The effectiveness of breathing in quieting the mind

Meditation Guy Yeadon

There is nothing I have found more effective for returning me to the now than to practice becoming conscious of my breathing. When I am focused on my breathing, marking time, checking the fullness of my diaphragm and the nature of my posture I am immediately brought into the now. My mind quiets its incessant state of wanting, judgment, and identification.

Lama Surya Das states that ‘our minds are consumed with four things. Stories about our future. Stories about our past. Judgments about ourselves. Judgments about others.’ This feels very true to me and feels consistent with the teachings of Eckhart Tolle who states that our ego is a constant state of judgment and identification.

When we can become present with the mechanical predispositions of our mind and ego we can identify the behavior, become conscious of it, and discard it. Rarely can we do this without being in a state of mindfulness. Breathing is key in helping me achieve this state and one of the simplest breathing techniques I know of for the novice or advanced practitioner is box breathing.

The benefits of box breathing

Healthiline.com defines ‘Box breathing, also known as square breathing, as a technique used when taking slow, deep breaths. It can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever. It’s also called four-square breathing. Healthline goes on to state ‘According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s sufficient evidence that intentional deep breathing can actually calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system regulates involuntary body functions such as temperature. It can lower blood pressure and provide an almost immediate sense of calm. The slow holding of breath allows CO2 to build up in the blood. An increased blood CO2 enhances the cardio-inhibitory response of the vagus nerve when you exhale and stimulates your parasympathetic system. This produces a calm and relaxed feeling in the mind and body. Box breathing can reduce stress and improve your mood. That makes it an exceptional treatment for conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. It can also help treat insomnia by allowing you to calm your nervous system at night before bed. Box breathing can even be efficient at helping with pain management.’

How to perform box breathing

1. Find a quiet solitary space and sit comfortably for several moments breathing naturally.
2. Breathe in fully through the nose, extending the diaphragm while counting slowly to four. Focus on the fullness and depth of your breath while maintaining count.
3. Upon reaching the count of four, hold your breath for an additional 4 count.
4. At the count of four from holding your breath, now slow exhale through your mouth to the same slow count of four.
5. Breath normally to the count of four.
6. Complete 12-15 repetitions.

Upon completion of Box Breathing, I generally like to do a short 15-minute meditation to build on the sense of serenity that Box Breathing has provided.

Daily Challenge

I would challenge you to practice Box Breathing no less than three times throughout the course of your day. Once complete please share your experience here in the comments section.

Peace and love,
The Meditation Guy