Breathing exercises are an easy way to reduce stress and boost happy hormones. Here's how you can use the box breathing technique to de-stress.
Breathing exercises such as the box breathing technique can help in reducing your stress
Slow, controlled breathing is an effective way to instantly influence our mood, state of mind, and stress levels. Just a few deep breaths can help you feel relaxed and charged up. And Box breathing is one such way to reduce stress and unlock high performance and cognition. Also known as square breathing, it uses a slow and even breathing rhythm that increases concentration, and performance and also works as a powerful stress-relief intervention. As per one research practicing the box breathing technique for a month helped participants see significant improvement in some Lung Function Test parameters. This is why this technique has strong potential to impact our body and mind positively.
Here's how to practice Box Breathing:
1. Relax and get comfortable in a seated position
2. Allow the breath to move freely, but make sure that when you inhale the body expands, and when you exhale, it returns to neutral
3. Once you are ready start adding a count to your breath
4. Count to four as you inhale, then hold the breath for a count of four, exhale to the count of four, and hold the breath to the count of four.
5. Essentially, you're tracing a square with your breath with four steps – inhale, hold, exhale, hold
It can also be detrimental to practice Box Breathing with an incorrect breathing pattern. Therefore, before starting this practice, it is important to learn Diaphragmatic Breathing or abdominal breathing. Once you've corrected your breathing pattern where the belly expands as you inhale and relaxes as you exhale, you're ready for other breathing practices.
Secondly, while Box breathing is an excellent practice, it can be challenging for many because breath retention is involved. So, it is important to make a progression plan which will allow you to increase your capacity gradually. This is how you can do it.
1. Start with Equal Breathing first in which you just inhale and exhale for a count of 4.
2. There is no breath retention, just that your in and out-breath is of the same length,4:4
3. After a few days of practicing this, you can start adding breath retention after inhalation. So, you inhale, hold, exhale for the count of 4:4:4
4. Only when this becomes comfortable and you're able to do 10 rounds of 4:4:4 breathing without getting breathless, should you progress further
5. The next level is adding breath retention after exhalation – this is the hardest step. It can take a long time to master the 4:4:4:4 breathing. But be patient and it will be rewarding.
Breath retention should be done responsibly and not in a stubborn or forceful way. Ancient texts state that taming the breath is like taming the lion – if you're not patient and watchful it can devour you. So, keep that bit of ancient wisdom in mind when you work with holding your breath.
Box breathing is effective as it helps create a healthy buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. This creates a very relaxed state of mind. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the changes in oxygen levels, but the changes in carbon dioxide levels that influence our nervous system.
You can start with 5-10 breaths of Box Breathing, twice a day, on an empty stomach. Over time you can even take out 10 minutes at a time to do this or other breathing practices. Just make sure you're not forcing the breath beyond your capacity. That usually results in headaches, nausea, irritability, and breathlessness.
Remember to be patient and you'll enjoy immense benefits from this practice.
Ms. Namita Piparaiya, Yoga and Ayurveda Lifestyle Specialist, Founder - Yoganama
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