Shrugged Collective

Boost Performance with Box Breathing and Meditation – TechniqueWOD


This week on TechniqueWOD, SEALFIT Founder and former Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine is here to teach us how breathing and meditation can improve quality of life AND performance.

1. Stop what you’re doing!

Really, put everything down for a few minutes. Find a quiet, relaxing spot and do this breathing exercise along with us. It’s a quick thing to do, but also an incredibly important thing to do. You cannot reach your potential as an athlete – as a person – if your mind and breath are unfit.

Nothing is more important than breath, so you MUST train it!

Box Breathing is a simple and effective way to build breathing skill. Basically, you’ll be doing lots of high-quality breathing repetitions at an escalating rate. It’s no different than lifting barbell, only here good form means drawing a nice and deep breath through the nose and into the belly. As you get better at keeping control over your breath, your ability to maintain focus and presence in any situation also improves.

You will feel better. You will make better decisions. You will perform BETTER in every area of your life.


2. Start with the belly breath.

This is the basic technique of breathing…

  1. Put your hand on your belly.
  2. Push it out by drawing in a deep breath through your nostrils.
  3. Exhale fully, pushing the hand in towards your spine. Get all the air out.
  4. Repeat three times.
  5. Do it all again, only this time, focus on physically expanding the belly, then the lower chest, then the upper chest as you breath in deeply.

This is a great way to train all of your breathing muscles properly. Just remember to keep breathing through the nose. For more on why that’s so important, don’t miss episode 166 of Barbell Shrugged

Mark does a great job of explaining the physiological benefits.


3. Use the tactical breath to steady yourself during performance. 

This is a simple technique that will help you stay calm and centered no matter the situation. I know it’s simple, but if it works for Navy SEALS caught in a firefight then it will certainly work wonders for you during your next WOD.

  1. Breath deep into the belly. The total breath should be about 4-8 seconds. Work up as you get more skilled.
  2. Exhale fully at the same interval.
  3. Start your next inhalation the moment you’ve pressed the very last bit of air from your lungs.
  4. There will be a slight moment of pause and presence between the breaths, which is amazingly calming and empowering.

Just 10 breaths could mean the difference between winning and losing your battle.  


4. Master your breath with box breathing.

Find a very quiet spot.

After training or work, in the evening, early morning, anytime will do. This final drill will work to rewire that hard wired, dysfunctional breathing pattern that has resulted from years of hurry and stress. With the breath under control your mind will grow still, focused, and more fit.

Basically, this is a VERY effective meditation technique that you can use at any time.

  1. Breath in deep into the nose. You know the technique now…
  2. You will still keep a pace, let’s say 5 seconds to start. But now you’re going to also add a 5 second pause at the end of your inhalation.
  3. Hold that breath for 5 seconds. Just let the moment hang there. Still your mind and body. Be nothing for just the moment.
  4. Exhale for a smooth and controlled 5 count.
  5. After pushing the last bits of air from your lungs, be still once more. Again, 5 seconds of stillness and presence.

You’ll notice that the pattern of breath literally forms a box (out, pause, in, pause, repeat). That explains the name. But beyond that you’re free to experiment.

Start with 5 minutes of breathing. Your pattern will be 5 seconds to start but you can work up second by second in “sets” of 10 reps or so. Try 6 seconds, then 7 and 8. If you can do 10 you are pretty skilled at breathing.

As a start you might consider using an app to help cue your breathing and track your daily use (the DAILY effort and habit is what’s critical, after all). Mark recommends the Pranayama Universal Breathing application.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 9.36.32 AMCheck out for more great info from Mark Divine. 

Make the DAILY effort. 

If you practice these very simple, incredibly effective breathing drills every day – if only for 5 minutes – you will notice a significant impact in the gym and in life.

You will fuel your body better. You will make better decisions. You will be able to maintain presence and focus, not matter how stressful the situation might be. In short, it won’t be long before you become a better, higher functioning person.

Breath well,

Doug Larson


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