Calm stress and anxiety with box breathing

The present moment is all we will ever have – Eckhart Tolle.

This box breathing technique is used by yogis, Navy Seals, police, first responders, and high performance athletes to calm the breath and focus the mind because it is such a powerful stress reliever.

Box breathing is a simple technique that you can do any time you feel stress and anxiety. Focused breathing calms nerves and relieves stress by helping to regulate the autonomic nervous system.

The Goal: to put the belly, not the chest, into action

We know that diaphragmic breathing (breathing into the belly) is linked to the nervous system and it brings us to that parasympathetic state of ‘rest and digest’.

While box breathing is extremely effective at lowering the heart rate faster than chest breathing, it is no easy task, especially after a vigorous training session or if you’re in a high state of anxiety. But the benefits of box breathing cannot be understated. For example, firefighters use it after every call to lower their heart rates. Why? Most tactically-related deaths are due to elevated heart rates AFTER a major event.

The ‘How To’ of Box Breathing:

1️⃣ Lie down on your back and breathe ONLY through your nose
2️⃣ Inhale for 4 seconds, letting the belly fill up like a balloon
3️⃣ Pause the breath at the top of the inhale for 4 seconds
4️⃣ Exhale through the nose for 4 seconds, fully emptying the lungs
5️⃣ Pause the breath at the bottom of the exhale for 4 seconds
6️⃣ Repeat 3-5 times

Box breathing is called such because it focuses on all four corners of the breath: the inhale, breath hold, the exhale, and breath hold. Box breathing emphasizes control and allows your body to make full use of the air. The ratio is 1:1:1:1 and the length can be 3 counts to begin with and eventually increase to 5 or longer. But there is no magic number. Try it out and see what works best for you.

You can box breathe when you wake up, regularly throughout the day, during meetings, on the phone, before and during stressful situations, at the gym while working out, at yoga, when meditating, and before bed.

Benefits of Box Breathing:
Controlled physiological state

Reduced heart rate

Mental clarity and focus

increased blood flow to heart and lungs

increases energy, regulates the nervous system, and reduces the effects of anxiety and stress

helps lower blood pressure and heart rate

improves sleep patterns

Yoga and Breathing:

Yogis have long subscribed to box breathing and use it to invite presence into the mind and body. It is intended to be a quiet practice, so try to box breathe as quietly as possible to reduce strain physically, mentally, and emotionally and open you up to ‘hearing’ new possibilities for your health and wellness.

To add yoga into your box breathing, proceed as described but press your fingertips together while doing the counts.

*** Never hold the breath, rather, PAUSE the breath. Try not to do anything during the corners of ‘no breathing’, instead use them as an opportunity to notice what is happening in your body and mind. Often, clues to where you are holding tension, where your thoughts are ‘sticky’, and new openings are revealed. Each time may be different than the last: this is true for all of us who practice box breathing and totally normal. Stay with it and notice how it benefits you over time.