Breathe like a Box

How many times have you suddenly encountered a moment of stress, anxiety, overwhelm or panic, and wished you had the ability to immediately bring yourself back to a calm and grounded place?

A very simple and speedy tool is called square breathing. Also known as box breathing, or Sama Vritti (equal breathing), square breathing is a breathing technique you can use at any of time of day to help calm yourself.

At the start of every Reiki session, I always ask the person to do a set of square breathing to help them ground themselves and quiet their thoughts so they can get the most out of their session.

What is square breathing?

Square breathing is commonly used in some Indigenous healing modalities, and is an ancient breathing technique in the Vedic tradition (yoga is derived from Vedic knowledge). The benefits, like with many other meditation or breathwork techniques, are well recognized and documented, so I’ll let you do an internet search yourself if want to dive deeper into understanding the benefits.

This is a form of concentrative meditation, which I describe and provide some examples of in the easy meditation routineIt’s called square breathing because the counts are equal for breathing in, holding the in-breath, breathing out, and holding the out-breath, like the sides of a square.

Where I learned square breathing

  • A Toronto Indigenous healer who has clients do this breath exercise (to a count of 7) at the start of a treatment
  • Breathwork-focused meditation class
  • Soul Journeying by Alberto Villoldo

How to do square breathing

Let’s jump right in and practice square breathing together and you’ll see what I mean. Here’s how it works:

  1. Breathe in for a count of 4
  2. Hold your breath for a count of 4
  3. Breathe out for a count of 4
  4. Hold your breath for a count of 4

Repeat for the same number of times as the count (so if you were breathing/hold for a count of four, repeat this cycle four times).

And that’s it!

You can choose any count that feels comfortable – I usually suggest working up to counts of seven, where you breathe in for seven, hold for seven, breathe out for seven, hold for seven, and repeat seven times. Holding for this longer count supports even deeper relaxation and calm.

Years ago when I struggled with insomnia, I even worked up to counts of 30 (in combination with a muscle active release technique)! A count of 30 is a bit intense though, and you can get a lot of benefit from a single digit count.

Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes!

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