The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a breathing exercise developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, founder of the Integrative Medicine Center at the University of Arizona. This breathing exercise have the ability to release stress, improve your mental clarity, and improve your physical health. It is based on principles of pranayama, the ancient yogic practice of controlling your breath.
How to do 4-7-8 breathing
While the 4-7-8 can be done anywhere at any time, it’s best done while sitting with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth. You’ll need to keep your tongue in place throughout the practice.
Then follow these steps:
- Exhale through your mouth, making a whooshing sound.
- Close your mouth. Inhale quietly through your nose to the count of four.
- Hold your breath to the count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound as you count to eight.
- That completes one full breath. Repeat the cycle three more times.
The more you practice the 4-7-8 technique, the better you’ll become, and the more your body will begin to incorporate it into your stress response. You might feel a little lightheaded after doing this technique for the first few times. Dr. Weil recommends performing the technique every day, twice a day, for best results.
How 4-7-8 breathing works
The autonomic nervous system has two parts, the sympathetic division and the parasympathetic division. The two divisions primarily work unconsciously in opposite ways to regulate many functions and parts your the body.
When you’re stressed, your sympathetic nervous system drives the fight-or-flight response. It increases your blood pressure, blood flow to muscles, heart rate, and breathing rate, preparing your body to either run from danger or fight back.
Deep breathing like the 4-7-8 technique can calm your body by activating your parasympathetic nervous system. And when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it slows your heart, lowers blood pressure, promotes digestion, and produces a calm and relaxed feeling in the mind and body.