The Four Fold Breath:
A very simple and extraordinarily effective Stress Reducing technique that I teach clients is something called The Four Fold Breath. It is actually a Pranayama Yoga technique known as Sama-Vritti. It actually means “Equal Breathing.” In Dialectical Behavior Therapy it is known as “Box Breathing “ or “Four Square Breathing.” It is excellent for dealing with stress, anxiety and even outright panics.
My clients have found this technique to be incredibly useful for all manner of situations. A number of clients have found the breathing technique to be useful in avoiding road rage. Others have found this useful at the onset of panic attacks such as when dealing with agoraphobia (fear of being in public) to claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces.) I use the technique myself upon waking up in the morning to balance my mood and give me a sense of calm. If necessary I also use it if I wake up at 2 o’oclock in the morning to go back to sleep. It’s an excellent preparation just prior to any kind of meditative exercise.
How to: Normally breathing is a two count exercise, in and out. However if one lengthens the very short pauses after inhalation and after exhalation then great and immediate benefits can be reaped. The way it works is as follows. You breathe in for a count of four seconds, you hold for a count of four seconds, you breathe out slowly for four seconds, you hold with no air for a count of four seconds, (which is tricky) and you just do that for several cycles. You can do it for 3 seconds a piece if you are more comfortable with that. The breathing just has to be rhythmic not too deep.
When our breathing is shallow and we have short breaths it triggers the hypothalamus gland at the base of the brain to produce anxiety producing hormones that induce the fight or flight response. Specifically epinephrine (cortisol) and nor epinephrine. Additionally Adrenalin is produced. If prolonged it also reduces serotonin in the brain. If we regulate our breathing appropriately the limbic system produces an anxiety reducing hormone that actually calms the body.
Try incorporating the Four Fold Breath into your daily routine. At the beginning of the day it can produce an excellent balance chemically for your day. As crises and panics arise, it is an excellent tool to get you out of the danger zone and back on track.