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Sophrology, coming from Ancient Greek σῶς / SOS ("harmony"), φρήν / PHREN ("mind"), and -λογία / -logia ("study/science"), Sophrology is the study of the consciousness in harmony; a healthcare philosophy made of very practical physical and mental exercises aiming at a prepared mind in a focused body.

This method was developed by Professor Alfonso Caycedo, a Colombian Neuro-Psychiatrist, in 1960’s along his personal and professional journey. He presented in 1970 at the first International Sophrology Conference as an attempt to study scientifically the human consciousness, both a philosophy and a way of life as well as a therapy and a personal development technique.” He later said: "Sophrology is learning to live".


Western Roots[edit]

Professor Caycedo (of Spanish Basque origin, born in Bogota, Colombia in 1932), neuropsychiatrist, created 12 Sophrology degrees in 1960 while practicing 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.

He 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, he mainly kept the idea of differential relaxation: use only the minimum muscle tension necessary to do something as well as the ability to reduce anxiety by relaxing muscular tension. No suggestion or psychotherapy, just muscular relaxation for mental peace. With Schultz, which is a more “mental” method, he was inspired by our ability to get relaxed by imagining it, by visualising it. In October 1960, he created the word “Sophrology” and opened the first department of clinical Sophrology in the Santa Isabel Hospital in Madrid. [1]

Eastern Roots[edit]

In 1963, he 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.

Then, 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.

He first traveled to India where 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, Professor 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[edit]

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.

A dramatic improvement there again. In 1967, a national ski coach, having heard about it, asked his help to train four ski champions for the Grenoble Olympic Games of 1968, all in great secret. Three of them ended up on the podium with Olympic medals. They were 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.

Medals started pouring in for Switzerland. Funnily enough, after the world championships in 1970, the Ski Federation asked Abrezol not to stay with the skiers at starting point, arguing he had too much influence on them and was « creating a disadvantage for other nations »! Abrezol went on to train many other athletes in sailing, boxing, cycling, tennis, water-polo, golf, etc. Athletes coached by Dr Raymond 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, in education, in arts, etc. Dr 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.[2]

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 notion 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.[3]

Aims and Uses[edit]

Sophrology is now a very common method use in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium and is becoming increasingly well known in the UK.

1- Sports 2- Education

  • artists (creativity, stage fright management, memory, expression…)
  • general education (concentration, motivation, preparing for exams, technical acts…)

3- Social and corporate:

  • managing performance and energy levels, change management,
  • preparing for interviews, exams and public speaking, self-confidence,


Current Applications of Sophrology[edit]

It is a structured method, based on combination of techniques such as concentration, deep breathing, relaxation, visualisation and simple movements called Dynamic Relaxation. Sophrology considers the person as a whole, body and mind. The exercises used are simple and easy to use in an everyday life environment. The aim is to learn the techniques that are best suited to the person so that they can use them and adapt them in their everyday life.

Sophrology can be practised solo or in a group, with no need for special equipment.

Fundamental Principles[edit]

Positive Action[edit]

Sophrology concentrates not on the problem itself but on the positive elements in the person’s life and in their past, present or future that will enable them to move forward, to feel stronger. The assumption is that positive thoughts start a positive chain reaction.

« 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. » [5]

Objective Reality[edit]

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.

Key concepts are[edit]

  • 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[edit]

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.


  1. ^ Cindy Chapelle: La Sophrologie pour Les Nuls
  2. ^ Dr Raymond Abrezol: Vaincre par la Sophrologie
  3. ^
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ Pascal Gautier: Découvrir la Sophrologie (InterEditions)

Further reading[edit]

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

Alternative Health - Sophrology - Telegraph, August 2014 -


  • 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)
  • Luc Audouin: La Sophrologie
  • Jean-Yves Pecollo:La Sophrologie
  • Sous la direction de Richard Esposito: Guide de Sophrologie Appliquée
  • Florence Parot: Instant Serenity for Life and Work: An Introduction to Sophrology
  • Patrick André-Chéné: An Introduction to Sophrology

See also[edit]