Square breathing is a type of breathwork that can shift your energy, connect you more deeply with your body, calm your nervous system, and reduce the stress in your body.
It is also referred to as box breathing, 4×4 breathing, and 4-part breath.
Here are instructions for square breathing and some ideas for when to practice the technique. We’ll also share tips for making the breathwork as effective as possible.
How square breathing works
Set up for square breathing
If possible, it is usually a good idea to sit in a chair with your back supported. Place both of your feet on the floor. Really feel the support of the chair and floor under you.
You might even think about the layered quality of support with the chair under you, the floor under the chair, the foundation of the building under the floor, and the earth under the building.
Alternatively, you can sit in a seated meditation position or even lie down. The important thing is that your body is open to allow the breath to flow freely.
How to do square breathing
- Begin by slowly exhaling all of your air out.
- Then, gently inhale through your nose to a slow count of 4.
- Hold at the top of the breath for a count of 4.
- Then gently exhale through your mouth for a count of 4.
- At the bottom of the breath, pause and hold for the count of 4.
Setting an intention or image
You might want to set an intention, or invite a neutral or positive image to focus on during your breathing practice. Your intention could be “relaxation,” or “healing” -- whatever you find engaging and authentic for you.
If the image of a square works for you, you can imagine your breath and the pauses/holds in between the breath moving around the image of the square.
When to use square breathing
Square breathing can be useful in many situations, including:
- To calm yourself down when faced with stress or feeling overwhelmed
- Before you need to respond to a high stress situation
- When trying to sleep
- To reduce work stress
- To reset your creative juices
- When you need to clear your head
- In a meeting at work
- When setting your intentions for the day
- When making a big decision
Where to practice square breathing
One of the great things about engaging in any breathwork practice is that you can do it anywhere.
It doesn’t require a yoga mat, meditation pillow, candle or essential oils! You can practice this on the train, at work in a meeting, or during a stressful moment with a partner.
However, you can also practice square breathing when you are not in a high stress situation. This gives you extra practice to take this exercise to another level.
Set up the environment to be meditative by dimming the lights or lighting a candle. It can be useful to practice this when you are not stressed, so that it is a familiar resource you can call on during moments of higher stress.
Taking just a few moments out of your day to concentrate and breathe deeply will calm your mind and body, giving you an opportunity to hit the reset button and get refreshed!