I have to admit, I didn’t know much about Sophrologie or Sophrology before it started cropping up in conversations, posters and ads around Paris around 5 years ago.
Walking around my neighbourhood behind République this shopfront caught my eye.
Despite having an established yoga practice Sophro spheres had not yet crossed my path.
So let’s take a look at what this technique consists of :
Sophrology is a relaxation technique originally based on yoga relaxation.
The method was developed in the 1960s by Alfonso Caycedo, a Colombian neuro-psychiatrist, in the 1960s to support his patients searching for more serenity in their daily lives.
In 1970 the first International Sophrology Conference took place. Caycedo described how Sophrology was born out of his research on the subject of human consciousness. Sophrology is a philosophy and a way of life, it is also a form of therapy which can be used for personal development.
The founder later said: “Sophrology is learning to live”.
Sophrology can be immensely helpful to employees at desk jobs and top athletes alike. Raymond Abrezol coached athletes in Sophrology, between 1967 and 2004, who then went on to win won over 200 Olympic medals.
Sophrology’s rapidly expanding popularity can be explained when we think of how this powerful technique can revolutionise results in practitioners personal and professional lives.
Whilst other forms of personal development and talking therapy may take months or years to deal with the root causes of presenting issues, sophrologie can start to improve issues such as stress and anxiety within the first few sessions.
Often companies enlist a sophrologist to work with their employees. It’s seen as a modern, mainstream and effective complementary therapy.
The bonus when compared with a discipline like Yoga, which it draws from, is that you don’t need the mats and space which you would to perform yoga postures and asanas.
So Sophrology as the ideal antidote to modern life and stress.
It reminds us of something incredibly fundamental, that is to simply breathe.
By bringing us back to our breath, Sophrology reconnects us with our true state of being, gives us energy and calms the nervous system.
The first time I went to a Sophrology class in Paris it was to accompany a girlfriend who was experiencing burnout due to the stress of her job at a big Pharmaceutical company.
She had heard great things about the instantaneous effects of this technique and was keen to try it.
Classes take place at different times of day for different audiences and groups of people. The evening classes are geared at employees afterwork. There are lunchtime courses, often in companies as mentioned earlier, and morning classes for students are the retired.
We chose an evening class in the 9ème arrondissement, just between Poissonière and Bonne Nouvelle at Espace Sayya.
Sayya is a haven of calm in central Paris: An entire building dedicated entirely to wellbeing, they offer group classes for Sophrologie and every type of Yoga imaginable as well as mindfulness meditation.
A large part of their work is with individuals who come for consultations on all manner of personal development coaching, physiotherapy, hypnosis and massage.
The bright, open space can also be booked for company conferences and events.
Entering Sayya, you’ll shift gears and come into a world where things go slower. It’s a contrast with the bustling 9ème outside their doors.
But at the same time, things remain relatively Parisian in tone: The decor and interior finishings are faultless.
None of that questionably clean feeling one gets doing yoga in non-restored older Haussmannian buildings, where you worry that all Paris métro has seeped into the floorboards.
The lighting, open plan design, cushions and wall hangings will have the most elegant and “exigeante” of Parisians feeling right at home.
Essentially the epitome of “Bobo” or “Bourgeois-bohème” – a middle class bohemian who embraces all things hippy, whilst unwilling to give up their creature comforts and love of luxury.
So, checking into Sayya for our Sophrologie class the welcome you get on reception is genuinely warm and heartfelt.
There is a dog behind reception and the well-dressed women in their 30’s look so at home there, that I wonder for a moment if they are the founders.
With the same easy patience, they explain where to take off and leave shoes and which room we should go and settle down in to await our Prof.
We have worn relatively ample clothes, not workout gear, but nothing too tight with a waistband with no give in it; remember the baseline is breathing, so you’ll want a little space and to be comfortable on the floor.
I notice that other practitioners, all women in this class, have turned up with a change of clothes, clearly fresh from the office, one carrying a motorbike helmet.
Everyone in our small group of eight exchanges open encouraging smiles and silently goes about setting up yoga mats, blankets and bricks.
We copy those who look like they know what they’re doing.
In those few minutes waiting for the teacher, I think I start to understand how Sophrology works on the most basic level: Taking off your shoes and lying down in a foetal position on a yoga mat at the end of the working day is bound to get you into some level of relaxation fairly fast.
I reflect on how crazy it is that we rarely offer ourselves this luxury without being supervised in a paid up class.
Getting in the door there’s always something more pressing or natural to do than to lie down on the floor and feel those points of grounding, where your back is supported by your mat and the ground. We scroll through whatsapp whilst petting the cat, pace across to the fridge and think about what we’re going to cook for supper.
Here there are no such distractions.
Our teacher walks in and introduces herself, taking a moment to check in with the newcomers; see how we’re all doing and what our prior experience is with this type of relaxation work.
I explain that I’m a 200 YTT Yoga teacher and try to consider my breath at points during the day especially when I feel stressed or challenged.
My friend shares what she’s heard about Sophrology and how she thinks it might benefit her professionally.
Every exercise is clearly introduced. We are led into a seated breathing relaxation and encouraged to relax and stretch out the breath. After a few minutes here we make our way down to the floor.
The Sophrology that we practiced drew on visualisation to support the breath work.
Visualisation is somewhat of a weak point for me, hence often I find that it doesn’t help calm the ‘Monkey mind’ as I second guess whether I am evoking the colours correctly, if I can really see the pink..
Whilst a few repetitive thoughts and judgements do the rounds, this doesn’t stop me from sinking into a profound level of relaxation as I follow the prompts.
In one of my favourite exercises we practised going visualising floating, first above our bodies in the room, the above the building, the street, the neighbourhood, Paris, France, the continent and the earth and further and further into space: All this time working with our breath.
I thoroughly enjoyed these exercises and left what was an hour long session with a sense of timelessness and a feeling of having released minor knots and tension in my muscles and feeling alert yet relaxed and really comfortable in my body.
I think one of the biggest advantages of Sophrology, is that once you’ve adopted the know how, you can use the tools wherever you are.
Imagine, you could be weaving through the métro at rush hour, finally squeeze yourself into a carriage and maybe even grab a place on one of the ‘strapontin’ fold down seats.
If squished against the side of the carriage and someone’s handbag, you can check your posture, sink into the seat, noticing your sit bones and the soles of your feet evenly placed on the floor; your head pushing up stretching your cervical spine and the often slumped lumbar and intercostal muscles, from here you can use your Sophrology tools.
It is in moments like this, when everything is less than ideal, if we can reconnect with consciousness and our breath and inner calm, then we can really reap the rewards of a solid Sophro practice.
Not easily done, that’s for sure. However, you can see these challenges and less than enjoyable moments of your daily life as the ideal training ground for your “coming back to calm in adversity” practice.
There is simply no quicker way than by the breath.
Your breath is the ultimate shortcut to flipping the reset button and getting out of the manic mental busyness: All those to do lists, stories about what went well and less well in your day, what you should have done or said.
Movement and water can also work wonders. Unfortunately, we can’t use these soothing supports when we’re on the move, navigating our urban jungle.
Are you already sold on Sophrology and wondering where in Paris you might be able to access this practice?
Here I’ve collated some resources of places and people who will help you progress and take these tools for your personal development.
There are also training courses, if you happen to do a job where you feel that Sophrology would be beneficial for the public you work with – counsellors, teachers and coaches have all integrated these techniques into their professional skills set.
Que Faire à Paris suggests the weekly Tuesday night classes on offer at:
Espace Beauregard, 2 Rue de la Ville Neuve
Weekly SOPHRO-RELAXATION – 1h – Tuesdays 19h30-20h30 –
Starting 10 SEPTEMBER
– trial lesson Tuesday 3rd September 19h30-20h30 –
Cours basé sur différentes techniques : sophrologie et relaxation
Sophro-Relaxation uses grounding techniques to encourage the relaxation of tense muscles, incorporating mindfulness, breathing exercises and visualisation.
This 1h30 encourages and allows you to grow in receptivity. Most importantly, it’s a moment that you’ve set aside for your wellbeing, a relaxed body and to grow in confidence, knowing that you can draw on your innate ability to relax deeply.
After some standing relaxation exercises, there will be time for a longer relaxation part for which you will be lying down. In this second part of the session we’ll be working on conscious breathing, visualisation and reconnecting with the positive qualities and resources we have in us.
Your Sophrology trainer : Anita Cotton Sophrology instructor trained at RNCP and relaxation expert will guide you through these classes.
Centre de Formation en Sophrologie
Is located in central Paris near Strasbourg Saint-Denis, straddling the 2ème and 10ème neighbourhoods. It’s an up and coming neighbourhood, which is still a little rough around the edges, but has a dynamic bustling feel to it, located in the heart of the city with many big fashion labels and start-ups based here.
Hence it is completely coherent that the training school for this young profession has found its home here.
The institution takes a serious approach to training offering an initial training as a Sophrology instructor spread over two cycles, totalling 428 hours plus 12 hours of hands on apprenticeship.
Bilingual training is offered to give these new coaches and professionals a cutting edge to work with the international business market.
Complementary training courses also feature on the curriculum, examples including special niche workshops on: Troubled Sleep, the Biochemistry of stress, as well as Playful Sophrology.
A professional training could open the door to a whole new career, or complement an existing one.
Whatever you take away from Sophrology, it’s likely to be time well spent.