breathing technique

Breathe In 2024


Mckenzie Ellis

4-7-8 Breath

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. This breathing pattern aims to reduce anxiety or help people get to sleep.

Conscious breathing takes various forms. Dr. Weil believes each variety can be a useful tool for achieving a desired mental or physical state.

The 4-7-8 Breath (also known as the Relaxing Breath) is the perfect, portable stress antidote, as it puts the practitioner in a relaxed state almost immediately. As Dr. Weil demonstrates, it takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.

Learn more about the 4-7-8 Breath

The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.
  5. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

*Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

Proponents claim it can soothe a racing heart or calm frazzled nerves.

  • Reduced depression and anxiety. In one study, participants with COPD who practiced controlled breathing techniques experienced reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Improved motor memory
  • Improved pain processing

The primary use of this breathing technique is to lower your stress response over time. This means practicing daily to notice an improvement in the long term. However, 4-7-8 breathing can also help keep you calm in a variety of stressful situations. You can use it to alleviate symptoms associated with stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. Below are some specific situations in which you might find this 4-7-8 breathing helpful.

  • At work, when experiencing stress
  • While driving in traffic or commuting to work each day
  • Before giving a speech or presentation at school or work
  • During an exam period at university/college
  • At night when trying to fall asleep
  • First thing in the morning, when you wake up
  • When experiencing pre-class nerves in university/college
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed
  • When practicing other relaxation exercises (e.g., progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery)
  • When doing yoga or tai chi
  • When practicing mindfulness meditation

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