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What Is Sophrology and Why Is It the Hottest New Trend in Wellness?

by BetterSleep
May 31 • 4 min read

Over the last 50 years, Europe has benefitted from a highly effective method of focus and relaxation that we’re only beginning to hear about in North America. It’s called sophrology.

With benefits so powerful it’s even covered by health insurance in France and Switzerland, it’s no wonder that world-class athletes, professionals, and birthing mothers are flocking to learn sophrology. Follow us as we explore this fascinating trend to see if you could benefit from it.

What is sophrology and how does it work?

Sophrology, meaning “the study of conscious harmony,” is a holistic system including physical and mental exercises that promotes health, well-being, relaxation, and alertness.

Founded in the 1960s by Alfonso Caycedo, a professor of psychiatry and neurology in Madrid, sophrology was first created to treat war veterans suffering from PTSD and depression. Caycedo combined techniques from Zen, yoga, and Buddhist meditation. He also included hypnosis and relaxation to create a system that allowed participants to release and redirect challenging emotions.

A sophrologist leads each session. There are 12 levels of practice that start very basic and gradually deepen as the practitioner advances. Sessions may include guided focus on the body, visualizations, exercises called dynamic relaxation, and more according to the individual’s needs.

The health benefits of sophrology

Sophrology is used by the French rugby team, celebrities, businesses, and students. It’s also practiced in hospitals, during childbirth, and is part of the Geneva police force training. Such high-profile popularity could only result from tremendous benefits.

The most commonly reported effects of sophrology include more focus, less stress, better sleep, more self-confidence, and greater happiness. But that’s not all, the following recent studies also demonstrate sophrology’s benefits when applied to healthcare for chronic conditions.

Children with asthma that had sophrology sessions alongside standard treatment had improved airflow compared to the group that didn’t practice sophrology. Another study at the Institut Curie observed that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy experienced less stress and fear while using sophrology techniques.

Six potted plants and cactus with flowers

Sophrology for better sleep

With such a variety of relaxation techniques, it’s no mystery why sophrology is used to promote better sleep. An article at Sophrology Center Online states that the exercises allow practitioners to effectively handle stress factors in their life, resulting in more restful sleep. The reduction of these stress factors lead to longer periods of the deep REM state of sleep and a healthier sleep pattern.

Some sophrology exercises recommended at bedtime include tensing and releasing muscles, abdominal breathing, and focusing on positive images. Inspired from various traditions, these techniques are physically and mentally relaxing before sleep. If you want to experience what soothing bedtime exercise feels like, you can try SleepMoves in the BetterSleep app.

Is sophrology the new mindfulness or yoga?

While it’s certainly influenced by Eastern meditation practices and yoga, Sophrology isn’t about reinventing the mindfulness wheel. It addresses the specific needs and goals of sophrology practitioners, like improving concentration and calming pre-exam nerves.

As a more comprehensive practice than meditation or yoga, sophrology sessions include relaxation, breathing, physical exercises, and visualization. But much like its influences in mindfulness, the purpose of sophrology is for the practitioner to better deal with challenging circumstances in life that are out of one’s control.

With such a holistic, dynamic approach and obvious benefits, there’s no doubt that sophrology will find a place amongst the most popular wellness trends in the world.

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