Cited as the new mindfulness, sophrology is a transformative healthcare philosophy you need in your life, says practitioner Florence Parot
Sophrology is a mind-body method of healing and calming that is very new to some parts of the world but has been popular in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain for nearly 60 years. It is a modern technique that can be used for stress management, insomnia and anxiety; to prepare for public speaking or the stage or to enhance sports performance; in birth preparation, pain relief and much more.
It can be used just as well by the superbusy business person, as by someone lying in a hospital bed. The whole idea is that it is simple and easy, anybody can do it and you don’t need too much time on your hands. It fits into busy modern life. You learn exercises that you can then repeat on your own, that don’t take long and that integrate easily into your day.
You learn a structured set of exercises that can be done sitting down, standing up or even lying down, if that is the only option for you (in cases of sickness or extreme fatigue, for instance). If you can’t stand or are too tired even to sit up, lie down. Always do whatever feels most comfortable for you. It is not a hands-on therapy. You close your eyes and follow simple instructions to learn how to relax, to experiment with different breathing techniques, to use simple movements and imagine situations or colours and so on.
Boosting energy, as with everything in sophrology, starts with body awareness. Be present in your body and to your body, take good care of it (not just superficially), live in harmony with it and already your energy levels will feel very different. Because if you listen to your body, you will know to stop before you become exhausted; you will know when to refuel or sleep, and what best to eat or drink. Take a break before you are tired. You will restore your energy more quickly and be effective and feel alert much longer. Have regular short breaks throughout the day. As well as this, sophrology also has a number of exercises that you can use when you need to feel the power even more – practices which use the force of the imagination to bring in more energy or one movement that will stimulate the whole body.
In classic sophrology, the first exercise is a body scan. Typically, during a body scan, you concentrate on your body from head-to-toe, bit-by-bit, slowly or quickly. This could take anything from two to 10 minutes, depending on how experienced you are or what is relevant for today, how much time you have, how you feel and so on. So a basic body scan could look something like this:
At the end of the practice, bring yourself slowly ‘back to the room’. Become gradually more aware of the environment, of where you are, of all the elements surrounding you: the furniture, the temperature of the room, noises – gently start moving your toes, legs, fingers, arms; move your shoulders, neck, head – gently stretch, rub your hands and yawn if you want to. When you are ready, open your eyes. This is an important part of the practice, ensuring that you come back to your usual level of alertness, rather than continuing to feel drowsy.
Energy pyramid visualusation
This exercise is about imagining you are bringing energy to the whole body, and takes 10-15 minutes
1. Sitting down and with your eyes closed, perform the body scan described above.
2. You are walking in a forest, a beautiful, colourful, tropical forest with tall trees. Take time to look around and enjoy the place. Then, you arrive at a clearing and see a huge crystal pyramid in the middle, glittering in the sun.
3. You go in and find yourself in amazing sunlight. It is vibrating through the pyramid. Lie down in the centre, right under the highest point of the pyramid.
4. Beams of golden energy are coming toward you, shining on you and giving you a bright energy that circulates in your whole body. Imagine a very fine golden beam shining on your forehead, on your stomach, or anywhere on your body that feels right. Breathe in this energy and let it flow everywhere in your body. Remain there for as long as you feel necessary.
5. Go out of the pyramid, take your time, breathe. Then let go of the images you have created.
6. Listen to how you are feeling.
7 Come back into the room as described in the body scan.
How do you feel? Did you use the sunbeam on a particular part of your body? Were there any specific sensations in that part of your body? Take time to really be at one with those sensations.
Clear your head
This exercise takes up to 15 minutes
Here we are using breathing to imagine we are ‘cleaning out’ the negative feelings inside us and filling ourselves with positive energy. Breathe normally throughout.
1. Sitting down and with your eyes closed, perform the body scan described left.
2. Now bring your attention to your breathing. Don’t change anything, just keep breathing naturally. Then bring your attention to your head.
3. Each time you breathe out, imagine that you are letting go of tension, stress or any other unpleasant feeling, as if you were letting steam out of your body.
4. Each time you breathe in, imagine that you are physically able to bring something positive into your whole body, or specifically into your head or any other part of yourself. Feel as if you are filling up with calmness, focus, clarity – whatever you feel you need.
5. Keep going for as little, or as long as you like.
6. Then stop and take a short time simply to listen to your body, to how you are feeling now.
7. Come back into the room as described with the body scan. How do you feel? Any differences in the body or in the mind?
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