Being Mama: Dominique Antiglio
We chill out with entrepreneur, bestselling author and Sophrologist Dominique Antiglio, the mother of one sharing her simple, soothing practice with parents the world over.
“Trains and high heels” are the current preoccupation for almost-four-year-old Eliott, who adorably assures his mother that he won’t ruin her shoes as he smuggles them out of her cupboard. “Which is so cute!” says Dominique Antiglio, describing her little shoe thief as “joyful, caring, engaged” and an occasional night owl. “He still wakes up at night sometimes to check if we are around so that has been my main challenge as a parent, especially as my work doesn’t allow me afternoon naps.”
Dominique is the founder of BeSophro, a London-based medical clinic and online platform sharing the benefits of Sophrology – a practice consisting of simple physical and mental exercises that’s been dubbed the ‘dynamic alternative’ to mindfulness. Created by Alfonso Caycedo, a Colombian doctor working in Spain during the ’60s, Sophrology has long been embraced by continental Europe and, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Dominique and her team, is spreading its calming effect throughout the UK and beyond.
“I founded BeSophro eight years ago to support as many people as possible with the practice of Sophrology in English to transform, find balance and happiness,” says Dominique, who has also authored The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology and regularly shares her expertise on stress-management, self-development and birth preparation.
Born in Switzerland, Dominique was first introduced to Sophrology as a teen. “At 15 I was constantly tired, suffering from infections that wouldn’t clear and regular fainting episodes,” she says. “My daily life had become a real struggle, compounded by the concern that my doctor couldn’t diagnose what was going on with me.”
Dominique’s doctor suggested she see a Sophrologist – something she had never heard of. “In my Sophrology sessions I totally transformed. Not only physically was my health fully recovered but I had a profound breakthrough where I realized I could be in the driving seat of my life. I felt so empowered, confident and positive.”
Dominique started her career in osteopathy, deepening her understanding of the mind-body connection – “an essential pillar in Sophrology” – before becoming a qualified Sophrologist at age 27. Her husband, Fred, entered the scene while she was studying. “Even though we are both Swiss I managed to convince him to move to London as I felt there would be great opportunities for us here. It was very exhilarating for us both to have a completely fresh start.”
Here Dominique would launch BeSophro clinics in Mayfair, South Kensington and Earl’s Court. “I created BeSophro to inspire and give people simple tools to transform their lives,” she says, explaining that a little Sophrology goes a long way. On busier days she’ll practice in a taxi on her way to a speaking event or meeting, or while lying in bed before going to sleep.
“Just five to 10 minutes a day will help everyone, even those who struggle with meditation, yogic practice or therapy. Sophrology offers simple ways to relax, let go of tension, build positivity, improve sleep, reduce anxiety and boost confidence. It is also a great way to prepare for future events such as speeches and presentations, exams, sports competition or birth preparation.”
On the topic of her own pregnancy, Dominique says: “Overall, it was a lovely experience. I was really aware of maximizing my chance to be healthy and avoid stress, so I took lots of time off, went to the south of France, closed my business for a while and made the most of it. I ate very healthy and nutritious food, did osteopathy and gentle yoga listening to mantras and Indian chanting which I love. I also walked in London parks until a few weeks before the birth when I couldn’t go very far anymore as my tummy felt so heavy!”
Eliott’s birth came at the end of a long and difficult labor, resulting in a c-section. “It truly tested my body, mind and soul,” says Dominique. “The preparation I did with Sophrology allowed me to tap into my resilience so I could heal more quickly, and most importantly accept, feel at peace and proud of the experience life gave me.”
As Dominique points out, Sophrology doesn’t only prepare expectant mothers for a natural birth, rather, “it provides you with the tools to take whatever unfolds in your stride”.
Like many a new mother, her early days with Eliott were spent endlessly breastfeeding. “At one point I was ready to let go of it, but I am so glad I didn’t, as it created a very special bond.” She breastfed Eliott until he was nine months but, every day, allowed herself to “re-decide” if she wanted to continue or not. “It was important to me that I felt it was my choice every day because I wanted to, and it was beneficial for both of us, not because of any other external pressure.”
The uncertainties of early parenthood are something she hopes to shed more light on. “I feel we don’t speak enough about the fear that can kick in at any time. When you love someone so much and want the best for your children, especially when they are very small, it can be challenging until you have a new routine in place and start to feel more confident and in control of the situation.”
For Dominique and Fred, this means sharing parental responsibilities and sticking to what they’re good at. “Our dynamic tends to be that I plan things ahead and Fred helps me to implement the steps,” she says. “We sit down regularly with our diaries – like my parents used to do when my sister and I were little. We look at the overall balance everyone needs in the family, what are the important things and the less important things. We learned to say no to the things that were not essential to be able to live an enjoyable pace of life.”
As a general rule, every day starts and ends with a cuddle for Eliott. “Hugs and sharing about how we feel is very welcome in our family. We have clear routines for Eliott around bath and bed time and Fred and I take turns as we each love that special time playing, chatting and reading stories with him. We also ensure that we all sit down at the table to eat meals as much as possible together. Apart from that we very much go with the flow, depending on how we feel each day and what is possible at that moment.”
Having grown up in a small, Swiss town, Dominique strives to bring a slower, stress-free pace to her son’s life. “I try and take Eliott to the London parks as much as I can especially on the weekend so he can feel the freedom of running around and playing with other children outside. Hampstead Heath is a family favourite – you can find us there most Saturdays.”
Her advice for other working mothers trying to strike a healthy balance is: “Don’t blame or judge yourself. Life is about learning and evolving and every crisis is an opportunity to grow. Start by practicing Sophrology for just 5 to 10 minutes a day over 15 days and see what comes from that. We all have endless resources inside us ready to emerge with the practice. Also talk to a friend, a partner, a mother, a therapist or someone in a shop nearby. Share how you feel and don’t try to figure it out all on your own, there is a lot of compassion and wisdom out there when we look for it.”
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