I met Joanne through BeSophro’s social media. She commented on using the practice of Sophrology through my book “The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology” and how beneficial this was for her. We decided to meet at my practice in London so I could learn more about how Sophrology is transforming her experience of life and also because it is really nice to meet my readers! Thank you, Joanne, for sharing this conversation with me.
D: Lovely to meet you, thank you for being here. How did you first find out about Sophrology?
J: I found about Sophrology through a very good friend of mine and then, by pure chance, in Primrose Hill Book shop I saw the book and I bought it last summer, slowly started reading it and navigated to your website.
D: What attracted you to Sophrology, or what in the book made you think ‘I want to give this a try?!’
J: Your opening story about being at school and being worried about exams, because it brought me back to my teenage self. I used to always worry, I worried too much – I am a natural worrier. I remember thinking “God, I’d like to try something to tackle that worry” because all the other techniques I tried before like CBT weren’t quite for me, so it was your story mainly.
D: So you decided to start the practice and how long have you now practised for?
J: I’ve been practising every day, I probably only missed about three days. I have practised every day since early March 2019 (our interview is in May 2019). I spent the first six weeks really exploring just the three basic exercises: The Clearing Breath, Foundation and The Body Scan, I did nothing else! Then I went back and re-read some sections and then, about five weeks ago, I decided to do Level 1 and Level 2 practice in the mornings, just when I get up because I have time at the moment. I’ve noticed that moving the body seems to be quite powerful for me as well as The Clearing Breath exercise.
D: So you do your 10-12 minutes using the recordings that go with the book?
J: I go about my day and then, sometimes if I am too busy, I remind myself: “I haven’t done my Sophrology!” so when I go home, even before dinner I do it for ten minutes. Or sometimes my partner laughs: “Are you doing that Sophrology again?” he walks into the room and your voice is on – he says, “you go ahead, do your Sophrology”!
D: When did you realise over this process that something was starting to shift for you through the practice and what were the benefits for you?
J: I noticed quite early on, within the first week, with The Clearing Breath exercise, I had a lighter feeling in my head, and a slight shift in my thoughts early on. My “worried brain” is in the morning; I worry about work or whatever else. I found that it was shifting my thoughts to become more positive. My breath can be quite shallow even though I’m not a smoker, and The Clearing Breath for me really acts quite quickly, quite powerful.
D: And when you went into Level 1, how did you notice it was helping you?
J: Very interesting. Yes, I noticed when I was doing the Level 1 it helped me very quickly. I think I purposely told myself: don’t try, just do. I worry in my stomach, that’s been there since childhood so the movements are helping to release it. And then, what happened was, I didn’t think about it so I didn’t want to bias myself during the day, but what I did notice sometimes if things went wrong I wasn’t as reactive and was more aware I can change my thoughts later on. It’s had a very subtle way of doing it. I have noticed that, in certain social situations, I feel calmer. Some people have even said it to me “God, you seem really calm!”
D: I have noticed you are a musician, what do you play?
J: I play Irish folk music on the violin. I am a little bit of a perfectionist, I learned a lot of tunes by ear! With the violin, there’s a lot of positioning and you’ve got to have body awareness. Practising Sophrology has given me more bodily awareness in my instrument. So I’ve noticed, even when I’m out, my bowing has become more fluid, it has gone into my body creatively. Sometimes if I play in my kitchen where I have really good acoustics I’ve noticed my bowing becoming more…(pause) I am calmer in my instrument.
D: You started the visualisation exercise in relation to the future, have you noticed a change in your outlook on the future?
J: Since five months, I am tackling uncertainty in relation to my professional life, so in a way, I feel I am stress-testing the Sophrology method. Uncertainty for me would normally make me go “my God!” Even my partner said to me the other day “One thing I’ve really noticed about you is your anxiety, you seem to be regulating it really well, so Sophrology is good for you”. The bit I need now to work further on with visualisation is those times where I can get really upset in relation to an experience at work. What I feel I need to do is to tap into something positive and counteract those thoughts. Sophrology made me less afraid of experiencing uncertainty and helping me navigate that feeling which is probably one of the most terrifying feelings for me.
D: I feel Sophrology is not supposed to make everything right all the time, it’s sometimes just the ability to live through the experience in the most comfortable way rather than perhaps changing everything…
D: What’s your favourite exercise with Sophrology, if you had to pick one?
J: For some reason, I really love The Clearing Breath, I feel it’s clearing everything, it’s very soothing. Actually, one which I haven’t tried yet but love the sound of it is The Bubble. I’d love to know more because I have started reading, there seems to be so much more to do, I’d love to know more. I am so curious now; I am re-reading the book very slowly because when you read something for the first time you are not going to remember everything.
D: Thank you. Can I ask you a last question? (J nodding yes) I am always trying to define Sophrology for people who actually don’t know Sophrology. That’s one of the biggest hurdles I have in translating the work from France, Switzerland and Belgium to English-speaking countries. People here already have mindfulness, they have yoga, and they’re trying to understand where Sophrology fits in this landscape and what are the differences or the similarities. For you, what’s the difference between Sophrology and other meditative methods or other self-development practices?
J: Very good question, because I tried mindfulness and I sometimes do Yoga. Yoga Nidra is very, very powerful. I think Sophrology for me is a rediscovery of my subconscious mind, it’s like looking at it through the lens and not being critical, it’s trying to be kind to it again because I’ve been unkind to my subconscious mind by worrying and anxiety. So, it’s like opening up my subconscious mind and having a look and trying to make it feel better. That’s what it feels like.
DA: That’s beautiful, lovely, thank you! Thank you so much for all the support, I really enjoyed chatting with you. Thank you!
Please don’t hesitate to share your experience of the practice through BeSophro’s social media, I am always happy to hear from my readers!