Looking after your own wellbeing can be a bit of a minefield. If you open yourself up to all the advice out there and try to follow the regimes and tips that promise to change your life, I’m pretty sure you’d end up falling over from the stress of doing it all. I guess the most important thing is that we cherry pick what is right for us. How do you do that though? How do you know what you really need?
For me this is what Sophrology has given me: a way to listen to my mind and body and the dialogue between the two. I always knew that if I exercised I felt more positive. I always knew that if I did yoga then my busy mind would calm down but I never really stopped to think too much about it. For that reason I would exercise for a while and then stop because I got too busy. I would go to the odd yoga class and it felt great but I never built up a regular practice because I didn’t really make the link to what it meant for me.
Through Sophrology practice I have learnt to not only better understand the link between my mental state and what I experience in my body (and vice versa), but I have also learnt simple techniques to use my breath and body to directly impact my state of mind. This isn’t just calming it down when it’s running at a hundred miles an hour it’s also giving it a kick start when it needs one.
When I first started practicing Sophrology I liked the dynamic nature of the practice. I liked that there was no sitting for long periods watching my thoughts coming and going. I had tried that with Mindfulness and my experience was that I would be completely distracted and the rush of thoughts I experienced, if anything, completely overwhelmed me rather than relaxed me. So to be guided to move and breathe in different ways and to combine the movements and breathing and to do all this standing and sitting, rather than laying down (when invariably I would be asleep within 3 mins) really suited me. My experience from early sessions was that I would come away feeling somehow lighter, I had more space in my mind and felt I had more energy. This was enough to make me curious to do more.
When I think now about what I get from regularly doing Sophrology however, it has moved on from my early experience. I should add that when I say regular practice, I’m not talking about an hour or so every day. Some days I only do 5 mins, some days it will be a simple breathing exercise when I think of it, other days I may do 20 mins or so but it’s rarely longer than that. Sophrology has, from the beginning, given me the awareness and tools to physically release tension from my body. Now though, I can recognise the link between what’s going on in my body with my emotions and thoughts. For example: being tired from juggling too much usually comes with tension in my jaw and neck. Fear of something that’s coming up comes with a ball of anxiety in my solar plexus Sadness linked to something that’s happened, usually comes with a heavy feeling in my legs. I can, and regularly do, calm my mind from racing away with itself just by using my breath. I can bring my focus to the present but more than that I can remember with my mind and body positive situations from the past that can change how I feel about something that’s worrying me now. I can reframe something that feels problematic to be objective and realistic. Furthermore, I have a deeper and altogether new sense of myself and how I live my life. I am able to link with the meaning that I’ve chosen for my life in a way that I feel it, not just think about it.
In practical terms, I can focus on a piece of work for longer than I ever could; I can actively calm my mind when I need to; I can clear my mind when I start to feel overwhelmed. I can get back to sleep when I wake at 4am and my mind is racing. I can calm the fear that bubbles up in me when I anticipate something that I’m worried about; I can keep perspective more easily and when things feel tough and I can connect with why I’m doing something and find my resilience.
This is my experience. If I asked others who practice regularly to describe their experience, it will be different. That’s why I love Sophrology, it’s not one size fits all. Your current experience and your goals will drive your practice. Sophrology doesn’t replace other exercises and activities but it does allow you to tune into yourself in a straightforward and meaningful way to truly hear what you need.