Life has its share of ups and downs, with periods of stress, negative emotions and tiring days. But there are simple exercises that can restore your inner calm, including box breathing or square breathing, as it is sometimes called.
In a matter of minutes, this technique can reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep and improve concentration.
Unlike some other exercises, box breathing can be done in any position. It also does not require a big release of air or a long, conspicuous breath.
It is a handy solution for tackling anxiety at work or on public transport, or any other time you need to calm down or relax. Practiced before going to sleep, it can help you nod off more easily.
This breathing technique originates from “pranayama”, one of the eight pillars of yoga. In Sanskrit, it is called “samavritti”, which means equal flow or fluctuations.
With box breathing, the time it takes to inhale is the same as the time it takes to exhale.
Whether sitting, standing or lying down, the most important thing is to maintain the alignment of your spine, neck and head. Aim for a straight back and proper posture.
Stay relaxed but focused – the objective is not to make you fall asleep, even if box breathing can make you sleepy.
Once you’re comfortable, use your abdominal muscles to help you breathe in and out. Belly or diaphragmatic breathing will allow you to manage stress, concentrate better and sleep better.
Then, start a cycle – inhale through your nose, hold your breath, exhale, then hold your breath, in equal timing. Each step should have the same duration.
Beginners are recommended to start with four phases of four seconds. You can then adjust your timing according to your comfort level.