In Depth

Sophrology: consciousness in harmony

Sophrologist Dominique Antiglio talks about the practice, which aims to reduce stress through mind and body

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Sophrology is a tool for stress management, wellbeing, and self-discovery. It’s a practice for the body and mind that blends Eastern philosophies with Western science using breathing, relaxation, meditation and visualisation techniques to help us quiet the mind, ground ourselves in the body and build resilience to positively deal with life’s events. I see it as a contemporary approach to self-development, compared to mindfulness, which is the ancient approach. Alfonso Caycedo, the founder, who was a neuropsychiatrist, reshuffled a lot of these ancient universal principles and mixed them with Western knowledge of psychology notably to create a technique that is simple to access, meaning everyone can tap into their inner potential. Sophrology can help with anxiety, sleep problems and burn-out, but also help to prepare for stressful events (presentations, interviews, surgery) or simply to support us in reaching our goals.

The main reason a person chooses to come to me for a consultation is some sort of struggle in terms of stress. Stress is a name for lots of things and everybody has a different way of reacting to it. Some feel tiredness in the body, some will have overactive minds or sleep problems that make them more emotional or less grounded. My job is to understand how this person works so that I can help them find the right Sophrology tools to support them towards positive changes.

I was first introduced to Sophrology when I was 15. It was a time in my life when I was studying and doing a lot of basketball competitively. I wasn’t aware of it then but I think I was exhausted physically, from doing a lot of sport and the pressure of performing at school. My symptoms were that I was super tired, my sleep wasn’t great and I had constant, recurring infections. It was like my body wasn’t functioning properly. I went to my family doctor and they did tests and although there was nothing physically wrong with me, they could see that something wasn’t working. My GP recommended Sophrology, I didn’t know anything about at the time despite it being established in Switzerland [where Antiglio grew up], but I decided to give it a try. The therapist gave me some very simple exercises to do, so at lunchtime I used to come home from school and practice for 10 minutes. I really enjoyed that time where I was simply connecting with myself through my breath and being aware of my body in a relaxed state, and there was no agenda or need to succeed. After five sessions, I completely transformed my energy levels. My sleep improved, as did my motivation and trust in life. I felt that I could do something to change my health; that there was something I could do beyond the pressure I felt I was under, beyond my GP – something I could take control of. It was very empowering.

Originally, I trained and practiced as an osteopath and didn’t even consider becoming a Sophrologist but it had helped me so much over the years that I decided to train and slowly started to include it in my osteopathic work, supporting the way that I was looking at clients and understanding how they function. The more I was using it, the more I was seeing fantastic results. As an osteopath you look at the mechanics of the body and how vitality expresses itself. I realised that Sophrology actually increased energy levels in the body and supported everything to make changes more rapid in my clients’ health. After 12 years of osteopathy I felt ready for the next part of my journey as a therapist. That’s why, seven years ago, I came to the UK with the aim of spreading the word of Sophrology. I saw this massive gap in the market – it was almost unheard of in Britain. In places such as France, Belgium, Spain and Switzerland it’s used in the medical world, taught in the corporate environment and in schools, and lots of sports people use it. Some of my early clients here were pretty brave because they didn’t know what to expect. It was a lot of word-of-mouth initially but there was clearly an interest in trying something new. I find that people in London are very open-minded.

I would definitely say that people are more stressed today than ever before. London in particular is a place where you really need something to help you feel grounded and relaxed. Access to technology has changed our daily life a lot. The fact that we can respond to emails instantly, all the time – added to the constant flow of information about the world’s political and economic state, or what our friends say on social media can trigger a lot of fears and anxiety. Either you get caught up in it or you can decide to take control. Sophrology means ‘the science of consciousness in harmony’ giving us the opportunity to practice something simple that can change how we feel and the way we perceive the outside world.

DOMINIQUE ANTIGLIO is a Sophrologist and founder of BeSophro. Her new book, The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology, launches on 19 April; be-sophro.co.uk

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