One would think, when exercising the body, that we are mindfully connected to our physical movements. But this is not always the case. In fact, when we exercise we often do it automatically, our minds busy with other thoughts and worries. This tendency to wander the mind when trying to tone up the body is when we lose capacity to synchronise mind and body in a way that would result in highly beneficial energy balance.

We exercise to relax and clear our heads, but if the focus is all on the body – continually pushing ourselves to greater exertion – we’re not relaxing at all. Nothing is actually in sync. Your thoughts are fraught and your body remains tired. None of this does you any good. But what if there were a better way? A way that would harmonise muscle and mood, exercise and energy, so that you are able to calm down and work all the senses to your advantage?

The physicality of relaxation

What if you could use your mind to relax your body – and your body to relax your mind? Working these two vitally interconnected systems consciously can bring clarity to the mind at the same time you power motion through the body. The answer to this is fairly simple: you have to change your thoughts to bring your mind into a state of calm in order to truly feel the re-energising process of exercise. Leaving an exercise regime feeling exhausted and wiped out is not helpful; the aim of Sophrology is to ensure a more comfortable feeling throughout the body and the mind.

Let’s start with a look at the concept of relaxation – what it’s not is lying around on a Sunday or watching television all weekend. How many times have we done that, and woken on Monday morning feeling as though we have no energy, no power, no force for the week ahead, even though we have assumed we have ‘relaxed’.

The fact is, you did not relax at all. Your mind would have been full of past incidents, mulling and angonising until your train of thought is on a high negative power trip. Or you fill your thoughts with concerns about the future (that meeting on Tuesday, the report to be completed, a conflict to be resolved, etc). The lists go on. But often lying on the couch or running around the park does not necessarily motivate, re-energise or prepare you for the week to come.

The answer is to learn the real art of relaxation: how to do nothing with intensity and purpose. That sounds contradictory, but worrying about the future or past are continuous mental activities that create unnecessary stress, and often keep us awake at night. To be in a state of harmony, we need to seek balance: enough activity during the day to create the right tone and desire for sleep – and getting enough sleep at night to give you the energy for the day’s activity. A circle, a whole, a balance – creating a sense of upliftment and harmony of spirit. And this feeling can be achieved by training the mind to work in tune with the body’s movements, and vice versa.

Lifestyle changes are not always easy to effect – that’s why when you practice Sophrology, you will begin with simple exercises of mind and body, slowly moving them into sync, aligning the essence of your inner being to deliver a daily regime of re-energising. And you don’t want to spend hours trying to do this. Sophrology uses a blend of Eastern philosophies such as Zen Buddhism, yoga and meditation, plus the power of the present moment, to engage mind and body with interwoven relaxation techniques.

Bringing the mind and body into concentrated synchronicity connects your consciousness with an inner wisdom. You can tap into a sense of calm by using the focus of the present moment. There are several ways to bring the power of that moment to bear through simple techniques such as a walk in a forest or by the sea, using your thoughts to move in tandem with the movements of bone and muscle. Synchronise your breathing with each step, hone your thoughts with the regular motion of the body. Breathe, walk, listen; feel the energy rise with the rhythm of your whole being.

Simple exercises to tone mind and muscles

Breathing: Deep breathing reduces blood pressure, a key-point to good health and a feeling of relaxation. Begin by using tummy breath because it is the best type of breathing: you allow your tummy to expand when you breathe in, and deflate when you breathe out. Take each breath consciously and slowly, focusing on the inner workings of your body. Inhale for four seconds by inflating the belly. Exhale while pulling in the tummy gradually. Hold for 4 seconds again before returning to normal breath.

Body tension: Focus on the forehead and face to begin with. Breathe deep and let the air out of your mouth. As you do so think of the physical expulsion of that air, envision negative energies leaving your body. Then repeat this with different parts of the body in focus. Visualise while you are breathing: a beautiful land or seascape, ribbons of colour and joy. Bring good memories into play. Then impose relaxing, uplifting images on the day ahead. Imagine a calm, harmonious day, with everything going well and in accordance with good thoughts.

Sophrology: an old route to a new you

Currently revitalised as one of the most popular wellness trends in the world, Sophrology translates to the “the study of conscious harmony”. It is essentially a holistic system, including physical and mental exercises, which promotes health, well-being, relaxation, and alertness.

Founded in the 1960s by Alfonso Caycedo, a professor of Psychiatry and Neurology in Madrid, Sophrology was first created to treat war veterans suffering from PTSD and depression. Combining techniques from Zen, yoga, meditation and hypnosis, the system allows participants to release and redirect challenging emotions. Positive effects include: more focus, less stress, better sleep, more self-confidence, improved chronic conditions, and greater happiness.

In 2006, Dorna Revie, founded Energy Centre, the first school in the world to offer Sophrologist diploma courses in English. Sophrology Center Online, the newest of Dorna’s projects, has been established to meet the growing demand from around the world.

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