While there isn’t much scientific research on the benefits of box breathing, anecdotally it has helped some people achieve a calm body and focused mind. “Along with training more powerful breathing musculature, it slows down your breathing rate and deepens your concentration skills,” author and former Navy SEAL Mark Divine previously wrote of his experience with box breathing on mbg.
In general, controlled breathing techniques do have bona-fide health benefits. Stephen says that slow, deep breathing can help us “engage our diaphragm, get air into the lower part of our lungs, and really stretch out our alveoli—the gas exchange units of our lungs.” He’s seen breathwork be an effective adjunct therapy for patients with lung diseases like COPD and asthma.
Mentally, controlled breaths have a relaxing effect. “You stimulate the vagus nerve by taking easy, deep breaths and it sends signals back into the brain for calming,” he says, pointing to research that has found breathwork can help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms in asthma patients and promote emotional control and psychological well-being in the greater population.
Stephens likens taking deep, controlled breaths to pumping the breaks on overwhelm, stress, and anxiousness. “We don’t have access to the accelerator, and sometimes that goes off the handle,” he says, “but we do have access to the brake.”
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