Square Breathing: Tips and Instructions for this Calming Breathwork Exercise

Square Breathing:
Tips and Instructions for a Calming Breathwork Exercise

by Dr. Nikki Rollo, PhD, LMFT

Square breathing is a type of breathwork that can shift your energy, connect you more deeply with your body, calm your nervous system, and decrease stress in your body.

It is also referred to as box breathing, 4x4 breathing, and 4-part breath.

Here are instructions for square breathing, ideas for when to practice the technique, and tips for making the breathwork as effective as possible:


How do you do the square breathing technique?

If possible, it is usually a good idea to start with both of your feet on the floor and really feel the support of the chair or 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.

  • 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.

You might want to set an intention, or invite a neutral or positive image to focus on during your breathing practice.

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.


In what situations might square breathing be useful?

Square breathing can be useful in many situations, including:

    • When faced with moments of stress

    • When trying to sleep

    • When you need to reset your creative juices

    • When you need to clear your head

    • In a meeting at work

    • Before you need to respond to a high stress situation

    • When setting your intentions for the day

    • When making a big decision

Where should you 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. 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.

How should you sit while practicing square breathing?

You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and your back supported or 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.

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!  

Dr. Nikki Rollo, PhD, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Brooklyn, New York, who specializes in stress and anxiety, disordered eating, body image issues, and spiritual exploration. Dr. Rollo particularly enjoys working with adults who are interested in mind-body work and want to look deeper into their inner world to figure out who they really are and what that want out of life in order discover their full potential.