1. What is sophrology?
Sophrology is a psycho-corporal technique, which is used as a therapeutic method, or as a way of life. It is therefore used both following difficulties encountered in our lives, but also in prevention to manage its anxiety in everyday situations.
It seeks to promote relaxation in everyday life, or in certain specific situations. Its objective is to ensure that the body, thoughts and emotions are in harmony.
The name “sophrology” comes from the Greek “sos” which means “which is healthy“, “phren” for “spirit” and “logia” for “science”. It is therefore the study that aims at the holiness of mind.
To achieve these results, sophrology uses breathing, relaxation, positive visualization and muscle relaxation. In full consciousness, these techniques allow us to know ourselves better so that we can act and react to different situations according to our own perception and reflection. The objective is therefore personal development, stress management and empowerment.
2. How does a sophrology session work?
Sophrology can be done in individual or group sessions. A session is mainly based on dialogue with the therapist, sharing thoughts and emotions, but also through specific exercises. In this way, they are divided into three main parts.
The first part is the time of exchange with the therapist in order to enter the session, to take stock of the different events and feelings previously experienced. In this part, it is important to be able to put forward the difficulties encountered, but also the feelings and needs.
Following this, there is a moment dedicated to different exercises chosen according to what has been expressed previously. These exercises can be relaxation exercises (dynamic), positive visualization, mindfulness meditation, breath work etc.
The session ends with a debriefing. During this exchange, the patient will be able to express what he/she has felt, to give feedback on the interest he/she perceives in these exercises, his/her feelings about them etc. For his part, the therapist will guide him towards the use of some of these techniques in his daily life, and direct him towards the different situations in which they could be useful.
3. What are the exercises of sophrology?
The exercises performed in sophrology are mainly breathing exercises, dynamic relaxation and mental imagery.
There are different types of breathing that can be used in sophrology, such as cardiac coherence, square breathing, deep breathing through the diaphragm etc.
Working on your breathing brings many virtues to your daily life. Indeed, breathing allows to reduce stress and anxiety by managing the heartbeat, to improve concentration, sleep and posture, to increase vitality and energy, and to improve the management of negative emotions such as anger or sadness.
The advantage of these exercises is that they can be practiced anywhere (in the therapist’s office, at home, in the office, in the car etc.). In Sophrology, it is important to push the patient to use these techniques as often as the person feels necessary.
This technique may seem a bit contradictory, but dynamic relaxation is a technique that allows you to be the actor of your relaxation session. This method mixes several techniques associating breathing, body sensations and thoughts.
In this tool, it is important to make slow movements in full awareness of one’s sensations and feelings in order to let go of any tensions or negative thoughts.
It can also be called “positive visualization” and consists in projecting ourselves in pleasant environments and associating all the emotions and positive sensations that we can feel in this situation. It is important to pay particular attention to all our senses, and not to neglect one of them. In this way, the patient feels a sense of calm, emphasizes the positive and allows him to work on his self-confidence.
4. Sophrology, for whom?
This therapeutic technique can be used by everyone, from children to the elderly. It is a method that adapts to the needs of each person and to different personalities.
Whether it is for generalized anxiety or for specific disorders (phobias, addictions, etc.), sophrology can be used and makes the person fully aware of his or her body and thoughts.
5. Some typical sophrology exercises
Work on letting go
In this first exercise, the goal is to reduce any tension you may feel physically or mentally. You can practice it on yourself, or invite your patient to do it. The goal is not to do a long exercise, but to be able to relax and let go quickly, and anywhere.
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Concentrate on all the parts of your body, starting with the tips of your toes and moving up your legs to the top of your head. Become aware of their presence, what they touch, whether they hurt or feel good. Welcome this, without trying to control them. As you go through each of these parts, become aware that you are relaxing all the muscles. You feel your muscles so relaxed that you feel everything that is outside of you, that touches you.
Take time for your breathing. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, expanding your belly. Feel the fresh air entering your lungs. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Now breathe out for 4 seconds through your mouth, making sure to deflate your entire belly. And again, hold your breath for 4 seconds. Do this 5 times. Then return to your normal, natural breathing pattern. Little by little, become aware of the reality that surrounds you.
Positive mental image
The goal of this exercise is to quickly calm yourself through a mental image that is reassuring and pleasant. Breathing is, again, a key element of success.
Sit comfortably, but in an upright position, which you hold. Close your eyes. Pay special attention to your breathing. Feel this inhalation with the air entering your lungs, feel this exhalation with the air leaving.
Now visualize a place that calms or relaxes you. This place can be a place you know, or a place you imagine. This place makes you feel good, soothed, relaxed and calm.
Continue to breathe in, and breathe out, naturally, but with full awareness. With each inhalation, add a reassuring and pleasant element to this environment. With each exhale, focus on that same element, feeling all your muscles relax.
5. Virtual Reality and Sophrology
The use of virtual reality in sophrology sessions is a great added value. Indeed, it allows to enter a relaxing, pleasant and soothing environment. The virtual reality thus makes it possible to be able to be immersed quickly, durably and to make an easier cut with reality. The projection is immediate. The patient is fully concentrated on his relaxation or visualization session. No external element distracts him.
Moreover, the playful aspect of the tool allows the most reluctant people to find a solution where they remain actors and masters of their therapy, while having a tool that is adapted to them. The motivation to continue their therapy is then more important.
Finally, virtual reality activates the mirror neurons. This means that it facilitates the possibility of repeating the exercises in reality. There is a generalization of the acquired knowledge. Studies show that it is easier for patients to repeat the exercises in their daily life when they have done relaxation sessions in virtual reality.
The technology can therefore be perfectly linked and used for the well-being of everyone. Numerous studies show the excellent results of the use of sophrology techniques in therapy by exposure to virtual reality, and lead to faster and longer lasting results over time.