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Navy SEALs Use This Cool Breath Technique to Stay Calm Under Fire

Use this breath to quickly reduce stress when anxiety hits.

By Mike PetersonPublished about a year ago 3 min read
Navy SEALs Use This Cool Breath Technique to Stay Calm Under Fire
Photo by Pavel Lozovikov on Unsplash

If you want to stay calm when stressed and maintain your performance under pressure, then you need to try a nifty Navy SEAL breathing technique.

Breathing is something you don’t even think about for the majority of the day — and yet, it can have powerful effects on your emotions, nervous system, and overall well-being.

The act of using the breath to change your state of being is now commonly known as breathwork. But although you may associate breathing exercises with yoga and meditation, there’s a group of highly trained military professionals that also use the breath to stay calm under pressure.

Enter the Navy SEAL breathing technique known as box breathing. Primarily popularized by Mark Divine, former Navy SEAL Commander and author of The Way of the SEAL, the breathing method is obviously powerful enough to be used by special operations forces.

How to box breathe

Although box breathing is a powerful tool to quickly change your mental state, it’s very simple to do.

Here’s how to box breathe.

  1. Inhale for a count of four.
  2. Hold the breath for a count of four.
  3. Exhale for a count of four.
  4. Hold the breath again for a count of four.

If you have the time, it's recommended that you complete at least four rounds of box breathing before stopping. Ideally, you'll box breathe for at least two to three minutes.

Although it may seem basic, there’s increasing evidence that box breathing can calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system.

In practical terms, this can reduce acute stress, lower blood pressure, and instill an almost immediate sense of calm and relaxation — no matter the outside circumstances.

Box breathing tips for beginners

Breathing exercises like these are powerful tools, but they can take a while to get the hang of.

For example, it’s possible to feel dizzy while practicing any sort of breathing techniques — and especially those with intentional holds.

The key is to keep practicing the technique whenever you can. After a while, you’ll get used to it and will have a handy tool for de-stressing that’s always with you.

Box breathing + meditation is a top-tier match

By JD Mason on Unsplash

Not only can you use box breathing for acute stress relief, but you can also leverage the breathing practice to enhance other aspects of stillness in your life.

For example, box breathing can be a great tool for those that have trouble concentrating during mindfulness meditation. Complete at least eight to 10 rounds of box breathing before you stop.

Once you're done with your box breathing, you can move on to mindfulness meditation.

  1. Sit quietly and bring your entire focus to your breath.
  2. When the mind drifts, don't judge yourself. Just bring your attention back to your breath.
  3. Sit in meditation for at least five minutes for full benefits.

Taken together, breathwork like box breathing and meditation practices can truly be an antitode to the stresses of modern life.

Want more breathing practices?

While box breathing is associated with the Navy SEALs, its roots can actually be traced back to the ancient Indian practice of yoga.

Along with the physical postures most associate with it, yoga also encompasses a plethora of intentional breathwork and breathing techniques that can have benefits just as powerful as box breathing.

In fact, ancient yogis primarily used the physical poses of yoga to prepare the body for breathing and meditation. In other words, yoga as we understand today is just the preparation phase for finding stillness in the mind and body.

If you're curious about exploring the intersection of the breath and overall wellness, you can check out Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor or Light on Pranayama: The Yogic Art of Breathing by B.K.S. Iyengar.

You can also check out my free newsletter, where I share weekly tips on breathwork, yoga, meditation, and wellness. Thanks for reading!


    About the Creator

    Mike Peterson

    Poet. Yoga teacher. Nature enthusiast.

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    Comments (1)

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    • Lucas Raeabout a year ago

      Wow, very interesting. I tried this as I was reading this article, and it surprisingly made me a lot calmer.

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