Sophrology, your go-to anti-stress ally

Discover the benefits of sophrology to better understand each stage of your life

Sophrology is much more than a simple relaxation technique. It can be an everyday ally, helping us to effectively combat stress and anxiety, improve our self-confidence, prepare for events (exams, sporting events, childbirth, etc.), and cope better with certain important stages in our lives (adolescence, older years, maternity). So how can you relax using sophrology? Valérie Roblin, hydrotherapist and sophrologist at Novotel Thalassa Oléron Saint-Trojan , shares her knowledge and, at the end of the article, suggests some simple exercises you can do on your own, for more serenity in your everyday life.

What is sophrology?

Sophrology is a powerful personal development tool that can be defined as a training of the body and mind to develop serenity and well-being. It uses special techniques to relax and activate both the body and the mind.

Using techniques designed to help you let go, combined with breathing and visualization, it creates a state of semi-consciousness and is aimed at anyone looking to improve their quality of life on a daily basis. It can also be used to tackle more challenging episodes in our lives with calmness and confidence.

This practice tries to shed light on the root causes of unhappiness, stress, and anxiety, enabling us to combat them more effectively. By actively helping to soothe stress, it allows us to be more productive and more peaceful throughout the day.

How does sophrology help relieve stress and anxiety?

Suitable for all ages and profiles, the benefits of sophrology in fighting stress are many and varied! From letting go to dealing more positively with the little worries of life, sophrology guides us towards a better management of our emotions.

A smoother transition into adolescence

Sophrology can help you tackle the transitional period of adolescence more serenely, by helping you to accept the physical and emotional changes that can sometimes be difficult to cope with. Sophrology is ideal for improving concentration, preparing for exams, regulating sleep, boosting self-confidence, and combating periods of stress or discomfort.

Peace of mind during pregnancy

It is recommended to start sophrology from the fifth month of pregnancy to approach the final months and plan for the birth calmly and with confidence. Sophrology helps women to accept the physical changes experienced during pregnancy, along with any new sensations and pain. During childbirth, sophrology can provide useful techniques for recuperating between contractions.

Get back to sleep and relax

Sophrology has proven to be effective in combating problems with falling asleep, insomnia, and waking up at night, particularly if these challenges are the result of a stressful lifestyle or bad bedtime habits – something many of us have! Fortunately, a few simple exercises can help you reconnect with sleep and enjoy restful nights to replenish both body and mind.

Fight pain and restore well-being

Backache, stomachache, migraines, and headaches... Each type of pain has its own message, reflecting a dysfunction in our bodies or our emotional balance. Each one plays a warning role, and sophrology helps us to rediscover a better balance between body and mind, so we can cope with any pain standing in the way of our well-being. In fact, doctors and hospitals are increasingly recommending sophrology for chronic pain.

Anxiety-free aging

Sophrology can help you cope better with some of the consequences of aging, such as sleep or memory disorders and chronic pain. It also contributes to a greater acceptance of our changing bodies.

Feeling better at work

At a time when taking care of employees and reducing psychosocial risk factors has become a priority, sophrology is seen as a powerful tool for combating stress, helping to relieve muscular tension and achieve a better balance between our personal and professional lives. Today, managers use sophrology to improve communication and teamwork.

Preparing for a sporting event

Sophrology is highly appreciated by athletes. By improving self-confidence, focus, and motivation, it can help them to push their limits and achieve their goals thanks to exceptional mental preparation.

Which sophrology exercises can help relieve stress?

Valérie Roblin, hydrotherapist and sophrologist, suggests a few simple sophrology exercises to practice on a daily basis or whenever required. These exercises combine breathing and visualization, and are best performed standing or seated.

We often forget that the body and the mind are one. Sophrology aims to reconcile them by carefully observing what is going on in our bodies.

Breathing exercise 1: IRTER (standing/sitting)

IRTER stands for Inspiration - Retention - Tension - Expiration - Release, a relaxation method frequently used in sophrology. Here is how to practice it:

  1. 1. Close your eyes, slowly become aware of the different parts of your body: your face, your neck, your shoulders, your shoulder blades, your arms all the way down to your fingertips, your rib cage, your upper back, your stomach, the lumbar region, your lower stomach, your pelvis, your legs, and your feet down to your toes.

  2. 2. Take the time to feel each point of contact with the chair if you are sitting, or simply the soles of your feet on the floor if you are standing.

  3. 3. Become aware of your breathing and its rhythm. Observe the movement of your chest and belly as they inflate on inhalation and deflate on exhalation.

  4. 4. Inhale through your nose. Hold your breath, tense your body (contract your muscles from head to toe). Exhale, then release.

  5. 5. Observe what is going on in your body and any sensations that may arise, such as tingling, pins and needles, heat, or cold.

  6. 6. Repeat the exercise 2 times, consciously, taking the time to really feel the feelings of relaxation and letting go that wash over you.

  7. 7. Repeat this exercise one last time with one intention: to release all your physical tension and any intrusive thoughts.

  8. 8. Welcome every possible sensation that may arise throughout your body.

  9. 9. Slowly prepare to return to the here and now, regaining awareness of the room you are in, taking the time to stretch or yawn if you feel like it.

Exercise 2: The pump (standing)

  1. 1. Standing with your arms at your sides, become aware of your position in the room, with your eyes closed to better feel your body, your presence, and your balance. If balance is difficult to maintain, you can keep your eyes open. Take the time to become aware of each part of your body.

  2. 2. Inhale through your nose, clench your fists, raise your shoulders upwards, and hold your breath. Lower your shoulders then repeat, shrugging them a few times as if you were holding bags of coins and wanted to mix them all up. Exhale through your mouth with a heavy sigh, then open your fists and imagine throwing the coins to the ground, as if you wanted to get rid of them, then release.

  3. 3. Observe what is going on in your body and any sensations, such as tingling, pins and needles, heat, or cold.

  4. 4. Repeat the exercise 2 times, consciously, and visualize all your worries in place of the coins. Shake them out and, as you exhale, open your fists and throw them away. Take the time to feel what is happening and the relaxation as it slowly sets in.

  5. 5. Repeat this exercise a third time with one intention: to free yourself of all your tension. Put some distance between yourself and whatever is bothering you, and enjoy the present moment.

  6. 6. Welcome all the sensations that may be moving through your body.

  7. 7. Prepare to return to the here and now by becoming aware of the room you are in, taking the time to stretch and yawn if you feel like it.

Exercise 3: Positive visualization (lying/seated)

  1. 1. Make yourself comfortable on a chair. Close your eyes. Become aware of your position and all your points of contact: your thighs on the seat, your arms on the armrests, your feet on the floor.

  2. 2. Become aware of your breathing. Keep your eyes closed.

  3. 3. Visualize a beautiful soap bubble, transparent and light. With each inhalation, it fills with calm, softness, serenity, joy, and positivity. With each exhale, imagine it sliding and flowing inside your body. As it passes through you, take time to feel all the pleasant sensations of relaxation.

  4. 4. Inhale the serenity and calm of this magnificent bubble.

  5. 5. As you exhale, let your tension flow away with it and feel your body consciously relax, area by area, until you realize that you are now feeling good, light, and relaxed.

  6. 6. Prepare to return to the here and now by becoming aware of the room you are in, taking the time to stretch and yawn if you feel like it.

Sophrology enables you to reach a state of altered consciousness. Between wakefulness and sleep, the body becomes progressively lighter and more relaxed. This positive, harmonious moment becomes part of the body’s memory.

With a little practice and regularity, these pleasant sensations are easy to recreate on command. If you have trouble sleeping, you can use these exercises when you go to bed.

Once you have learned the basics with the help of a sophrologist (visualizing your own body, refocusing on positive emotions, deep breathing work), sophrology, also known as the “science of harmonious consciousness,” can become an excellent ally for managing stress and emotions. It can be easily integrated into any schedule, and can be practiced as often as required to calm the body and mind.

Sophrology is practiced in many spa and Thalasso hotels. Find out more now and take the time to (re)discover this practice as part of a wellness break .

How can I practice sophrology at home?

Practicing sophrology at home requires creating an environment conducive to relaxation and concentration. Choose a quiet, comfortable place where you will not be disturbed, ideally away from everyday distractions. It can be helpful to establish a regular routine, practicing at the same time each day, to integrate sophrology into your routine. Start with short sessions of 10 to 15 minutes, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable with the practice. Use a floor mat for comfort if you plan to do floor exercises, and make sure you have comfortable clothing that does not restrict your movements.

For the practice itself, you can start with deep breathing exercises, focusing on inhalation and exhalation to calm the mind and relax the body. Then explore progressive muscle relaxation techniques, contracting and relaxing each muscle group from head to toe. Incorporate positive visualizations and concentration exercises to strengthen the connection between your body and mind. There are many online resources, such as guided videos and sophrology apps, which can help you get started and structure your sessions. With regular practice, sophrology at home can become a powerful tool for managing stress, improving sleep, and enhancing your overall well-being.

Sophrology or yoga: which one should you choose?

Choosing between sophrology and yoga depends on your personal goals, preferences, and specific well-being needs. With its focus on deep relaxation and stress management, sophrology uses breathing techniques, muscle relaxation, and positive visualization to achieve a state of mental and physical well-being. It is particularly effective for improving sleep quality, reducing anxiety, and boosting self-confidence. The practice can be easily integrated into daily life and requires no particular physical skills, making it accessible to all.

Yoga, on the other hand, offers a more holistic approach, integrating work on the body, the mind, and the breath. There are many types of yoga, ranging from gentle, meditative styles to physically demanding practices. Yoga promotes flexibility, strength, balance, and concentration, while offering benefits for stress management and emotional balance. If you are drawn to an activity that combines physical and meditative aspects for a deeper exploration of the self, yoga might be the best choice for you.