“Take a deep breath” is a common phrase people use to console others in anxiety or panic situations, and it works. An individual hardly pays attention to breathing as it is a continuous process happening without any visible effort, but in stressed or overwhelmed conditions, it becomes irregular, fast, and shallow. Therefore, paying close attention to breathing can manage stress levels. Numerous breathing exercises reduce stress and related complications, and box breathing is one of them.
What is box breathing?
Box breathing or square breathing is a type of deep breathing exercise popular among the navy Sea, Air, and Land employees (navy SEALs). This technique is also famous for the name sama vritti pranayama or equal breathing.
According to numerous studies, this pranayama calms the autonomic nervous system and naturally reduces stress hormone levels. Square breathing is a simple yet effective relaxing technique that enhances concentration and increases work accomplishment. It is a potent stress-reliever. This technique is also famous as the square four technique, in which one practices slow breathing till counts of four for four times. According to some research, this yoga breathing exercise stimulates the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis), which regulates many bodily functions, such as the immune system, the digestive mechanism, emotions, cognitive development, mood, and sexual behavior. Thus, practicing box breathing decreases physiological responses, such as heart rate, shallow respiration, and blood pressure levels.
What are the steps of the box breathing?
Square breathing is the simplest pranayama. Even kids can learn it. The following is the detailed description of the box breathing:
- Select the stress-free and quiet ambiance so that you can concentrate on your breathing
- Firstly, sit upright on a chair or lie down on any mat and try to relax. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, and concentrate on breathing.
- Before starting the square breathing, practice abdominal breathing for at least one minute
- Slowly exhale through the mouth until all the oxygen is out of your lung.
- Breathe in through your nose as you slowly count to four and focus on the airflow in your lungs
- After breathing in, hold your breath for a count of four.
- After that, slowly exhale through your mouth for the count of four.
- Again hold your breath after exhaling for the four counts
- Repeat this technique at least four to five times.
- Initially, if you are not comfortable holding your breath for four counts, you can start from two to three counts. But with practice, you can master the technique within a few days.
What are the benefits of box breathing?
Most breathing exercises are complex, and people get anxious while starting them, but box breathing is the simplest pranayama. The other benefits of this yogic breathing exercise are the following:
- Reduces stress levels: It is the prime perk of the box breathing. When we practice this exercise, our mind concentrates on breathing and counting, which diverts our mind to the stressful reasoning and re-centers our inner thoughts. Square breathing also improves concentration and helps cope with overwhelming situations.
- Manages insomnia: Overthinking doesn’t let us sleep. Therefore, before sleeping, you should calm your mind. A simple way to calm yourself for sleep is to slow the breathing and bring it to a regular rhythm, and box breathing is the best breathing cadence technique. According to some research, box breathing also improves the depth of sleep, as it stimulates the cortex area in the brain that regulates sleep.
- Help manage panic attacks and depression: when we are in a state of a panic attack, our fight or flight response or sympathetic nervous system activates. It causes increased heartbeats, higher blood pressure levels, and shallow respiration. But, if we practice deep box breathing exercises during a panic attack or depression, the inhaled oxygen-rich air and the relaxing counting exercise switch this sympathetic nervous response to the parasympathetic nervous response. This activation of the parasympathetic nervous system helps us to relax, lower blood pressure levels, and slower our heartbeats.
- Decreases our reaction to the pain: People notice that after practicing this relaxation breathing technique, the pain threshold of their body increases. Box breathing also reduces the negative emotions, such as stress and anger, related to the painful stimuli.
- Gives calmness: Practicing deep breathing can calm the anxious nerves and prepares you for a big day or making any critical decisions.
- Controls hyperventilation: In case of hyperventilation or rapid-deep breathing, the carbon dioxide gas decreases in our system. which causes dizziness, chest discomfort, rapid heartbeats, numbness, spasms in the hands and feet, dry mouth, and restlessness. Slow holding of breaths in box breathing allows carbon dioxide to build up in the blood and reduces the symptoms of hyperventilation.
- It is also an add-on therapy for asthma and COPD conditions.
Box breathing is the easiest and most-effective yoga practice to reduce anxiety and increases calmness in stressful conditions. It increases mindfulness and helps in concentration. Therefore, practice this pranayama whenever you can and enjoy its countless benefits.