Interview – Laurence from Sophrosan

Can you please tell us who you are and what exactly is Sophrology – Mindfulness.

First of all, I would like to thank you Delphine for giving me this wonderful opportunity to present myself and my activities, dear to my heart.

My name is Laurence Haffmans. I am French and I have been living in Amsterdam for 20 years now. I am the mother of 2 teenagers.

Certified instructor of mindfulness for children and teenagers trained in the popular Eline Snel’s methodology “Sitting Still Like a Frog – Mindfulness Matters!” ,  I am also a trained sophrologist-relaxologist specialized in sleep problems, tinnitus/hyperacousis, burnout (pre and post) and perinatal (fertility, pregnancy, parenthood).

Between Western relaxation and Eastern meditation, Sophrology is a structured method which gives you a very practical set of tools using relaxation and breathing techniques, concentration, positive visualization and gentle body movements (performed standing up or sitting down) to build one’s self-confidence, to effectively manage stress and to develop a positive attitude.

I was introduced to Sophrology following the death of my mother (cancer) in 2010. Sophrology proved to be a wonderful tool. Through Sophrology, I realized that we should not long for one moment of great happiness, or one exceptional event. However, happiness lies in these everyday moments spent with family, friends, enjoying the beauty of nature, a simple bike ride…

Mindfulness has numerous similarities with sophrology. Originally a Buddhist practice, mindfulness, which can also be called presence of mind or attentiveness to the present moment is a “conscience state resulting from the attention paid, intentionally, on the present moment, without judgment, on experience unfolding itself, moment after moment” (Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2003). It is a matter of paying attention to things as they are and not as we would like them to be.

Why the name sophrosan?

Sophrosan is in French the abbreviation of Sophrologie and Santé (Health) as I truly believe that sophrology has a positive impact on health thanks to the unique connection between body and mind.

How did you come up with the idea of working (especially) with children?

Since you can never start too early, and since sophrology is part of mindfulness, I decided to specialize as a mindfulness trainer for children and teenagers. I am deeply convinced that it is the best way to equip children and teenagers for their present and future lives and I believe that it is one of the most precious presents we can ever give them. This way they will learn that there is always a quiet place within themselves. 

I chose to follow a specific training course, validated by both the scientific community and the Enfance et Attention (Childhood and Attention) association. This method, created by Eline Snel is called “Mindfulness matters!”. It allows trainers to teach mindfulness to children at school as well as in private groups. I am a certified instructor and a member of the Academy for Mindful Teaching (AMT).

Can you tell us what a family can expect from your sessions? How do you work?

First of all I would like to insist on the fact that it’s very important that the child himself wants to attend the sessions. If there is no motivation, it’s going to be really complicated especially as practice is part of the method.

It’s a nice moment for himself, a kind of quality time, a place where he can express himself without any judgment. As the method is really playful, I must say that usually children love it!

« Mindfulness matters » offers programs that are adapted to 4 age groups: 4-7 years’ old, 8-11 years ‘old, 12-14 years ‘old, 15 years ‘old and more.

At the end of each session, I send an email to parents with a short recap of the topic covered and some suggestions of quick and simple exercises for the child to rehearse, 5 to 10 minutes daily (either alone or with his parents). Whenever the child feels stressed, nervous or can’t fall asleep, he has at his disposal several easy exercises that he can rehearse by himself. It is important that at least one of the parents is involved to accompany and support the child in his practice. In order to optimize the rehearsals at home and hence improve results, it is highly recommended to read the book «Sitting still like a Frog » along with the cd containing the exercises.

The weekly sessions take place over a period of 8 to 10 weeks depending upon the age of the child. Sessions last from 45 minutes to an hour, once again depending on the participant and his ability to concentrate. Each session is composed of a practical exercise to focus attention on breathing, thoughts, emotions or body awareness, along with movements, tales and discussions around the topic of the session.

For each session, a different topic is chosen, always with the frog, sitting still as a connecting thread.

As the program is structured and progressive, it is essential that the child attend each of the initially planned sessions.

When and where are the sessions?

As the sessions are individual, the child and his parents are able to choose the day and the time they prefer, depending of course on my availability.

I always advise not to plan too many activities so it should be, preferably, a day without any other activity.

The sessions take place at my house in Amsterdam Zuid, not far from the Apollolaan.

Can you tell us what makes you Happy?

Many things make me happy, I should say moments, for instance when I stroke my cats, when I walk along the canal next to our house and I see baby ducks, when I feel the sun on my skin, when I sing in the car with my daughters and husband “Il jouait du piano debout” from France Gall, when I have a nice conversation with you Delphine, when I am with the people I love… 

credit photos: Bekir Dönmez – joel-thorne – anna-kolosyuk – & Laurence from Sophrosan