Sophrology's aim is to help people control mental states and to become more comfortable in their bodies. To do this, practitioners use physical movement along with mental exercises. Proponents of this alternative health method say that people who practice it feel more relaxed and better able to deal with life stresses and worries.
The founder of the sophrology technique is Dr. Caycedo. He developed the technique in the 1960s in Switzerland. At first, he used sophrology to treat psychiatric or medical illness, but now the method is practiced by healthy people as a relaxation technique.
Physical exercises that form part of the sophrology course are similar to yoga postures. The movement is designed to help people become aware of their bodies. This bodily awareness is coupled with a mental awareness of the world around them. The technique aims to teach people that the environment and the thoughts inside the head affect the body and vice versa. In this way, the participants may then be able to become aware of the choices they make and change any behaviors that are detrimental to happiness.
Three stages exist in sophrology, which are called cycles. Each cycle has four levels of learning. The Reductive Cycle is the first, and in this section, participants perform movements, relaxation, and consider the present, past, and future. They also spend time thinking about personal values, desired life goals, and the good things that occurred in the past.
In the second stage, the Radical Cycle, the course asks the student to figure out where he or she fits into the universe. Students also spend time concentrating on the vibrations they feel in their bodies. In the last stage, the Existential Cycle, the students learn about the importance of individuality and liberty in sophrology and practice being fully conscious of the world around them.
Teachers of sophrology offer courses in the technique that typically last about one hour per session. The breathing, movement, and mental exercises can then be practiced by the student outside of the classes. If the student finds the technique helpful for stress or for concentration, he or she can practice it before events like childbirth or examinations.
Advocates of sophrology say that, when participants achieve the desired relaxation and self-awareness, they are better able to handle stress in their everyday lives. The technique is also claimed to improve medical conditions such as insomnia or problems brought on by stress. Proponents believe that anxiety and mood also improve.