Box Breathing — also known as Square Breathing — is a Breathwork technique applied to instantly help you calm down and relax, particularly useful in stressful moments. A note of precaution: the lead image of this post is meant as a jest (the man with his head in a box); that’s certainly not how you do Box Breathing.
But okay then. In the West, the breathing technique is called after a “box” or “square” because of the four different steps involved, and each step being carried out for the duration of four counts (i.e. four seconds).
That’s why you’ll also find other synonyms for Box Breathing, such as 4×4 Breathing, 4-4-4-4 Breathing, Four-Square Breathing, and Equal Breathing. Nevertheless, the technique is actually based on an ancient Yoga Pranayama technique which has the name Sama Vritti Pranayama.
Mind that in the Indian Yogic tradition, Sama Vritti Pranayama is used to cultivate inner peace, grounding, and mental equilibrium as a means to prepare body and mind to perform Yoga Asanas (Yogic postures), to carry out other Pranayamas, and/or engage in meditation practices.
In any case, the idea is to sit, stand, or lie down comfortably, and then subsequently inhale through the nose for the duration of four counts, hold your breath four counts (called breath retention), exhale through the mouth for the duration of four counts, and finally wait again four counts before your next inhale.
Typically, Box Breathing is carried out with an Abdominal Breathing technique (Diaphragmatic Breathing) while avoiding Shallow Breathing i.e. Chest Breathing.
The largest benefit of Box Breathing is its ability to instantly relax you. However, it’s claimed that it also makes you sleep or fall asleep better, lowers blood pressure, combats anxiety and panic, controls moments of hyperventilation, and increases concentration ability and focus.
Theoretically, you can do the technique as long as you want, at any time of the day, but it’s recommended not to do it longer than fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. Usually a few minutes will be enough to calm you down and relax.