Sophrology, a popular self-help method in continental Europe, uniquely combines Western science and Eastern wisdom to help manage stress, sleep better and discover mindful living. Sophrology is a self-development method and practice using body and mind allowing each individual to create more balance and harmony in themselves and the world around them.
The word Sophrology comes from Ancient Greek σῶς / SOS ("harmony"), φρήν / PHREN ("mind"), and -λογία / -LOGOS ("study/science"), the study of the consciousness in harmony. This method was developed by Professor Alfonso Caycedo, a Colombian neuro-psychiatrist, in the 1960s to support his patient to find more serenity in daily life. In 1970, at the first International Sophrology Conference, he said that Sophrology was born from his studies on human consciousness. Sophrology is both philosophy and a way of life, as well as a therapy and a personal development technique. He later said: "Sophrology is learning to live".
Professor Alfonso Caycedo (of Spanish Basque origin, born in Bogota, Colombia in 1932), a neuropsychiatrist, created the 12 Sophrology Degrees from 1960 while practising medicine at a hospital in Madrid, Spain. He originally set out to find a way of healing depressed and traumatised clients by leading them to health and happiness with the least possible use of drugs and psychiatric treatments. Caycedo also wanted to study human consciousness and the means of varying its states and levels. He started looking into clinical hypnosis, phenomenology and Western relaxation techniques: Jacobson’s progressive relaxation, Schultz’s autogenic training.
From Jacobson, Caycedo mainly kept the idea of differential relaxation, with using only the minimum muscle tension necessary for an action, as well as the ability to reduce anxiety by relaxing muscular tension. Without additional suggestion or psychotherapy, just muscular relaxation is sufficient for mental relaxation or harmony. With Schultz, which is a more “mental” method, he was inspired by the human ability to achieve relaxation by visualisation alone. In October 1960, he created the term “Sophrology” and opened the first department of clinical Sophrology in the Santa Isabel Hospital in Madrid.
In 1963, Caycedo married a French yoga enthusiast. He started looking into Eastern techniques around that time. Between 1963 and 1964, he worked under the psychiatrist and phenomenologist Ludwig Binswanger (who had studied with Husserl and Heidegger) in Switzerland and was very much influenced by his work.
Intrigued by the works of yoga and encouraged by Binswanger, he travelled to India and Japan from 1965 to 1968 where he studied yoga, Tibetan Buddhist meditation and Japanese Zen. He approached each discipline, theory and philosophy with the intention of discovering what, exactly, improved people's health, both physically and mentally, in the fastest possible time and with lasting results.In India, he discovered Raja Yoga in the ashram of Swami Anandanand and Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga. He then travelled to Dharamsala to meet the Dalai Lama and study Tibetan Buddhism. Lastly, he went to Japan to learn Zen in several monasteries. On his return, he created the first three levels of what he called Dynamic Relaxation.
From then on, Sophrology started to move away from clinical hypnosis and concentrated more on body work and the presence of the body in the mind. His idea was to help the Western mind use Eastern methods in a simple way, leaving aside the philosophy and religion, not mimicking those techniques for which he has always had the utmost respect but to enable people to experience easily new ways of working on their levels of consciousness.
On his return to Spain, Caycedo settled in Barcelona where he started expanding Sophrology. He initiated a Sophrology group work in Paris and spread the word at scientific conferences in Spain, Switzerland and Belgium.
Dr Raymond Abrezol
In Switzerland, Dr Raymond Abrezol discovered the unique benefits of Sophrology and brought it to the attention of the general public. In 1965, having just finished his Sophrology studies, he tried to help a friend with whom he was playing tennis regularly. His performances and concentration developed quite dramatically. Abrezol then helped another friend with his skiing performance. He was financially supported by the countess Anne-Juliette Chouvalova (born de Pourtalès), who paid the scholarship in Champittet of Raymond's son Pierre.
In 1967, a national ski coach who heard about Sophrology asked Abrezol's help to train four ski champions for the Grenoble Olympic Games of 1968, all in secret. Three of them ended up on the podium with Olympic medals, the only Swiss champions to get medals at the Games that year. The athletes revealed their Sophrology training to the press. The press was ecstatic and Abrezol ended up training the whole national team from the next season. Abrezol went on to train many other athletes in sailing, boxing, cycling, tennis, water polo, golf, and other sports. Athletes coached by Abrezol between 1967 and 2004 won over 200 Olympic medals. 
Following this success, Sophrology grew rapidly throughout the French-speaking world. Although initially used only in medicine, Sophrology then opened to other areas: sports of course but also prevention and promotion of health in the corporate world, education, arts, and other disciplines. Abrezol ran training programmes for a large number of influential doctors and sports coaches, many of whom now run Training Centres throughout France. His enthusiasm and his success with athletes opened doors for Sophrology to be taught in many areas of life.
During his stay in Colombia in 1985, Caycedo created the fourth Level of Dynamic Relaxation and the “social” branch of Sophrology. In 1988 he moved to Andorra and created the concept of Caycedian Sophrology. In 1992 he started the following levels and created a master's degree. In 2001, the twelve levels of Dynamic Relaxation with their specific techniques were completed.
Sophrology concentrates not on the problem itself but on the inner resources of the individual that will enable them to move forward, to feel stronger. The assumption is that positive action on consciousness start a positive chain reaction.
According to Pascal Gautier, "Through an everyday practice, sophrology aims at harmony in human beings: quite a feat! In practice, it does not mean seeing life through pink-tinted glasses but putting an end to an unrealistic or negative vision of life to see things as they are (as much as possible) and reinforce whatever positive we have in us."
Alfonso Caycedo looked into phenomenology after working in 1963–64 with the Swiss psychiatrist Binswanger (1881–1966) who had studied with Husserl and Heidegger. Phenomenology had a big impact on Sophrology. Some of the techniques in Sophrology suggest to look at things “as if for the first time”, with a neutral approach, listening to sensations with no judgement or expectations. Experiencing is key. Suggestion is left to a minimum to let each person experience the exercise in their own ways.
- a non-judgemental attitude: look at things with as “neutral” a look as possible, not using our previous knowledge or experience;
- a beginner's mind: look at the world with a child’s mind, take it as it is;
- acceptance: accept reality around us and others as they are, without ready-made ideas. Never assume.
- body consciousness
- Sophrology is about better understanding the body, about knowing oneself better, knowing one’s limits and accepting oneself, feeling fully alive here and now and living in good health in harmony between body and mind.
In Japanese popular culture, Sophrology (ソフロロジー) is known as a relaxation method for childbirth (ソフロロジー分娩法).
- Antiglio, Dominique (2018). The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology. London, UK: Yellow Kite. ISBN 978-1-473-66263-6.
- "Four Decades of Sophrology and its Scientific Status".
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- Abrezol, Raymond (2007). Vaincre par la sophrologie : Exploiter son potentiel physique et psychologique Tome 1. Fernand Lanore. ISBN 978-2851573377.
- "'Learning to live': why sophrology is the new mindfulness". The Guardian.
- "Alfonso Caycedo".
- "Autogenic training".
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- "Are You Stressed? Have You Tried Sophrology?". Huffington Post.
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- Barré, C.; Falcou, M. C.; Mosseri, V.; Carrié, S.; Dolbeault, S. (Nov 2015). "Sophrology for patients in oncology". Soins (800): 17–20. doi:10.1016/j.soin.2015.09.016. PMID 26567064.
- Romieu, H.; Charbonnier, F.; Janka, D.; Douillard, A.; MacIoce, V.; Lavastre, K.; Abassi, H.; Renoux, M. C.; Mura, T.; Amedro, P. (May 2018). "Efficiency of physiotherapy with Caycedian Sophrology on children with asthma: A randomized controlled trial" (PDF). Pediatr Pulmonol. 53 (5): 559–566. doi:10.1002/ppul.23982. PMID 29493875.
- Antiglio, Dominique. "Mindfulness In Sophrology". Huffington Post.
- Pascal Gautier: Découvrir la Sophrologie (InterEditions)
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