The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique: How to Deeply Relax Your Body and Mind

  • By Jennifer Mulder
  • 20 February 2017
  • 3 minute read
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique: How to Deeply Relax Your Body and Mind | The Health Sessions

This is an excerpt from my ebook How to Create Your Own Action Plan for Recovery, a step-by step guide on rebuilding your health after illness or injury. 

If I had to limit my advice on healthy living to just one tip,

it would be to learn to breathe correctly.”

Andrew Weil, M.D.

You can survive roughly 3 weeks without food and 3 days without water, but after less than 3 minutes without breathing your heart will stop beating and your cells will die off.

Oxygen is your most critical source of energy. You take between 17,000 and 30,000 breaths each day. And yet, how often do you pay attention to your breathing and how it affects your body and mind?

Your mind, body and breath are intimately connected. When a sudden noise startles you, you automatically hold your breath. When you’re stressed and anxious, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, preparing you to fight or flight. Slow, deep breathing on the other hand activates the calming parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure and relaxes your muscles.

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.”

– Thich Nhath Hahn

Unfortunately, our modern day lifestyle supports bad breathing habits. Many of us sit behind a desk all day, hunched over our keyboards. Slouching compresses your lungs, making it harder to fully fill them with air. The hectic pace of urban life can also trigger a (chronic) stress response, which includes shallow, upper chest breathing.

When your breath is shallow, you draw a smaller amount of air into your lungs. Less air means there’s less oxygen available to feed your cells. Less oxygen in your cells means less energy. That’s why shallow breathing not only makes you feel tired, but can also result into muscle cramps, dizziness, chest pain and heart burn.

Deep belly breathing, however, relaxes your muscles, gives you more energy and lowers your levels of stress, anxiety and depression. When performed correctly, countless of bodily functions are involved and yet, your breath flows easily and effortlessly, carrying oxygen-rich blood to every corner of your body.

The best thing is, you can practice deep belly breathing anywhere anytime. It’s free, but priceless.

The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

The 4-7-8 breathing technique was pioneered by dr. Andrew Weil as a powerful method to release stress and sleep soundly. It combines the basics of deep belly breathing with inhaling, exhaling and holding your breath for a certain number of counts to promote deep relaxation.

  • First, exhale completely through your mouth, as if you’re sighing heavily.
  • Close your mouth and breathe in quietly through your nose to a count of 4. Lengthening your inhalation combats shallow breathing and makes you consciously take in more oxygen.
  • Now hold your breath for a count of 7 to allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout your body.
  • Finally, exhale audibly through your mouth on the count of 8. By breathing out slowly, you expel as much carbon dioxide from your lungs as possible and automatically stimulate your body to breathe in deeply.

Repeat this cycle three times for a total of four breaths.

And no worries: you don’t have watch a clock to do the 4-7-8 breathing technique – it’s the ratio of 4-7-8 counts that matters, not the actual seconds.

Practice this breathing technique twice a day to really benefit from it’s natural tranquilizing effects.

For more deep breathing techniques and methods for high-quality rest, check out my ebook ‘How to Create Your Own Action Plan for Recovery’

Have you ever practiced breathing techniques to relax, recharge or restore your health?

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