We often start our day exhausted and simply unwilling to trudge on through the next few hours to come. A dose of caffeine is what we often need to jumpstart the fuses, and this often leads us to feel a little bit wired for the first few hours. This is a feeling that gradually weans off as the day passes, and we’re back to the usual slump that we face in the morning by the time we’re back home from work. We’ve already talked about the importance of a daily routine. There are other facets that can be added to this routine that can actually increase the level of mindfulness and flow we feel through the day. Some of these facets are powered by a concept known as Sophrology.
Sophrology dates back to the 1960’s. It was propagated by Colombian professor Alfonso Caycedo, a specialist in neurology and psychiatry. The science basically involves establishing a harmony between the body and mind. It is classically defined as the study of consciousness in harmony. It doesn’t require flexibility and coaching like yoga, or expensive gym equipment. All one needs is a quiet, well-ventilated space to practice Sophrology.
A combination of physical and mental exercises power the practice to increase alertness and relax the physical body. Meditation and mindful breathing form the core of Sophrology. When combined with muscle contraction and relaxation, the cycle is complete, allowing one to relax and unwind, while also preparing for what is in store for the next day. Dominique Intaglio, the founder of BeSophro, claims that Sophrology not only allows one to revel in the present and unwind, but also allows one to develop a more positive mindset for what is to come.
Sophrology has been actively used in France and Switzerland over the past 60 years to increase mindfulness and reduce the levels of stress that people face on a daily basis. It has been offered to French and Swiss university students who may succumb to stress as a result of grueling study hours. It was even used by the French rugby team to prepare for the World Cup! It’s pretty clear that the method finds its application to deal with wide varieties of stress and anxiety.
Workplace stress has also been proven to be combatted by Sophrology, through a study conducted by the Kent Business School. Employees working at the school’s Head Office were administered with a PANAS (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule). Most of them reported moderate levels of anxiety along with some positive regard for their work. After being enrolled in Sophrology sessions, however, it was seen that most of them used the mindful breathing techniques along with muscle contraction in their daily lives to help with sleep, or overcome the stress of a major meeting!
There are a few French specific applications that employ Sophrology. One of these is Sophrology avec Petit BamBou. While there are no English language applications that have been developed to practice Sophrology using, we surely foresee the development of such implements. This would lead to a globalization of the practice, and the widespread application of these simple techniques to the global context!
Here’s an exercise you can do if you’re having trouble sleeping. If you simply can’t get to bed, you can put on some soothing music, and practice abdominal breathing (using your diaphragm) in the following way:
- Inhale for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4
- Inhale for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 6
- Inhale for a count of 4, stop for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, stop for a count of 4.
- Finish the session humming
You can also do this breathing exercise during the day in a seated position to help you relax.