This dynamic form of meditation promises to bring a sense of relief in the midst of the pandemic.
The name may sound like new-age mumbo jumbo, but it is, in fact, a respected and popular treatment in France and Switzerland. Leading sportsmen and women use it for pre-match nerves, and in France, it's prescribed to help teenagers with exam stress, mothers preparing for childbirth and people with sleep disorders. A recent French study found that it can even be a useful add-on to traditional treatments to help children with asthma and can also reduce stress in cancer patients. Yet, everywhere else, sophrology is largely unknown.
The pandemic has brought more than its share of reasons to lie awake at night. But so profound have the changes to our sleep patterns been in the nine months since the first lockdown that experts have now coined a term for it - “coronasomnia”. A whopping 70 percent of Brits aged 40 to 63 reported changes to their sleep patterns since the first lockdown, according to findings from The British Sleep Society. The catalogue of sleep problems reported by the participants included disrupted sleep, falling asleep unintentionally, difficulties falling/staying asleep, and later bedtimes.
Dominique Antiglio, the Swiss founder of BeSophro in London and author of The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology is trying to change that. “Lockdown has brought ‘coronasomnia’, loneliness, anxiety and depression to many of my clients,” Antiglio tells The Telegraph. “Sophrology can help treat all of this. It’s a way to tap into our own inner ‘superpowers’ - using simple tools that draw on relaxation, meditation, breathing, visualisation and body awareness exercises.”
The technique was founded in the 1960s in Spain by Professor Alfonso Caycedo, a psychiatrist and neurologist looking for ways to treat war veteran patients with PTSD. Having spent years researching Eastern philosophies and Western science, Caycedo fused the two together with the goal of stimulating and rewiring our brains to induce deeply relaxing alpha brainwaves.
Sophrology divides the body into five different systems: the head and face, neck and shoulders, chest and upper back, stomach and lower back, and the pelvis and legs and feet. The next stage is the so-called “clearing breath” where you focus on the five systems of the body again, identifying areas of stress and then tensing the body using your breathing to release that stress.
The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology is available for Kindle as well as in print format. Why not ask your local bookshop to order you a copy if you're interested in exploring the concept further?