Life has its share of ups and downs, with periods of stress, negative emotions and tiring days. But there are some simple exercises that can help restore your inner calm, including box breathing or square breathing, as it's sometimes called. In a matter of minutes, this breathing technique can reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep and improve concentration.
A stressful situation? An urgent need to recharge your batteries? Then why not give box breathing a try? Unlike some other exercises, box breathing can be done in any position, whether you're sitting, lying down or standing. It also doesn't require a big release of air or a long breath that can be noisy for those around you. In short, it's a handy solution for tackling rising panic and anxiety at work or in public transport, or at any other time you need to calm down or relax. Practiced before going to sleep, it even 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. In other words, it's a way of breathing in which 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 the spine, the neck and the head. Aim for a straight back and proper posture. Whatever your position, stay relaxed, but be firm with yourself. The objective is not to make you fall asleep, even if box breathing can make you sleepy.
Once you're comfortable, make sure you use your abdominal muscles to help you breathe in and out. This step is important. So-called belly breathing 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 timings.
Indeed, 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 metabolism.