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,

16 Responses to “Boost Performance with Box Breathing and Meditation – TechniqueWOD”

  1. Wade

    Surprising difficult, especially the 5 second inhale. I found myself want to rush air in like I just surfaced from swimming underwater.
    It really does clear the mind though. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. Boris Voroba

    I have been using a similar form of breathing from meditation exercises and just tried the tactical exercise. A quick question on the exhale, does it matter if you exhale through the nose or the mouth?? During meditation they recommend inhale (through nose) while exhale (through mouth) and i noticed that you were exhaling through the nose during the exercises.

  3. Pritch

    Thanks so much! What a great episode, both the WOD and 166. Just got my wife to watch this with me and we both feel better! Definitely want to introduce this to my athletes…

  4. Dan Lennon

    This is awesome. I’ve been trying my best to do this often throughout the day. It truly clears the mind and helps me focus.

    Mark brought up in the podcast about giving Barbell Shrugged followers a 1 month free trial for his online training. I’d love to test the waters of his program. Is it possible to receive this promotional code?

  5. Jackson

    “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.”

    Are we supposed to take rest periods between “sets” of breaths?

  6. ATD

    So difficult! However, I as I reminded myself to relax and not let the breathing stress me out, it did become easier. I have a fear of being held under water and running out of air, and at first this reminded me a lot of that fear/feeling. I definitely felt more relaxed at at ease when I had completed the box breathing. I’m going to share this with my athletes. Thank you!

  7. Yohann

    Awesome practice! Loved it.
    Mark…tried to get on the promo but couldn’t see a 30day trial. Are you referring to the Sample membership?
    Many thanks.

  8. Ali Nayem

    This is so essential , yet many do not practice this.
    Unfortunately i am one of them, definitely adding this to my daily routine.

  9. Lama Surya Das

    Breathing brings in much needed oxygen into the brain which reduces anxiety levels! When you breathe slowly, deeply and purposefully into areas tense and this will help them relax those muscles. Deep breathing can be successful using meditative practices or just focusing on doing it at certain times of the day.


Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS