There are a wide variety of breathing techniques available for helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Box breathing is a simple, but powerful technique that can help you relax and return to a natural breathing state.
Many people including soldiers, police officers and others with high stress jobs have found that box breathing can help ease the fight or flight response common during stressful situations. This breathing technique provides a way to re-center the mind and improve concentration.
What is box breathing?
This is a technique of taking slow deep breaths and holding it for a specific count. Also referred to as four-square breathing.
To practice this technique, start by sitting in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. This allows you to be grounded and relaxed. Keep your hands relaxed on your lap and focus on sitting straight.
Start by slowly exhaling through your mouth – release all the air from your lungs. Try to focus all your intention on your breath.
Slowly inhale through your nose to the count of four. Envision the air filling your lungs completely and moving to your abdomen.
Now hold your breath to the count of four. Imagine the air penetrating your cells.
Release and exhale slowly through your mouth to the count of four.
Hold your breath for the count of four and then repeat the process again.
If you’ve never practiced breath work before you may experience some dizziness. This is a normal response from the body. If you do get dizzy pause doing the box technique and breath normally then try again. If you experience to much discomfort speak with your primary physician about any concerns.
Many people find it helpful to practice in a dimly lit room that is quiet. Reducing distractions will help your body fall into a rhythm more easily.
There are many types of breathing techniques that you can try including pursed lip, diaphragmatic, alternate nostril, deep breathing to name just a few.
Medical research suggests that breath work can calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system. This is the system that regulates functions like temperature. Breath work can help to lower blood pressure and reduce stress because it provides an immediate sense of calm.
An interesting aspect of box breathing or any technique that requires you to hold your breath is the build up of CO2 in the blood. Increased blood CO2 enhances the cardio-inhibitory response of the vagus nerve during the exhale which stimulates your parasympathetic system.
Being able to reset your breath is good for the mind and body. When your breath is relaxed the system can enter a rest and digest state.
Try adding box breathing to your routine a few times a day and note the changes in your journal. This can be one more tool towards helping you live your ideal life.