Square breathing, box breathing, or the 4-part breath… it doesn’t matter what you call it, just make sure that you know how to do it!
What is it and why should we do it?
Juggling work, physical fitness and family can make you feel stressed. A stressed body can manifest itself in many ways, from tightness in the chest and shoulders to your whole body feeling tense or in a state of dis-ease. It can also lead to a lack of focus and clarity in your daily life.
Four-part breathing is a proven method for recalibrating your nervous systems. Research shows that it is especially useful for rapidly decreasing stress, anxiety, heart rate or blood. It is a useful tool during times of stress, when you feel overwhelmed or when you are looking to more fully activate your creativity or ability to concentrate fully on the task at hand. In only a few minutes, you can use the 4-part breathing technique to help you regain focus and calm your mind so that you can think better. Try this once every hour at work or whenever you feel stressed.
Where to Practice
While the environment can help to add to your relaxed state, it is not imperative. If there are other people around and you cannot find a private, quiet place, this exercise can be performed quietly with your eyes open. If you do have a private place to practice, you may like to get yourself into a comfortable yoga pose such as Sukhasana (Easy Pose).
As easy as 1,2,3,4
- Breathe in through your nose for four counts.
- Pause/hold your breath for four counts.
- Exhale through your mouth for four counts.
- Pause/hold your breath for four counts.
If comfortable, hold your tongue against the roof of your mouth throughout the exercise. Do as many sets as you like until your mind feels calmer.
For a slightly more advanced variation:
During step four notice your body sensations with gentle curiosity. Don’t try to change anything, just allow your attention to rest with the sensations in your body for these four counts. On step one, return your full attention to breathing in through your nose.
For a simpler alternative:
Focus only on slowly counting to four as you breathe and pause and let go of breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Always listen to your body
If you practice this breath technique for a few minutes and it doesn’t feel good, let it go and return to your natural, calm breath. If you choose to play with it at a later time, you can also begin by using a count of two and working up to a count of four.
If you find it difficult to slow down your thinking or concentrate, try either repeating a mantra over in your head or try the following visual guide:
Repeating a Mantra
Repeat a calming phrase or sound such as “om” as you breathe. For example, as you inhale, say “om,” two, three, four and repeat on the exhale. Your concentration will begin to narrow as you continue with the exercise.
Use a Visual Guide
If you find yourself losing focus during the breathing process, use a square or rectangular object as your visual guide. A laptop screen, window, piece of paper, or a book are some examples. Start by focusing on the upper left corner of the square. As you inhale for 4 seconds, move your gaze smoothly to the upper right corner. Hold your breath as you bring your gaze to the lower right corner. As you exhale, glide your gaze to the lower left corner. Finally, as you hold your breath, draw your gaze up to the upper left corner. Do this as many times as you’d like. You may even reverse the gazing sequence after you do the original sequence a couple of times.
While meditation has many positive benefits, it should never be used as a substitution for conventional medical care, regular exercise and a proper diet. Please check with your health care provider before starting a meditative practice and always inform your meditation instructor about your condition if you have one.
Wishing you and your family a safe and happy holiday full of laughter and love.
P.S. If you enjoyed practicing 4-art breathing, you may be interested in learning more about another breathing technique called Nadi Shodhana (Alternative Nostril Breathing). If you enjoyed reading this post or practising meditation, you might be interested in reading my love and gratitude post.