How To Move Without Pain

What is Box Breathing?
And why you should give it a try

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

This article takes 6 minutes to read

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Box breathing is a technique of intentionally taking slow deep breaths. It is also known as four-square breathing. The technique is found to help those with lung disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases), and lung cancers. 

Intentional breathing is shown to calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS regulates involuntary body functions such as temperature, lower blood pressure, and provides an almost immediate sense of calm.

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Slowing breathing and holding your breath allows CO2 to build up in the blood. Increased blood CO2 enhances the cardio-inhibitory response of the vagus nerve when you exhale and stimulates your parasympathetic system. 

Basically this means we are reversing the effects of our Sympathetic Nervous System, which is our fight or flight response

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Box breathing plays a role in helping reduce stress, increase mental clarity and improve concentration.

The best thing about this breathing technique is it can be done sitting and no special equipment is required.

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Beginning Tips

To help you focus on your breathing, find a quiet, dimly lit area to practice box breathing.

Get Setup: 

Sit back in your chair, sitting tall with your hips to the back and feet on the floor.
Place your hands in your lap, relaxed and palms up, focus on your posture (low back supported, shoulders tall, head up)

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Step 1: Slowly exhale through your mouth, letting all your oxygen out.

Concentrate only on your breathing. 

Step 2: Inhale slowly and deeply in through your nose for a count to four (count to 4 very slowly in your head as you breathe in)

Concentrate on your lungs filling with air

Step 3: Hold your breath for another slow count of four.

Step 4: Exhale again, taking a slow 4 count to completely expel all the air. Consciously feel all the air leaving your lungs

Step 5: Hold your breath for another slow count of four.

Ideally, repeat the box breathing cycle four times in one sitting, and repeat throughout the day as you are able.

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Box breathing helps calm stressful situations, reduce blood pressure and relieve anxiety.  Many wearables, such as iWatch and Fitbit can be set with periodic reminders to stop and breath. 

And let’s be honest, who couldn’t use a little help to de-stress these days?

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breathing at desk

*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This info is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional. No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.