What is Box breathing?
I daily implement what I feel is the most important breath exercise for singers.
Box breathing is also known as square breathing. Many people use it including US Navy SEALS, people in high stress jobs, artists, athletes, business people, and many others in all walks of life. Mark Devine who is a former Navy Seal Commander has been teaching this Box-breathing technique since 1987- he has a very interesting video, see “Box Breathing with Mark Divine”: https://youtu.be/GZzhk9jEkkI
The FOUR BIG BENEFITS of Box Breathing:
- Enhances lung capacity and expansion.
Good lung capacity and the ability to maintain that lung expansion while singing are necessary for proper breath support, which is critical in singing (see #2 below).
The sound is carried on vibrations in the air that must leave the lungs, and greater capacity and control of the exhalation results in notes carried with more strength, clarity, and for longer durations.
- Aids in the preparation of the connection of your lower breath support to your voice.
Breath support is a critical element for good sound production. I always work with a very low and expansive support on my breath that allows for very little air to be used. You must sing “on” the air, and not blowing “through” the air.
I state breath support as the most important element to healthy belting in “My 7 Non-Negotiables for Healthy Belting” in this blog https://www.skokstudio.org/healthy-belting-my-7-non-negotiables/
- Brings a “natural” inner calm and peace which is so very necessary for a performer in many ways, onstage and off.
The act of slowly and deliberately exhaling is a calming activity for the body and central nervous system. When we take a moment to “just breath” in this controlled way, the heartbeat slows, and a relaxed feeling is sensed.
Whether a performer is singing, acting, speaking publicly, or whatever, a case of “stage fright” or nervousness can happen to anyone. Box Breathing works to calm the nervous system, so it’s a smart tool to use before just about any kind of high-tension performance situation.
- Heightens concentration which results in better mental performance levels.
Singers must be able to concentrate and focus both when they train and perform. Being able to sing a song “off-book” is a task of memory recall that takes a lot of focus. Add to this the possibility of accompanying one’s self with an instrument and the need for solid concentration is even greater.
Box breathing’s ability to bring a “natural” inner calm mentioned above also is what also allows one to concentrate even under circumstances with many distractions.
I disagree that you have to sit upright with your feet on the floor with a straight back when performing this exercise (such as this one https://www.healthline.com/health/box-breathing).
You can sit or stand or lay down. We don’t just take air in only with a straight spine every time we breath. Air intake is our very life and we breathe while walking, sitting, standing, laying down, rolling around, dancing, laughing, yelling, crying.
It’s also a recommendation that you be in a stress-free environment but this also is not necessary. That is not a real-life scenario unless you only live and breath in a bubble. I don’t live in a bubble.
I’m telling you that I can be in the absolute busiest scene and that is actually the best time to use Box breathing to calm myself inside, to slow down my breath, become aware of my thoughts and to be aware of my own inhaling pace, which is our connector to life.
You can do this too, just follow my six easy steps. These are the six steps that I follow for Box breathing, which I do every single day, several times a day.
The Six Simple Steps for Box breathing
- Choose a count. Starting with a count of 4 is the best and the easiest and then begin to build your intake count up from there. I am now at an inhaling count of 16! That’s fabulous for me-I had started at a 4.
- Prior to inhaling, hold your breath for a 4 count. You determine the speed of your count, what feels right, comfortable and easy for you.
- Inhale through the nose for a count of 4, to your own determined counting speed.
- Hold your inhaled air for a count of 4, in the same pace as you have inhaled.
- Exhale gently from your mouth, like you are lightly blowing out a birthday candle to a count of 4 at your own pace.
- Begin again with the holding of a four count then proceed to inhale for a count of 4 and so on. I recommend at least five rounds.
See the demonstration video on the Skokstudio YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/uWUjycplync
I suggest that you work for a week at a 4 count, four times a day.
The following week, work at a 5 count, and the week after that, a 6 count and so on and so on.
As I told you earlier, I am now at a 16 count! I hope to be able to add a bit more. At the moment, I do feel at full capacity with the 16 count.
Let me know in the comments below how you feel and the progress you are making. I can’t wait to hear from you!