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When you feel stressed, anxious, or angry, have you ever heard your friends, family, or loved ones say, “Just breathe?”
Does this make you wonder how something that comes and goes naturally can help relax?
This is because breathing shifts the focus from the flight and fight response and makes you mindful of what’s happening. This reduces the heightened sense of stress, anxiety, anger, and other negative emotions.
One can practice different types of breathing exercises to calm the mind. However, today’s post will discuss one basic breathing technique called box breathing.
But what is it? Is it like sitting inside a box and then breathing? That is not the case; box breathing is an ancient, easy-to-follow four-step breathing process that can be practiced anywhere. Once practiced and added to your daily routine, you can settle your nerves and deal with agitation, irritation, and other negative emotions.
What is Box Breathing?
Also known as Sama Vritti pranayam, it is a form of deep yogic breathing that helps relieve stress. In this four-count breathing technique, the focus is on breathing. You inhale for four counts, hold it for four counts, exhale for four counts, and then hold it for another four counts. Like a box with four sides, this breathing technique is also done for four counts and four times.
It is also known as 4×4 breathing, 4-4-4-4 breathing, equal breathing, four-square breathing, and square breathing.
The technique physically changes your breathing and makes it slow and deeper, forcing the mind to pay attention to breathing consciously. When in tension or stress, this breathing technique helps.
Benefits of Box Breathing
Box breathing offers several advantages, and relaxation is prominent among them. When a person is stressed or tensed, breathing gets shallow or fast. This lowers the carbon dioxide levels in the body, making you feel lightheaded. By practicing box breathing, you can focus on breath-taking deep and gentle breaths from the belly. This decreases stress levels, and also the physiological consequences are minimized. Box breathing helps quickly escape fight or flight mode as the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, helping the body return to rest.
Activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System
When stressed, the sympathetic nervous system is on high alert. Box breathing helps come out of that state and reduces anxiety and stress. When the focus is on breathing, the parasympathetic nervous system activates, and it helps a person to focus on those that do not pose an immediate threat.
Calms the Mind
One does not have to be stressed to enjoy the benefits of box breathing. The technique can be practiced daily as it allows being mindful of how you breathe. When added to the daily routine, you feel more relaxed and live in the present moment.
Helps Pause Negative Thoughts
Besides calming the mind and helping relieve stress, box breathing helps concentrate on important things. This breathing method helps de-clutter the headspace responsible for anxiety and imbalance in life. When you focus on breathing, the thoughts that haunt, upset, or overwhelm are paused, and you can think straight. As the breathing gets slow, the deep brain feels relaxed and can concentrate on important things rather than unhelpful mind chatter.
Focus on the Present Moment.
Worrying about the past and future makes one anxious. Another benefit of the box breathing method is that it makes one mindful. As the concentration is on breathing and the four-count mantra is repeated, one can anchor oneself in the present moment. This helps identify unhelpful thoughts and work on self-affirmation leading to a balanced and calmer life.
How to do Box Breathing
Box breathing meditation is not something that needs years of practice and training. You can get started with it easily and at any time. As you finish reading this article, do so if you feel like trying it. You don’t need a specific time, place, or mindset to breathe. Give it a try and feel the magic. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit comfortably either in a chair or on the floor. However, if you can’t find a place to sit, you can just stand with your shoulders relaxed.
- Bring your attention to your breath.
- As you start to notice your breathing, it slows down.
- Now start inhaling and count to four. Ensure you breathe for four counts. Do not rush. Feel your stomach expanding with air.
- Hold this breath for four counts and only concentrate on counting till four.
- Exhale through the mouth by slowly counting to four.
- Hold your breath again for four more counts.
- Repeat the cycle till you feel relaxed.
Do not rush while counting; count as slowly as you can. At first, it might feel strange but don’t think about anything. Just pay attention to counting and your breath. If you cannot inhale or exhale for four counts or hold your breath for four counts, don’t worry. Just relax it is not a competition, try again. If you can do it for three counts now, you will slowly be able to do it till four counts.
Don’t consider it a task. Make it part of your daily routine and see how things start to work. This technique even helps me meditate, manifest, and visualize things. So, don’t stress over it; just pay attention to breathing, and the count and things will start to work out.
Check out this guided box breathing video below to give it a try.
Box Breathing – Keep practicing
At first, you might be unable to hold your breath for four steady counts. But it is not something you should worry about. As you practice the box breathing technique, you will get better at it. You’ll see that you can count slowly and hold your breath. Box breathing surely helps calm the mind and even makes one understand the triggers and how to deal with them.