Box breathing is a technique that helps you take control of your automatic breathing patterns to train your breath for optimal health and performance. It combines the practice of optimal breathing with para-sympathetic activation, concentration, and mindfulness training.
All you need to do is picture a box with equal sides, where the inhale, the holding of the breath, and exhale are all four counts (four seconds approx.). “As you take in a breath, for four counts, visualize traveling up one side of the square. Next, imagine moving across the top of the square during the four counts of holding your breath. Then follow the breath down the right side of the box on the exhale and watch it travel across the bottom of the square on the breath-hold, following the exhale. This visual provides a helpful anchor for your attention and quickly allows you to get into the flow of rhythmic breathing.” (@realmarkdivine)
When we box breathe, we do so through our nostrils. “This helps us draw the air deep into our lungs, slowing down the breathing rhythm and stimulating the vagal nerve – which runs throughout the central nervous system.” (@realmarkdivine) The vagal nerve affects heart rate, digestion, and releases neurotransmitters that activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). “The calming and focusing effects of this technique are noticeable within just a few minutes of practice.” (@realmarkdivine)
To better understand this technique, contrast the box breath with what happens during a panic attack.
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