If you feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed – and if you're not a fan of traditional meditation – this modern relaxation technique is for you. Here we speak with author and sophrologist, Dominique Antiglio, about the power of sophrology
Traditional meditation isn't for everyone. It requires a lot of dedication and practice, something many of us don't have time for on a day-to-day basis. But what if there was a way to reap the benefits of meditation without actually doing it? Sophrology is designed for people who are constantly on the go; those of us who live high-pressured lifestyles and would like to improve our mental health.
Dominique Antiglio, an osteopath-turned-sophrologist who's been using sophrology since the age of 15, says, "I noticed a change in the way I was thinking after just one session, and I immediately felt more positive and energised. My body also felt different.
"I didn’t realise at the time but I was suffering from a lot of emotional stress," she says, "and it was clearly manifesting itself in my body as constant tiredness and difficulties coping with the demands of my teenage life." After just one short stint of sophrology, Dominique says she, "felt truly heard and understood", adding that having something practical to do made her feel better and gave her hope again.
Having worked in osteopathy for 12 years, Dominique realised the power of the mind-body connection, and how people can utilise that connection to positively impact our physical selves and our lives. "I then trained as a Sophrologist, gaining my masters in Caycedian Sophrology, notably training with Professor Caycedo, the founder of Sophrology (also a neurologist and professor of psychiatry)," she says.
Here, Dominique talks us through exactly what Sophrology is, how to do it, as well as the benefits it can have on our everyday lives.
What is sophrology?
Sophrology is a type of dynamic meditation (great for those who find traditional meditation and sitting difficult) that is designed to help you focus on the present and be in the 'now'. It's different because it engages both the mind and body, and it allows you to enter into a state of full relaxation more quickly and easily than other practices.
It involves a combination of proven breathwork techniques, relaxation, gentle body movements, meditation and visualisation techniques designed to bring you into the 'alpha brain wave' or 'flow' state. In this state, the body achieves complete relaxation, yet the mind is clear and fully alert. This 'peak' state conditions the mind and body to become less stressed, calmer, sharper, and more resilient over time.
In fact, sophrology has actually been widely practised in France, Belgium and Switzerland for decades by top athletes to help relieve stress and anxiety, boost mental and physical performance, sharpen clarity and focus, and improve sleep.
How can it benefit someone with a busy lifestyle?
Sophrology is really beneficial as a support tool to help those who are constantly on-the-go and prone to taking on the stresses and pressures that surround their busy lives.
Life and work can be overwhelming and tiring, so the deep relaxation element of Sophrology will help the body and mind to de-stress and recuperate, which is really important in preventing burnout. With regular practice, Sophrology helps you to become more mindful of your needs, your limits, your strengths and capabilities, so you can create more happiness in your life.
But there are so many holistic benefits to practising Sophrology in general. It helps you learn how to overcome stress and decrease anxiety, rebalance your energy levels, dramatically improve your sleep, prevent work burnout and physical/mental exhaustion and increase your confidence and self-esteem to allow you to achieve your goals.
Can you share an example of how to do it?
Of course – here’s a quick Sophrology technique called 'The Pump' that you can use to immediately relieve stress and tension:
Standing tall, let your arms fall straight alongside your body and clench your fists. Now exhale through your mouth, then inhale through your nose and hold the breath. As you hold the breath, ‘pump’ both your shoulders up and down until you need to exhale again. As you exhale, relax your arms and hands completely, allowing all tension and tightness to drain simultaneously through the arms and hands. Repeat until you notice you feel calm and rebalanced once more.
And here’s a quick Sophrology technique called 'The Tratac' to sharpen focus and improve clarity:
Hold your arm straight in front of you and focus your gaze on your thumbnail. Inhale through your nose and hold your breath while very slowing drawing your thumb towards the space between your eyebrows – your eyes will naturally cross. Then close your eyes and exhale through the mouth. Then repeat. This technique, which engages your brain and body, increases your ability to focus on a single task.
Research shows that a simple 'tracking the object' exercise like this causes increased interaction between the right and left hemispheres of the brain to sharpen focus and improve creativity. Repeat three times or until you feel focused and fully engaged.
How much time should I dedicate to sophrology?
It takes just 10 minutes (try to practice daily for maximum effect), and you can practice any time you have some downtime. Personally, if I feel tense, just practising for five minutes is enough to relax me instantly.
You’ll be surprised at the opportunities you’ll have during the day – Sophrology can fit into your daily routine so there’s less effort involved, for example, I practise in between work meetings, and even on the Tube and in taxis!
How soon will I notice its effect?
You’ll notice the relaxation and calming effects pretty much instantly, but incorporating just 10 minutes of practice on a daily basis over a period of just a few weeks will uncover profound changes.
If you are attending Sophrology sessions in person, one session will be enough to relax the mind and body – and is a wonderful introduction to Sophrology. More profound changes such as boosting confidence, reducing anxiety, or improving sleep can be experienced in around five sessions.
Some people turn to Sophrology to solve a certain issue so their sessions are limited. Some, like me, fall in love with the method so it becomes a way of life, something that they go back to on a regular basis to self develop and deepen their awareness of themselves and the world around them.
The more you practice the deeper you go. For those who are ready for a lengthier journey with Sophrology, the method has 12 levels that can be completed over two years. It is a method that can provide both a 'quick fix' as well as a truly life-changing experience.
Dominique Antiglio's book The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology is filled with practical tips and techniques that you can implement immediately. There are audio recordings to accompany it which may be helpful if you’re starting out for the first time and need a bit of support.
Photo: Edward Cisneros, Unsplash
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