below stimulates your thinking capacity. Led by Philip Carr-Gomm, the lesson asks you to sit on a chair, close your eyes, and become aware of yourself sitting down. "Then move your attention to the soles of your feet," he says, "Scrunch up the soles of your feet and your toes; release them. Then move up to your calves; squeeze the muscles in your calves and release them."

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He moves through the entire body in this way, finally reaching the face. "Scrunch up your face (if you're not sitting in an airport or a public place), and release all the muscles." By regularly focusing on both your mind and body (rather than 'what-ifs' and worries) your concentration levels improve. Other sophrology techniques include tracing shapes in your mind's eye and practising deep breathing.

Irish woman Niamh Lyons learned about sophrology while living in Switzerland; she found it eliminated the chronic pain she'd been experiencing since a car crash. “The pain-relief was welcome, but it was my mindset that really changed during this period. I realised I was constantly rushing about my day and causing undue stress to myself," she explains on her website. "I’m now able to go about my day without being in a constant state of tension. I got rid of unnecessary worry,”

Speaking to Image.ie, she says, "You get what you put in. In order to automatically live a life of harmony, you need to practice daily. I practice snippets of 30 seconds; two minutes; 10 minutes or longer, here and there throughout the day. Allow your mind to be restful when stuck in traffic; queuing in line at the bank or the supermarket. All of these moments can be seen as annoying, stressful, or dare I say boring. These are gifts to allow yourself a mental pause and peace of mind. Instead of going on your phone to fill the time gap in a waiting room, why not just close your eyes and calm your inner self?"

Related: What are healing crystals all about and should I give them a go?

Niamh has since gone on to study sophrology and now she teaches it in the United States. Speaking about her work at American Sophrology LLC, Niamh says, “I'm teaching adults and kids as young as six. A hyperactive eight-year-old used sophrology to fall asleep, to the delight of her parents. A stressed businessman applied sophrology techniques to reduce stress at work and at home. He found he no longer had stage-fright when giving presentations."

If it's something you're tempted to try; don't worry about it being too difficult. There are 12 levels of sophrology; beginning with basic techniques; moving up to advanced practice, exploring consciousness in greater depth. Levels one and two are enough to boost your confidence and reduce stress. For more information or guidance; search 'sophrology' on YouTube or visit BeSophro.co.uk and AmericanSophrology.com.

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Photo: Cody Black, Unsplash

 

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