Yoga for Runners Pranayama Practice: Square Breathing

by Sally Drake

Made by Sally Drake

Each month, I feature a yoga pose, breathing technique or guided meditation that is beneficial for runners. Yoga helps improve flexibility; increase strength; enhance balance and stability; provide stress relief, better breathing and faster recovery. Even just a few minutes of yoga added to your pre or post run routine will positively impact not just your athletic pursuits, but all areas of your life.

Yoga for Runners
Pranayama Practice: Square Breathing

Pranayma, the practice of breath control in yoga connects mind and body through breath and assists in the regulation of the energy. Pranayama on and off the mat has a multitude of mental and physical health benefits from stress reduction to increased lung capacity and we can all benefit from incorporating mindful breathing into our daily routine.

Athletes can benefit from a regular breath practice in many ways including calming the nervous system, reducing the stress and pressure that comes with competition, and enhancing focus and awareness on how the body is feeling.  It can also be extremely helpful in facilitating rest, restoration and sleep–a key factor in athletic performance.

There are many different pranayama techniques. In this column, I describe a simple but very effective practice that you can try anywhere and anytime–from helping you get to sleep to calming nervous energy before a big race.

Square Breathing
Also known as box breathing, 4x4 breathing or 4-part breath

This technique can be done anywhere and anytime you want to calm yourself down, feeling overwhelmed or faced with stress. It can help you fall asleep, prepare for a big event, clear your head or make an important decision. It can be practiced sitting, lying down or even standing if that is what serves you.

Start with your natural pace of breath for about a minute, slowly deepening your breath, noticing how your stomach rises and falls as your breath deepens.

  1. Begin with an inhale through your nose to a slow count of 4
  2. Hold at the top of the breath for a count of 4
  3. Then gently exhale through your mouth for a count of 4
  4. At the bottom of the breath, pause and hold for a count of 4

Repeat this cycle of breath as many times as you need. Even just 30 seconds of deep breathing will help you feel more relaxed. You may consider adding an image of a box or square, or setting an intention authentic and meaningful to you as you move through breath technique. Try it next time you need some calming, clarifying energy – maybe just before your big fall race! And let me know how it goes.



Sally Drake has been a runner in the Capital District community for over twenty years. In May 2023 she received her 200-hour yoga teacher training certificate from Styles Yoga at the Hot Yoga Spot.  Follow her on Instagram at @sdrakeyogi for more yoga inspiration.





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