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A Simple Breathing Technique to Calm Your Nerves

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Box breathing (sama vritti pranayama) can be used multiple times a day to reduce stress and gain mental clarity.



Have you ever wondered how Navy SEALs stay calm under immense stress and pressure? They use a technique called box breathing that divides the breath into four equal steps so it is slow and deliberate. This allows for more control over the nervous system and clearer thoughts in challenging situations.


While I am not a Navy SEAL, I have found the practice of box breathing (sama vritti pranayama) incredibly effective for getting grounded and finding a sense of peace during stressful, chaotic and overwhelming moments.


Why does box breathing work?


When we become stressed or anxious, our heart beat elevates and our breathing becomes shallow and rigid as we enter “fight or flight mode.” The sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear and adrenaline courses through our body. While this response is helpful when preparing to run from an angry animal, it is not a helpful response when replying to a difficult email, having a tough conversation or dealing with the unpredictable challenges life throws our way.


When we take the opportunity to breathe mindfully, we can lower cortisol levels and activate the “rest and digest state” — the parasympathetic nervous system. By using box breathing to count and slow down the breath, we are able to calm the body, release stress, reduce depression and anxiety, and gain mental clarity.


How do I do box breathing?


I recommend finding a quiet space and taking a seat with a tall spine. You can sit on a chair with your feet touching the ground or you can sit on a cushion with your legs crossed in front of you in easy pose (sukhasana). You can also kneel on the ground or sit back toward your heels in hero’s pose (virasana).


Soften your gaze or close your eyes. Start by taking a few deep breaths in and out of your nose. Bring your breath to an even length (I like to start with a count of four). After a few rounds, add pauses in between your inhale and exhale that match the length of your breath. You can visualize a box for your breathing.



Repeat this breath for 10 rounds, 5 minutes or until you feel complete.


Ready to try it out? You can press play on this follow-along video to learn how to do the technique. If you are pregnant, you can remove the pauses in between inhales and exhales to keep the breath flowing smoothly.



After you finish the breathing exercise, take a moment to notice how your body and mind are feeling. I hope this method allows you to be more present and calm. You can return to this technique as many times as you need to throughout the day.


Leave me a comment below and let me know about your experience. If you found the breathwork helpful, share it with your community and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more tutorials.


With gratitude,

Shannon


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