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Sophrology, coming from Ancient Greek σῶς / sôs ("healthy"), φρήν / phrēn ("mind"), and -λογία / -logia ("study of"), is a personal development technique founded in 1960 by Alfonso Caycedo, a Colombian neuropsychiatrist. It studies individual consciousness in order to allow a more conscious living. It was originally presented as a personal development and stress reduction methodology by its creator in the "Recife declaration" in 1977 Sophrology is also often presented as a science by its founders and authors, but this qualification is highly disputed.
The term Sophrology has never been protected in its public use and resulted in many variations and divergences. Caycedo went on and registered his original discipline as "Caycedian Sophrology", this time filed in The Hague and patented at the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization).
Sophrology in everyday use can refer either to Caycedian Sophrology or to other derived forms.
Origins and founding principles
Towards the end of the 50s, Alfonso Caycedo graduates from the University of Madrid in Neuropsychiatry. Deeply touched by the brutality of the methods employed at this time in psychiatry, he decided to focus on studying consciousness and searched for alternative therapies. During his research, Caycedo is guided by various traditions and currents, both occidental and oriental. Amongst the most influential for Sophrology were hypnosis, phenomenology, as well as Yoga and Buddhism, mainly Zen Buddhism.
Theory and Methodology
Dynamic Relaxation and Static Relaxation
Sophrology is based on the practice of two types of exercises :
1) "Dynamic Relaxation". Originally 3, there are now 12 different ones, divided in 3 cycles: Reductive, Radical and Existential cycles. The objective of "Dynamic Relaxation" is to develop consciousness in the large way of it. Those technics are originally inspired by Oriental technics like Yoga, Zen and Buddhism.
Dynamic Relaxation is practiced in group or in one to one, sitting and standing. The sessions (mainly Dynamic Relaxation 1) brings the participant to focus on his direct experience of his own body, in order to let the possibility of a different experience emerge. Most classes focus on the Dynamic Relaxation 1 (body), 2 (mind) and occasionally 3 (integration of body and mind in harmony).
2) "Static Relaxation". Each "Static Relaxation" have an objective really precise. They are mostly have occidental inspirations (Neuronal sciences, psychology, relaxation technics, hypnosis etc.). They mostly use visualizations.
At the end of the session, the participant is invited to describe his experience to reinforce the integration of the experience (there is no analysis of what is said).
For the Caycedian Sophrology, consciousness is the force or vital energy that binds the two dimensions that are the body and the mind.
Sophrology is a brain training. In using visualizations and body exercises, Sophrology make our brain connecting new neuronal connexions like meditation our mindfulness. Sophrology is based on the same approach as hypnosis or meditation (attentional resources, neuronal plasticity etc.) . It's based on learning how to develop every human capacity and potential to make him learn how to be fully actor of his life.
Other techniques closer to hypnosis are used occasionally, but the Caycedian Sophrology relies on the Dynamic Relaxations.
Other forms of Sophrology
As Sophrology is not a protected name, many variations or divergences exist in Sophrology. Some stay very close, some only keep a thin link to the "original" version of Sophrology.
Reception and Criticism
In France and in French speaking countries, Sophrology is a mainstream and well established method, used for stress reduction, general well being and mental conditioning (sports national teams or simply general public such as students before an exam). In the United Kingdom and the US, Sophrology is present, but fairly confidential, and never reached the level of popularity it gained on continental Europe.
In French-speaking countries, Sophrology has been criticised like most alternative therapies have: Paul Ranc for instance warns against alternative therapies or esoteric groups promising happiness.
- Patrick-André Chéné, Sophrologie - Tome 1 : Fondements et méthodologie, page 36
- France recognises Sophrology and Caycedian Sophrology as psychotherapies and clearly denies it is a science: La sophrologie et la sophrologie caycédienne ont été listées parmi les (psycho)thérapies dans le RAPPORT FAIT AU NOM DE LA COMMISSION D'ENQUÊTE relative à l'influence des mouvements à caractère sectaire et aux conséquences de leurs pratiques sur la santé physique et mentale des mineurs [archive] en 2006 durant la douzième législature de l'Assemblée nationale française. Dans ce même rapport, il est affirmé que la sophrologie est une activité « n'ayant fait l'objet d'aucune étude validée scientifiquement ».
- Caycedian Sophrology Review, page 4 - 2nd trimester 1996
- "ESOPHRO, Origines et fondements de la sophrologie".
- Stephane Mery - Un Filet et Des Sports - ed. L'Harmattan, collection "Logiques Sociales" 2007, P.242 "Chaque equipe nationale a son preparateur mental (Sophrologie, visualisation...)."
- Paul Ranc, Le Bonheur a Tout Prix ? Éditions Contrastes, 2005
- Patrick-André Chéné, Sophrologie - Tome 1 : Fondements et méthodologie (Preface and ethical code by Alfonso Caycedo), Ellébore Éditions, 1994 (ISBN 286898505X), Re-edited in 2008 (ISBN 2868989020)
- Collective work directed by Patrick-André Chéné, Sophrologie - Tome 2 : Champs d'application (Preface and introduction by Alfonso Caycedo), Ellébore Éditions 1999, (ISBN 2868985831)