An ancient, self-help relaxation technique, popular in France and Switzerland for over 50 years, is set to become the new mindfulness practice in 2020.
Top CEOs like media-magnate-turned-wellbeing guru Arianna Huffington credit sophrology as the answer to reducing everyday stress and achieving the ultimate work/life balance.
What is sophrology?
Developed by a Colombian neuro-psychiatrist in the 1960s, sophrology is a blend of Eastern and Western philosophies and practices consisting of a series of easy-to-do physical and mental exercises called “dynamic relaxation".
Once taught, these can be applied in everyday life and conveniently, anywhere: hello, long supermarket checkout queue!
“Just 15 minutes of sophrology a day will set someone up nicely on whatever journey they are working towards,” says Sydney-based sophrologist Sarah Reeves.
How does sophrology work?
When describing the still relatively new “moving meditation” method in Australia Sarah likens it to mindfulness but with a “touch of visualisation and positive psychology”.
“A lot of aspects of philosophy and phenomenology have been incorporated into the development of sophrology as well. It’s very much coming from the scientific world but it’s also esoteric in that sense of blending with Eastern, less-tangible methods.”
What really sets sophrology apart is its personalised approach, which suits individuals struggling to find the right connection to a practice.
“It is an amazing alternative for someone who might have tried meditation or mindfulness but for whatever reason it didn’t really grab them, draw them in or give them a sense of success,” says Sarah. “Sophrology is for someone who wants a little bit more guidance than what those practices can give, and it’s perfect for people who find it hard to switch off.”
It takes a lot of skill to come to the quiet stillness meditation asks of us.
“What sophrology offers is a more active version of that. There is still a quietening of the mind and a directed focus towards your mental health but it has a more active approach to it by way of movement.”
How do you practice sophrology?
“When you do a meditation course in a large group and you can get lost in the system as there’s no ongoing reflection of what you are doing,” says Sarah. “But when you meet with a sophrologist it’s once a week and there’s a lot of reflective work that goes with it. You go home with a recording from the session and then practice those specific recordings during the week.”
While the majority of classes are bespoke, there is also the opportunity to attend more generalised group classes centred on common concerns such as work stress, developing more efficient coping mechanisms, how to sleep better or manage a relationship better.
“But it’s not an instant fix,” warns Sarah. “It absolutely takes work. You won’t get the benefits without sitting down for 15 or 20 minutes every day with your mind exercises but it can lead to a relaxed body and a calm, alert mind.“
What to expect in a sophrology class?
A standard session includes learning 3 key techniques: first a body scan that reinforces the mind/body connection and draws attention to body sensations; second is an attention release exercise (creating a body tension and releasing it); and third is a vital energy breath whereby you consciously draw in energy from the world around you and move it into your body.
Can I do sophrology at home?
Close your eyes, breathe in, and hold your breath for a few seconds while tensing up all the muscles in your body. Then, as you exhale, release all the muscles and let go, allowing the body and mind to slow down.