The breath is a mighty tool for reducing anxiety. Pranayama or breathwork is a way to intentionally use the breath. By using the breath, we are able to feel how powerful the breath can be for soothing and calming the mind and body.
The Square Breath – Samavritti ratio
Benefits: This breathwork calms the mind and soothes the nervous system by focusing the mind in a positive and productive way.
Practice: Find a comfortable seated position, either in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Sit tall and relax the shoulders.
- Begin by taking a breath in
- Exhale for a count of 4
- Hold the exhale breath for a count of 4
- Inhale for a count of 4
- Hold the inhale breath for a count of 4
Flowing at your own pace, practice square breath for a few rounds, paying attention to the quality of each inhale and exhale. See if you can maintain an unbroken quality for each cycle of breath. After a few rounds, relax and breathe as you would normally. I find that practicing for 30 seconds is a good place to start
If while practicing square breath, you find that holding the breath is uncomfortable, simply omit the retention and just breathe evenly until it feels more enjoyable to hold the breath. Over time, you can increase the square count as your lung capacity expands.
Contraindications: Never strain the breath. If you are pregnant, practice breathing evenly without holding the breath. Check with your doctor if you have blood pressure or heart conditions.
Fun Fact: The Navy Seals use this technique too! Called 4X4 breath or Box Breathing, the Seals utilize their breath to manage stress and anxiety. This ultimately comes in handy when in potentially life-threatening situations.