Carla Forth, Sophrologist and Stress Management Wellbeing Consultant at The Stress Solution has kindly written the following guest post for us about her experience of Sophrology, and how it has helped her in her personal and professional life…
When I first started my Sophrology journey with The Sophrology Academy in 2011, I had no idea where it would lead. Having recently qualified as a Kundalini Yoga & Meditation Teacher, the method resonated with me, both as a means to continue developing my self-awareness, and to work on body-mind consciousness. However, it was Sophrology’s accessibility, broad functionality and positive focus that really appealed to me.
My decision to sign up for the Sophrology Academy diploma centred around these aims of personal discovery and wellbeing, rather than with the intention of teaching it.
From learning …to teaching Sophrology
However, from the very first weekend, I knew that it was something I wanted to share, to help others as much as it was helping me. The diploma provided so many opportunities for practice, self-discovery and growth and I felt incredibly enriched by it.
Since then, my Sophrology journey has been quite an adventure! I’ve had the privilege of helping hundreds of people with various issues working with different organisations; I’ve delivered a Sophrology session on stage to over 200 people; provided Sophrology lessons to over 400 pupils in a primary school; ran several Sophrology and wellbeing interventions for a large housing association …and more recently, I’ve travelled to Doha to provide sessions to journalists as part of my client’s new service launch.
And, on top of this, I built deep relationships with some amazing people along the way!
My circle of Sophrologist friends has grown wider over the last thirteen years; from those I met on the diploma, to others I have come to know from CPD courses, and through platforms like LinkedIn.
For me, it has been important to have that social Sophrology circle. It feels good to be in regular contact with people who understand what we do, and who specialise in other areas so that I can refer clients on. It has also been great to feel connected and to be able to ask for help when I have questions or become ‘stuck’. Importantly, however, having other Sophrologists as friends has also been an incredibly important part of my self-care.
Taking care of self-care
As the saying goes, it’s important to “Put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others.” This has been one of my greatest lessons – looking after myself before others. Helping other people has always felt as natural as breathing, but being able to help myself – that’s a very different story! And I know this is something a lot of people struggle with, particularly women. I have had to rebalance that tendency, so that I now factor my own needs first, as much as I can, into my life structure.
Getting a real understanding of your own self-care needs is so important, especially as you begin to work with others to ensure your ‘tanks’ are full – or at least not depleted. Asking yourself what is important to you in terms of your wellbeing, and how you would like to feel, can help you to discern what will help you.
Having a daily ‘check-in’
I usually schedule self-care or wellbeing activities into my day, and then check in with myself daily as to how I feel and what I want to do. Self-care can look different for all of us, and what we need can change dependent upon many factors: how much time we have; our mood; the season, and what our daily structure or responsibilities look like.
Personally, during the Summer I feel like doing more outdoor activities, more aerobic-type exercise, prefer showers over baths, and eat lighter foods – but sometimes more of them. So, having some form of regular practice can really help create a structure throughout the passing months and seasons.
The importance of regular practice
Further, having a daily awareness practice can help us to discern what other self-care practices we might need. The Sophrology we do for ourselves can help develop our self-awareness, allowing us to be more in tune with our body to understand how best to care for ourselves. It can keep us more positive, focused and on track, and help us feel more grounded and rooted, along with all the other benefits we know Sophrology delivers.
To grow as a Sophrologist in how we work with others, I believe we need to first grow in our own practice. A regular practice doesn’t necessarily have to be Sophrology – although that makes perfect sense if we can – but tapping into other modalities like yoga, or traditional meditation, can help us in our self-development, as can art, nature, sports, and other activities.
For me, my yoga and meditation practice informed my Sophrology practice and vice-versa, and all provide a sound structure for my own self-care.
That said, life events can get in the way, affecting how consistent we are with it.
As in life, our practice is rarely a straight path.
When practice meets resistance
Whilst we usually know what does us good, we may not always do it; whether we deliberately take a break, are too busy, or ill, or are distracted, moving onto something else. I have certainly experienced all of those.
On some occasions, when I’m not practising, I recognise that my resistance often appears when I am moving my boundaries or approaching something new. The mind prefers to stick to what it knows, so it can cruise on autopilot, rather than to face the uncertainty of the unknown.
‘Showing up’ for your own wellbeing
What I have learned, however, is that as you become aware that your practice has waned or stopped altogether, it’s important to be gentle with yourself, as you explore what is, or has, been going on for you.
Then begin again, perhaps slowly – taking baby steps, if you need to, with shorter session times or just by doing one or two exercises. This is a good approach after an illness or other significant life event, taking an easy, non-judgmental approach to it.
Sometimes I like to think of my practice as a friend that I show up for, or that I am setting an appointment with myself which I need to take seriously, just as I would a session with a client. This is really helpful, as it enables me to attend to my own needs with the same care and compassion that I give to those I support.
The power of learning from others
My attitude towards my practice has evolved over the years, and I have been greatly influenced and informed by others. Undertaking the Practitioner Diploma allowed me to experience several different Sophrology Practitioner teachers, and to gain experience from, and with, others to help build our collective skills, expertise, and confidence. We all experience Sophrology differently and have our own way of guiding people!
This, in turn, can help us to learn new ways of practising, and to become more comfortable in our role as a Sophrologist. Although I love being guided differently by other people, it has helped me to recognise that the way I share the practice is unique to me, having developed it through my own deeply personal relationship with Sophrology.
from other Sophrologists
Having completed the diploma, however, I can say that it can be incredibly helpful and enjoyable to continue to experience being guided by different Sophrology Practitioners beyond your training. (See the end of this blog for opportunities to experience being guided by other Sophrologists).
For example, joining Audrey Zannese, Education Director at The Sophrology Academy as a participant on her 12-week Ultimate Wellbeing Programme (also below), it felt great to return to the start again; to be guided, and to journey with another group of people.
In fact, our relationship developed further following the programme as we went on to work together.
Collaborating can be fun
Audrey and I recently joined forces to develop a programme – an introduction to Sophrology to help manage stress, specifically for corporates. Putting together a compressed 6-week course was as much fun, as it was, educational, and I took a lot from the experience.
If you feel that collaborating with someone would be good for you, you could always contact a Sophrologist who is working in your area, or an area you have interest in and explore opportunities. Collaboration is a great tool for building confidence, and an excellent way to develop relationships with other Sophrologists.
Due to the adaptability and functionality of Sophrology, it can be used to help, treat, manage, and develop so many areas of our life. The difficulty here, is that it can be hard to decide where to specialise …if that’s what you wish to do.
If you’re unsure as to whether you wish to specialise, I would suggest taking some time with your business to gain experience as a generalist. This will give you the opportunity to work with different people and issues and get a feel for what areas resonate with you.
Finding your niche from experience…
The desire to specialise often originates from our own experiences and struggles, and our desire to help others with similar issues. But for other Sophrologists, their area of specialism may lie in a completely new area. Again, the journey is entirely your own.
However, regardless of what area you choose to focus on, don’t be afraid to reach out to other Sophrologists; speak to them and have a look at their websites, and study their professional approach. This can also help to gain a wider perspective as to what you might want to focus on in the future for your Continued Professional Development (CPD).
Continuing Professional Development
Why undertake CPD courses? These represent a commitment to yourself and those you serve, to keep developing your skills and knowledge in the areas that you want to work in.
Through CPD, you track and document the skills, knowledge and experience that you gain both formally and informally as you work beyond any initial training you have undertaken.
Sophrology Academy courses and programmes
The Sophrology Academy offers a wide range of post-diploma courses and programmes, helping you to develop your skills as a Sophrologist, and to enable you to explore more deeply, the areas that you work in, or have an interest to develop further.
For example, this might be working with the elderly, helping people with eating disorders, sports and performance, working with corporates, or gaining more confidence with burnout, sleep issues, or anxiety.
Interestingly, CPD can include other non-Sophrology subjects that can help you broaden your scope of experience as a Sophrologist; these include neuroscience, coaching, mindfulness and mindfulness-related courses; all can help develop your skills as a Sophrologist.
Opportunities to experience Sophrology
Below are some suggestions for those who either want to learn more about Sophrology, or who are seeking a way to reintroduce Sophrology into their lives.
Free Online Monthly Sophrology Taster Sessions
On the first Tuesday of each month, from 7pm to 8pm, on Zoom, I deliver a free Sophrology taster session. Each month is different and has a different theme to make it interesting for those who have experienced Sophrology before, or for Sophrologists who would like to be guided or experience being guided by someone different.
To book or to ask for further information, email Carla at Carla@thestresssolutionsophrology.co.uk or visit her website.
The Wellbeing Club
The Wellbeing Club meets every fortnight, on a Monday evening from 7pm to 8pm on Zoom. The idea behind it is to help participants to develop a ‘wellbeing way of life.’
As we know with Sophrology, it is repetition that is the foundation, that our wellbeing can grow from, and so the session is focused on sustainable wellbeing through practice, fun and growth. To book or find out more you can email Carla at Carla@thestresssolutionsophrology.co.uk or visit her website.
Happy Practice Club
The Happy Practice Club, led by Audrey Zannese, meets every fortnight, on a Tuesday evening from 6pm to 7pm and is for sophrologists focused on continuing your practice and wellbeing. To find out more you can email Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website.
Online Sophrology Sessions with Florence Parot
A monthly online session led by Florence, the Founder of The Sophrology Academy, to help you better manage or release stress, pressure and fatigue, and feel calmer and more focused. The monthly sessions are either on a Thursday at 5pm or Friday at 3pm.
Please see www.sophroacademy.co.uk/events for more information.
12-week Ultimate Wellbeing Programme with Audrey Zannese
If you are interested in joining Audrey’s next programme on Monday 2nd October 2023, please email her email@example.com.
I hope that my experiences and observations might encourage you to look more deeply into how you practise your self-care, and – if you are new to Sophrology – to explore this simple but incredibly effective method in more depth, as a way of maintaining your own health and wellbeing.
Want to know more about training as a Sophrologist? Find out more about programmes and download our mini-prospectus on our Training Programmes and Courses page.