What is Box Breathing and why would you do it?

Nov 15, 2023 | Health & Wellbeing

Box breathing, also referred to as square breathing, is a deep breathing technique that can help you slow down your breath, inhale and exhale more deeply, and bring you back to a state of calm, presence and relaxation. It works as you fully inhale and fully exhale, focus on counting instead of the thoughts in your monkey mind, thus oxidising and detoxing your body, calming your nervous system, and decreasing stress.

Box breathing is a simple but powerful relaxation technique that can help return your breathing pattern to a relaxed rhythm. It will clear and calm your mind, improve your
focus and bring you back to a state of presence.

Getting Started With Box Breathing

When doing box breathing, it’s good to:

  • Sit in a chair, stand, or lie down on your back with one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.
  • Breathe as you would normally for a minute.
  • Observe the rise and fall of your chest and stomach.
  • If you notice that your chest is rising but your stomach is not, you are shallow breathing. If your stomach is rising, you are deep breathing, activating full relaxation in your body, and maximising the air exchange.
  • If you are new to box breathing, focus on the rise of your stomach on the in breath and the fall of the stomach on the out breath.
  • You are then going to go through cycles of breathing in, holding the in breath, breathing out, and holding the out breath.
  • Repeat for 7 cycles

How long should you spend on each stage?

Box breathing is about 4 stages:

  • Breathe in
  • Hold
  • Breathe out
  • Hold

Each stage should be the same length.

The length that is right for you will vary from person to person and from time to time.

The answer to how long you should spend in each stage is in the IN breath. If you breathe in fully and count to 5, then you should spend 5 seconds in each stage. Work your way up to 7 seconds in each stage.

It is important that you don’t over stretch. For example if you attempt to do 7 seconds but your inhale is only 5 seconds, you’ll end up trying to hold for 9, and will probably be “behind” in each ensuing stage. This actually increases anxiety and can be counter productive. So start where you are, and know that at times when you are feeling more stressed than normal, you may need to make it a shorter round.

Practice Box Breathing regularly to encourage deep breathing on a daily basis.

Box Breathing Audio Guides by Dean Paten

Feature Photo by Matteo Di Iorio on Unsplash