“Square Breathing” Pranayama for Calm Amidst Chaos

“To breathe means to live and to live means to breathe... Yogis count life not by number of years but number of breaths.” - Swami Vishnu-Devananda.

Every thought, every act of will, or motion of muscles uses up your life-force energy (aka prana) and in consequence constant replenishing is necessary, which is possible mainly and exclusively through breathing alone. Plus, in addition to the physical benefits derived through conscious breathing techniques, yogic teachings further reveal that through pranayama (breathwork) your will power, self-control, concentration power, moral qualifications and even spiritual elevation can be ameliorated. This in turn decreases stress, anxiety and apathy.

If you’re seeking calm amidst chaos and want a quick and easy tonic to the everyday, try the methodology below of Square Breathing pranayama. This delightfully simple technique utilises breath retention, which has been explored in yoga philosophy to enable an extra and additional supply of pranic energy. I’ve personally taught and practiced this breathing technique for many years now with wonderful effect - One of my beloved longstanding clients recently even successfully used this serene breathing technique during her mindful birth experience!

“When the breath wanders, i.e. irregular, the mind is also unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind, and the yogi’s live long; therefore one should hold breath.” - Hatha Yoga Pradipika

  1. Find a comfortable seated position with a long, tall spine, or even prop yourself up against a wall to lengthen your spine fully. Relax your abdominal muscles and soften your shoulders down the spine.
  2. Close your eyes and take a dive into your inner world. Allow both the mind and the body to arrive in the moment by taking a few long, deep and refreshing breaths.
  3. Once you feel calm and comfortable, take a full inhalation for four counts.
  4. Hold your breath for four counts.
  5. Exhale for four counts.
  6. Hold empty breath for four counts.And simply repeat this cycle, developing a smooth and rhythmic groove of breath.

A little tip here if you’re strapped for time is to set the timer on your phone for a minimum of four minutes for this exercise, otherwise, you can practice for as lusciously long as you wish.

Once you’ve finished, keep your eyes closed, spine long and simply sit with yourself with unforced breathing - Observe the way that you feel. Open your eyes and emerge into the world anew...

What about a nourishing mind-body exercise? Here’s why you should Try Yin Yoga