The History of Box Breathing
Box breathing has been practiced in various forms throughout history. In ancient yogic traditions, it is known as pranayama, which means "control of life force." Pranayama or deep breathing practices are used to improve concentration, calm the mind, and enhance spiritual awareness. Box breathing is also a fundamental technique in Buddhist meditation, where it is known as "anapanasati," or mindfulness of breathing.
In the modern era, box breathing has been adopted by the military and law enforcement communities. It was first introduced to the United States Navy SEALs as a way to lower blood pressure, improve performance and reduce stress during high-pressure situations. Since then, box breathing has become a standard training technique for military special forces, police officers, and firefighters.
The Classic Box Breathing Technique
The box breathing technique involves four simple steps:
Inhale, hold, exhale, and hold again.
The goal is to make each step last for the same duration, creating a square shape. Here is how to perform the square breathing technique yourself:
• Sit comfortably in a chair or cross-legged on the floor.Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose, filling your lungs completely.
• Count to four as you inhale.
• Hold your breath for four counts.
• Slowly exhale through your mouth for four counts.
• Hold your breath for four counts before starting the cycle again.
• Repeat the deep breathing cycle for several minutes, gradually increasing the length of each breath and hold. You can also adjust the length of each count to suit your personal preference.
Some people prefer a longer or shorter breath cycle, depending on their lung capacity and level of relaxation.
The Science Behind Box Breathing
Box breathing has been studied by scientists and researchers who have identified several physiological and psychological benefits of this technique. One of the most significant benefits of box and deep breathing techniques is its ability to reduce the body's stress response.Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that increases heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. This response is useful in emergency situations, or fight or flight, but chronic stress can lead to health problems such as anxiety, depression, and heart disease. Box breathing helps to counteract the body's stress response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls rest and digestion.Studies have shown that practice box breathing can reduce cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure, leading to a decrease in stress and anxiety. It can also improve cognitive function, memory, and mood.
In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that practicing box breathing for 20 minutes daily for eight weeks led to a significant reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms
Benefits of Box Breathing
Box breathing has numerous benefits for both the mind and body. Here are some of the most significant benefits:
Reduces stress and anxiety
Box breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces the body's stress response. This can help to lower cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure, leading to a feeling of calm and relaxation.
Improves cognitive function
Box breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain, which can improve cognitive function, memory, and concentration. This makes it an excellent technique for students, professionals, and anyone who needs to stay
Enhances athletic performance
Box breathing can improve athletic performance by increasing oxygenation, reducing muscle tension, and improving focus. This makes it an excellent technique for athletes, especially those involved in endurance sports.
Improves sleep quality
Box breathing can help improve sleep quality by reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Practicing this technique before bed can help calm the mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Boosts immune function
Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to illness and disease. Box breathing can help reduce stress, which in turn can boost immune function and improve overall health.
Box breathing is a mindfulness technique that requires focus and concentration. Practicing this technique regularly can increase self-awareness and help us become more present in the moment.
Reduces symptoms of PTSD
Box breathing has been shown to be an effective technique for reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, military veterans with PTSD who practiced box breathing reported significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms.
Adapted Box Breathing technique
There are many variations of box and breathing techniques that can be adapted to suit individual needs and preferences.
One popular variation is the 4:4:6:2 pattern, which involves inhaling for four counts, holding for four counts, exhaling for six counts, and holding again for two counts.
Here's a closer look at this adapted box breathing pattern:
The 4:4:6:2 Box Breathing Pattern
The 4:4:6:2 box breathing pattern is a variation of the traditional 4-count box breathing technique. This altered shallow breathing pattern creates a slightly longer exhale, which can help increase relaxation and reduce stress even further.
How to Practice the 4:4:6:2 Box Breathing Pattern
To practice the 4:4:6:2 box breathing practice pattern, follow these steps:
1. Find a comfortable, quiet place to practice.
2. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
3. Take a few deep breaths to relax and prepare for the practice.
4. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for four counts, filling your lungs with air.
5. Hold your breath for four counts, keeping your lungs full.
6. Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth for six counts, releasing all the air from your lungs.
7. Hold your breath for two counts at the end of the exhale.
8. Repeat the cycle for several minutes, focusing on the counting and the sensation of your breath.
Benefits of the 4:4:6:2 Box Breathing Pattern
The 4:4:6:2 box deep breathing technique and pattern has many of the same benefits as the traditional box breathing technique, including reducing stress and anxiety, increasing relaxation, and improving cognitive function. In addition, the longer exhale in the 4:4:6:2 pattern can help increase feelings of calm and promote deeper relaxation.
The extended exhale and breathe can also have a positive effect on the body's stress response. When we're stressed or anxious, our bodies tend to take shallow, rapid breaths, which can perpetuate the stress response. By consciously slowing down and extending the exhale, we can help reverse this process and trigger the body's relaxation response.
The 4:4:6:2 box breathing pattern can be a useful tool for anyone looking to reduce stress and promote relaxation. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere, and only takes a few minutes to complete.
By incorporating this technique and breathing exercises into your daily routine, you can improve your overall health and well-being.
More Adapted Box Breathing Techniques
2:4:4:2 - This pattern involves inhaling for two counts, holding for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and holding for two counts. This variation is ideal for those who prefer a shorter inhale and a longer exhale.
6:2:8:2 - In this pattern, you inhale for six counts, hold for two counts, exhale for eight counts, and hold for two counts. This variation is ideal for those who prefer a longer inhale and exhale.
4:6:4:6 - This pattern involves inhaling for four counts, holding for six counts, exhaling for four counts, and holding for six counts. This variation is ideal for those who prefer a longer hold after the inhale and exhale.
5:5:7:7 - This pattern involves inhaling for five counts, holding for five counts, exhaling for seven counts, and holding for seven counts. This variation is ideal for those who want a slightly longer exhale and hold.
3:5:8:5 - This pattern involves inhaling for three counts, holding for five counts, exhaling for eight counts, and holding for five counts. This variation is ideal for those who prefer a shorter inhale and a longer exhale, with a slightly longer hold after the exhale.
These adapted box breathing patterns can be practiced in the same way as the traditional box breathing technique. Choose the pattern that feels most comfortable for you and practice it regularly to experience the full benefits of box breathing.
If you're looking to incorporate box breathing into your daily routine, the RESPIRA app is a great place to start. With a wide range of guided breathwork meditations that use different styles of box breathing, you can easily find the pattern that works best for you.
Simply download the app and explore the library of guided meditations. Whether you're looking to reduce stress and anxiety, improve your focus and concentration, or promote deeper relaxation, there's a meditation for you.
In addition to box breathing, the RESPIRA App offers a variety of other breathing techniques, such as alternate nostril breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and more. With regular practice, you can improve your overall health and well-being, both physically and mentally.