Ishana Maharaj explains the benefits of sophrology – a method used to release stress, tension and anxiety – during your cancer journey.
Sophrology is a new concept in South Africa, however, it has a successful history. For over 55 years, it has been widely adopted in France, Switzerland, UK and Spain.
Origination of sophrology
While Professor Alfonso Caycedo was studying in Spain, he developed a method without the use of medication to improve the physical and mental health of traumatised war victims. In 1960, the neuropsychiatrist named this method – sophrology. Derived from the Greek terms: SOS (serenity/harmony), PHREN (spirit/consciousness) and LOGOS (science/study), it means the ‘study of consciousness in harmony’.
What is sophrology?
Sophrology is a well-being technique that enables the mind, body and spirit to work simultaneously, enabling relaxation in movement, which is called Dynamic Relaxation.
It comprises breathing techniques, simple and effective exercises, visualisations, mindfulness/meditation, and additional techniques that can be done in various sitting positions, standing or lying down (if fatigued).
As a result, all organs, glands, bones, muscles, skin, cells and systems of the body are harmonised and rejuvenated.Exercise techniques are specifically customised to focus on different parts of the body, depending on the patient’s need.
Sophrology includes four levels. Note, you, the patient, do not have to complete all four levels to benefit.
Level 1 – Body awareness
- Body/breathing awareness
- Improve concentration, confidence, sleep and self-esteem
- Reduce stress/anxiety
- Activate skin cells
Level 2 – Mind and five senses
- Mind/brain exercises
- Positive goals and achievements
- Focus on muscles
- How five senses link to mind
- Transformation of mind/body/spirit
Level 3 – Emotions
- Explore inner/outer world
- Focus on bones/cell structures
- Emotional link of mind and body control
- Manage emotions
Level 4 – Values
- Completion of the phronic region
- Complete transformation
- Focus on organs
- Awareness/living of values
- Help decision making
What happens in a sophrology session?
First, in individual sessions, a once-off goal oriented questionnaire is completed by the patient. The sophrologist analyses it, then customises exercises to suit the patient’s needs.
These specific exercise techniques are demonstrated, without the sophrologist touching the patient. The patient is also provided with other necessary information.
The exercise session starts with a breathing technique, then goes on to a full mindful body screening, tension release of each system, ending with breathing and exercise techniques.
Each exercise takes 20 to 30 minutes, which can be done daily, or three times a week.
Group sessions can also be done with patients.
How does sophrology help a cancer patient/survivor?
Cancer is often one of the most stressful experiences in a person’s life. Coping with cancer can be more challenging with added stress from work, family and financial concerns. Many cancer patients fear whether the treatment will work and the side effects of treatment. Another major fear is that the cancer may return after treatment.
Therefore, this constant worry causes patients to focus on every symptom they have, even if it is not cancer related. This leads to patients’ lifestyles and peace of mind being negatively impacted due to an increase in stress, tension and anxiety.
- Improves your ability to cope and manage trauma, depression, stress, tension and anxiety.
- Enables you to be in control of your body, mind and spirit.
- Helps you to overcome your fears.
- Keeps you calm, relaxed, manages pain endurance, improves oxygen intake and blood circulation. This also helps relieve muscle/bone/organ soreness or stiffness.
- Aids the body to recover, therefore strengthening your physical and mental well-being.
- Enhances your self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Improves the quality of your sleep and energy levels, so that you can continue with your daily routine and do things you want to do.
- Strengthens and improves all systems of the body – lymphatic; immune; digestive; endocrine; renal; muscular; nervous; cardiovascular/respiratory; and reproductive – to optimise future functionality.
MEET OUR EXPERT – Ishana Maharaj
Ishana Maharaj studied sophrology in Geneva, Switzerland, and is the first sophrologist in Johannesburg. Her ultimate passion is to help, support and share her knowledge and experiences of this renowned holistic well-being practice with people.