~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

Box Breathing

May 1, 2020
When stress arises in our lives, box breathing can be a good friend that can steady and calm the mind. This simple breathing exercise can be practiced almost any place, any time.

The instructions are simple: breathe in a way that evens out the four segments of the breath so they are equal in length, creating a square box of sorts.

To practice, first, notice the length of your typical resting inhalation. Perhaps count to two on an easy inhalation. Then, reshape your breath so that the inhalation, the pause at the end of the inbreath, the exhalation, and the rest at the end of the exhale are each two beats long. You will have created an eight-beat breath, with each segment lasting two beats.

That's it! Take a few easy, natural breaths, and then repeat. The length of each segment doesn't matter as much as the steadiness of the four segments of the breath.

How does box breathing help calm and steady us? The breath and the nervous system are closely related, each having a direct effect on the other. When we are stressed, our breathing changes. And conversely, when we change our breathing pattern, we can nudge nervous system in ways that help us better manage stress. Changing our breath can quite literally change our minds.

You may also notice that box breathing gives the mind something clear and concrete to focus on, something more wholesome, perhaps, than the thoughts that had been spiraling through the brain. In this way, box breathing becomes a mini-meditation practice to help calm and balance our mind.

After you've practiced box breathing for a while, you may find yourself wanting to lengthen the phases of the breath - I like to count to four for each segment. And when you feel ready, you may like to try one box breath right after another, without any breaks in between. You can even add a little movement to the practice. You could lift your arms up overhead as you breathe in, pause, and then lower your arms back to your sides as you breathe out. The possibilities are endless!

As always when working with the breath, use a light touch, so you don’t feel anxious or overwhelmed. If you ever do feel rattled, let go of the breathing exercise, gaze out into the distance and breathe easily and comfortably.

I hope you’ll find that over time the practice becomes a good friend and a little life ring that you can call upon any time the world grows unsteady and unpredictable. Breath by breath and moment by moment you’ll find yourself calmer and less stressed, and better able to surf the waves of life with an ever deepening sense of steadiness and ease.

I've created this video to help get you started.You can also find the same video here.