During my anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing in and out), I am frequently beset by what is known as “air hunger,” which is the sensation we experience when we feel like we’re not getting enough air. Sometimes, this feeling doesn’t go away even with deep breaths. It is easy to combat this experience with what is known as “box breathing” or “square breathing”; a technique used by athletes, police officers, nurses and even the U.S. Navy Seals, to heighten performance and concentration and relieve stress.
It is recommended to practice this technique four times in one sitting. Sit upright (this will help you take deep breaths) in a comfortable chair with feet flat in front of you on the floor. Keep your hands relaxed in your lap with palms facing up and focus on your posture. Focusing on your breathing, exhale slowly through your mouth. After this, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. Make sure you count slowly. Focus on the feeling of air filling your lungs bit by bit until they are totally full and the air moves into your abdomen and then hold your breath for another count of four.
Next, exhale through your mouth to the same slow count of four, ridding your lungs and abdomen of its oxygen. Simply repeat this process. This helps regulate and calm the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for many involuntary body functions, and it can lower blood pressure and produce a sense of calm.
This system regulates involuntary body functions such as temperature. It can lower blood pressure and provide an almost immediate sense of calm. As Healthline explains:
“The slow holding of breath allows CO2 to build up in the blood. An increased blood CO2 enhances the cardio-inhibitory response of the vagus nerve when you exhale and stimulates your parasympathetic system. This produces a calm and relaxed feeling in the mind and body.
Box breathing can reduce stress and improve your mood. That makes it an exceptional treatment for conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.
It can also help treat insomnia by allowing you to calm your nervous system at night before bed. Box breathing can even be efficient at helping with pain management.”