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Navy SEAL Breathing Techniques: Tips from the World’s Elite

The elite warriors, the Navy SEALs, have a secret weapon that's not as covert as you might think: breath control.

Members of the Navy SEAL team are some of the most highly trained soldiers on the planet, capable of performing almost impossibly difficult physical feats. The little known key to almost everything the Navy SEALs do: control over their breathing.

Yes, you read that right. Breath control.

Every day, we take more than 20,000 breaths. But do we actually pay attention to them? Most people don’t. However, different breathing patterns can lead to increased energy, a calmer mind, and a clearer head.

During a grueling 52-hour training with the Navy SEALs, Tobi Emonts-Holley and his team at Forging Balance learned some invaluable lessons about breath control. Here’s a recap of these Navy SEAL breathing techniques and how you can use them to improve your own breathing.


A Little ‘Welcome’ Session

Training starts with a “Welcome Party” that consists of hundreds of pushups, burpees, and squats. These exercises cause you to gasp for air as energy levels plummet. How do you handle it? Just breathe. Fully inhale and fill the lungs, and then slowly exhale.

Why? Because most of the time when people physically exert themselves, their instinctive reaction is to react with quick shallow breaths. This in turn increases blood pressure, heart rate, and stress response, while reducing oxygen intake and causing impaired thinking and slow recovery. The solution? Fill your lungs deeply with long full breaths.


Ice Bath and Hill Sprints

The next part of the training is the ice bath. When you immerse yourself in frigid cold water it feels like the air is being squeezed out of you. The way to combat this sensation is to focus on each breath and slow it down, which helps calm you against your natural fight-or-flight response.

After the ice bath, it’s on to hill sprints in the desert. Trainees are instructed to breathe in through their noses when they reached the top of the hill. Nose breathing is an important technique. It reduces exposure to foreign substances, increases oxygen uptake and circulation, aids the immune system, slows down breathing, improves lung volume, and humidifies inhaled air.

Navy Seal ice bath

Surf Torture and Box Breathing

At night comes eight hours of “surf torture.” This includes full ocean immersion, while covered in sand, and standing in the cold air in wet clothes. One of the key Navy SEAL breathing techniques comes in handy here: “Box Breathing.” Box breathing is inhaling for four seconds, holding for four, exhaling for four, holding for four, and repeating. This technique helps with stress and anxiety, brings balance to the body and mind, regulates natural rhythm, and leads to emotional control.


Warrior Breath & Man Down Drills

The next step in the training involves holding logs to practice using the Warrior Breath. This technique involves sharp inhales through the nose and soft exhales through the mouth or nose. It’s effective in charging your energy stores and clearing your mind.

The final trial is the “Man down” drill. It combines nasal breathing, Warrior Breath, filling the lungs fully with each breath, and Box Breathing during a short break to control the body’s stress response.


Lessons Learned

52 hours of intense training with some of the toughest people on the planet provides two powerful takeaways:

  1. Break up your big goals into small chunks, one breath at a time.
  2. Breath control is stress control.

Remember, Navy SEAL breathing techniques are not just for the Navy SEALs. They can be used by everyone. Consider these tips to improve your own daily breathing at home. 


Summary: Navy SEAL Breathing Techniques

  • Nasal breathing
  • Avoiding shallow breaths to enhance performance
  • Using daily cues to become aware of your breath
  • The Warrior Breath to energize and clear your mind
  • Box Breathing to lower stress and anxiety, and for better emotional control 

Breath control is not just a technique; it’s a lifestyle. It’s a secret weapon that can help you achieve your goals, manage your stress, and live a healthier, more balanced life. So, take a deep breath, and dive into the world of Navy SEAL breathing techniques.

The content in this article is based on Tobi Emonts-Holley’s Twitter feed


Further Reading:

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The 15 U.S. Cities With the Worst Indoor Air Pollution

Test and Take Action: How to Improve Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality

Gideon Rubin

Gideon Rubin is the CEO and co-founder of YourIAQ and Sensables, where he leads strategy and business development. He previously co-founded Pandio and Local Data Exchange, and held c-level roles at NavAds and Local Market Launch. Gideon is an experienced entrepreneur focused on building organizations that use data, AI, and machine learning to solve complex problems and change lives.