“Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body”
- Thich Nhat Hanh
We have talked many times about the benefits of making our breathing conscious and there are many different techniques that aid us in slightly different ways.
Ujjayi breathing to stop a panic attack
Diaphragmatic breathing which is great for relaxation
Alternate nostril breathing to help restore balance
Humming bee breathing which has a beneficial effect on health both physical and mental
Bellows breathing which reduces anxiety and can help with weight loss
Lion’s breath to energise
This week we want to share a technique that is used by the US Navy Seals to create calm. It is called ‘Box Breathing’, ‘Square Breathing’, or ‘Equal Breathing’.
This technique works by lengthening and slowing the breathing which stimulates the Vagus nerve activating our parasympathetic nervous system and triggering the relaxation response. It also involves holding the breath which increases the carbon dioxide in the blood a little. This enhances the vagal stimulation and the relaxation response, and also encourages the heart to spend more time in relaxation. This increased relaxation time in the cardiovascular system is manifest as lower blood pressure and a feeling of calm.
This exercise gets it’s many names because the aim is to split the breath cycle into 4 equal parts and a square or box has 4 sides the same length.
The in-breath, a hold, the out-breath and another hold are the 4 parts of the cycle. A good starting point is to have the interval as a count of 4. This interval can then be increased as you get better at the exercise.
In addition to the vagal effects, the counting of the intervals acts as a type of mantra adding a meditative element to this breathing technique which increases the calming effect.
Sit up straight with your bottom to the back of your chair and your feet flat
Close your eyes
Relax your shoulders and your jaw
Breath in and out through the nose
Take a slow deep breath in counting to 4
Hold for 4
Slowly let the breath go evenly over a count of 4
Hold for 4
Continue this cycle until you feel calm
Keep the pace of your breathing slow and the breath even through the whole count
Gradually increase the count aiming to get to 10
This is a great breathing exercise to share with children so they have a go to technique when they are feeling stressed or angry.
 Vasava Jayshree Satishbhai, Patel Sapnaben Bhavin, Tiwari Anjali (2021) “Effectiveness of four-square breathing exercise on after-labour pain among post-natal mothers”, Indian Journal of Continuing Nursing Education, 22(1), pp.35-38  Ahmed, A., Devi, R. G. and Priya, A. J. (2021) “Effect of Box Breathing Technique on Lung Function Test”, Journal of Pharmaceutical Research International, 33(58A), pp. 25-31.