Breath-work has been revered for centuries as a tool for wellbeing. Modern science now proves its powerful effects on our minds and bodies. This series highlights special breathing techniques that invigorate, relax and restore.
What is box breathing?
Box breathing is a simple relaxation technique that involves inhaling, exhaling and retaining the breath for equal lengths of time. Also known as four-square breathing, this paced and rhythmic breath has four stages. These can be practised while visualising the four sides of a box – hence its name.
Box breathing is a calming technique that helps to minimise stress and improve mood. It is so effective that it has been used by US Navy SEALs to support soldiers dealing with high-pressure situations.
Its rhythmic pattern soothes the autonomic nervous system and helps to control hyperventilation (which can happen when we are upset or anxious). Bringing the breath into a regulated rhythm cues our minds and bodies to feel safe and at ease. Visualising the box as you breathe enhances these benefits by helping to focus and clear the mind.
Box breathing is a great technique to use if you’re feeling stressed, panicked or overwhelmed. It is also a wonderful tool for those with insomnia. And its relaxing effects can be enjoyed by everyone for a feeling of peace throughout the day.
How to practice
1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position.
2. Release all of the air from your lungs.
3. Inhale deeply and evenly for a count of 4.
4. Hold the breath for a count of 4.
5. Exhale all of the air from your lungs for a count of 4.
6. Keep your lungs empty for a count of 4.
7. If you like, visualise tracing a line across the four sides of a box, one at a time, in step with the four stages of the breath.
8. Repeat the process from the beginning. Continue the breath work for anywhere from 1-10 minutes.