Sophrology: De-Stressing London One Breath at a Time

Julia Wytrazek / © Culture Trip
Julia Wytrazek / © Culture Trip
Photo of Tor Cardona
Wellness Editor15 November 2018

Whether through practising yoga or trying to be more hygge, we’re constantly striving to become better, less stressed versions of ourselves. Sophrology, a type of meditation, aims to help you achieve just that. Here, Swiss sophrologist Dominique Antiglio explains why she’s on a mission to bring the transformational therapy to anxious Londoners.

Tucked away in a consulting room on South Molton Street, Swiss-born Dominique Antiglio is teaching sophrology, a technique that marries meditation, breathing and relaxation exercises with gentle movement and visualisation. It aims to sharpen focus, help control stress and release tension in the body and mind for enhanced performance. As a more physical and dynamic form of meditation, Antiglio believes sophrology is an accessible form of mindfulness that can transform your life.

Antiglio, founder of BeSophro in Mayfair and author of the recently published The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology, is on a mission to bring sophrology to stressed-out Londoners. “Whether you’re struggling with sleep, an overactive mind, a lack of creativity, a bad relationship or a confidence crisis, sophrology can help you find balance,” she says. “More than just a short-term problem fixer, it encourages inner connection and positivity, making you more adaptable, creative and resilient.” She emphasises that sophrology is for everyone; regulars in her clinic include athletes, women going through IVF, lawyers, students and an increasing number of professionals who struggle with public speaking. One-to-one and group sessions are on offer at the Mayfair studio and south of the river at a second clinic in Clapham.

London has wholeheartedly embraced wellness, but in a market arguably saturated with mindful offerings, why did Antiglio decide to bring sophrology to the British capital? “People in London are becoming more open to self-care and self-improvement and I feel sophrology meets that need. It’s easy to follow, is adaptable for all physicalities and abilities and, unlike traditional meditation, has no spiritual connection.”

Julia Wytrazek / | © Culture Trip

So how does it work? A sophrology session is similar to guided meditation, but Antiglio stresses it’s about being “more conscious and aware of the physical body”. For the uninitiated, traditional meditation, which has roots in Buddhism, encourages you to focus on the present, rather than on the past or future. Sophrology, on the other hand, teaches you to live in the present moment but also helps you to transform your relationship with your future and past.

An example of a sophrology exercise is to close the eyes, breathing in and holding the breath for a few seconds while tensing the entire body. Then, as you exhale, you release the muscles, physically letting go of stress and unwanted thoughts. Antiglio claims just 10 minutes of sophrology three times a week will ‘reset’ your life.

Sophrology may seem of the moment, but the concept was coined in the ’60s by Alfonso Caycedo, a Colombian neuropsychiatrist. Caycedo was studying medicine in Spain after the civil war, searching for a way to heal traumatised war victims with minimal drug use. He spent decades studying yoga, Buddhist meditation, Japanese Zen and hypnosis, eventually bringing together elements from all four practices to create sophrology as it’s known today. According to The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology, the concept’s name is derived from the Greek words sos (harmony), phren (consciousness or spirit), and logos (discourse, science, study).

Despite being relatively new to the UK’s wellness scene, sophrology has been used on the continent for decades as a way of boosting confidence, mood, happiness and performance. It’s offered to children in Swiss and French schools; features in the Geneva police force training programme; and boasts a roster of celebrity fans including Arianna Huffington, French tennis player Stéphane Robert and the French rugby team. President Emmanuel Macron has even suggested sophrology sessions should be part of France’s healthcare system and it’s routinely covered by Swiss health insurance companies.

With a strong focus on boosting creativity and potential, it’s no surprise this wellness technique has a loyal following among professionals and athletes. More goal-oriented than other types of mindfulness, sophrology is meditation for those hungry for results that genuinely last. This could well be one wellness trend that’s here to stay.

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