The 4-7-8 breathing exercise, is a tool that can relax the practitioner in a matter of moments and offers profound, compounding benefits over time.
With roots in yoga, the outcome of this practice produces a pleasant altered state of consciousness while strengthening the vagal nerve which plays a crucial role in activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Upshot, it helps reduce our stress response big time.
Created by one of the early pioneers of the modern integrative medicine movement (and a Harvard alum), Dr. Andrew Weil, it has become widely used because of its simplicity and effectiveness. This basic yet powerful breathing technique can lead to a slower heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and even improved digestion in just a month.
It has been a key tool to get me out of high stress moments — and still does. I do it daily.
Here’s the overview of the simple steps so YOU can do it daily too.
- Touch your tongue gently to the roof of your mouth, just behind your teeth, and exhale
- Breath in gently through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and breathe out forcefully through your mouth for 8 seconds
- Repeat for 4 breath cycles max for the first month, then go up to 8 (but no more than two sets of 8 a day)
- Do it twice a day, minimum
I strongly encourage everyone to watch the instructional videos seen below, especially if you’re a visual learner. Here are some helpful videos of Dr. Weils, walking you through it.
Video: Breathing Exercises: 4-7-8 Breath (A general overview)
Plus, here is a downloadable / printable 1 page PDF with instructions for easy offline reference.
Notes / Tips
- The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important.
- You can do this in any position. In the beginning, it is recommended to sit down with your back straight.
- You can do this anywhere. In the beginning, do not attempt while driving a car or other potentially risky situations where being lightheaded is not good.
- Feel free to apply this breath work to stressful situations, emotional triggers, cravings, etc.
- You can work it into your existing contemplative/meditative practices.
- Have fun and play with it!
In wellness and simplicity,
Vincent Cobb co-founder