Are you curious about how 4 7 8 breathing techniques work? Interested in learning it and with it, help manage anxiety and stress? Yes? Then you should continue reading!
I like to raise my arms in cactus, just so it provides me with some focus, while I'm breathing this way.
― Nicole Anahana Wellness Instructor
4 7 8 Breathing technique introduction
The 4 7 8 breathing technique was developed by internationally renowned doctor and integrative medicine pioneer, Dr. Andrew Weil. According to Weil, it is the most effective way of managing anxiety and stress that he’s found in his decades of experience.
Deep breaths — like those used in the 4-7-8 technique — are useful at combating anxiety because they help fortify the connection between mind and body. As you slow your breathing and focus fully on the breaths you’re taking, your parasympathetic nervous system becomes engaged.
In turn, your body becomes flooded with a wave of relaxation. As your body slackens in tension, your mind — forced to focus on the mechanics of the breath — can take a break from its constant swirl of worries.
When it comes to managing anxiety and stress in a holistic way, 4-7-8 breathing is hard to beat.
What is 4-7-8 breathing method?
478 breathing is a simple breathing exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime. Essentially, the technique follows this easy pattern:
Step #1 – Breathe in to the count of 4
Step #2 – Hold your breath to the count of 7
Step #3 – Breathe out to the count of 8
This cycle should be repeated four times, twice per day. Do this every day, and after about a month of this pattern, the cycle can be repeated eight times in a row (instead of four), twice per day, every day.
Some of the health benefits
Many people are living with anxiety when they shouldn’t have to. There are ways to help with anxiety and stress, and many of them are quite simple. In fact, this easy breathing technique could be what lies between you and a more calmed and relaxed daily default state.
Not only is breathing technique one of the most powerful coping skills for anxiety, but it has also been known to help combat high blood pressure, improve digestion, and provide additional benefits as well. Here are some of the main benefits you can expect from consistently using 4-7-8 breathing:
- An immediate sense of calm, for stress reduction
- Better sleep (easier time falling asleep and staying asleep)
- Improved focus (whether at home, at school, or relaxing with family and friends)
- Lower anxiety levels
- Less muscle tension
- Improved cardiovascular stamina
- Improved blood pressure
- Improved symptoms related to common breathing conditions such as asthma, COPD, etc.
- Improved digestion
- Help with managing anxiety
How to perform 478 breathing
You can do 4 7 8 breathing anywhere, any time, but it’s ideal if you can find a quiet place where you can be alone. Sit in a chair with your back straight and feet flat on the floor. Or, sit on the ground with your back straight and legs crossed. Use a meditation cushion if you like.
If you’re using this breathing method to fall asleep, lie on your back, relaxed, with your face toward the ceiling and arms at your sides.
Step 1: Start by exhaling all of the air out of your lungs, through your mouth.
Step 2: Now, begin the cycle: With your mouth closed, quietly inhale through your nose to the count of four: 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … Be sure to let your belly expand as you inhale (instead of allowing your shoulders to rise).
Step 3: Gently hold the air in your lungs to the count of seven: 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 …
Step 4: Open your mouth slightly, and audibly (and rather forcefully) exhale through the mouth to the count of eight: 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 … Feel your belly get smaller as you do this.
Repeat steps 1 through 4 four times. Do this two times a day, every day to help with managing anxiety.- Clint Johnson, Anahana Wellness Founder
Frequently Asked Questions About 4 7 8 Breathing
What is the 4 7 8 breathing technique?
The 4 7 8 breathing technique is a quick and easy breathing exercise that promotes relaxation, calmness for stress, and an easier time managing anxiety. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to deal with anxiety and is similar to box breathing or combat breathing in this regard. It’s also a great way to use breathing to lower blood pressure (hypertension).
The technique follows a simple 478 breathing pattern:
- Take a deep breath in to the count of 4.
- Hold your breath to the count of 7.
- Breathe out to the count of 8.
Can anyone do the 4-7-8 breathing method?
Yes! While those with specific medical issues should always consult with their doctors before trying a breathing exercise, the 4 7 8 breathing method was designed to work for everyone.
Just remember to start with only four iterations of the 4-7-8 cycle at a time because prolonged controlled breathing can sometimes lead to lightheadedness. Simply stick with the recommended guidelines, and you’ll begin to notice almost right away that you have an easier time managing anxiety and staying calm.
How often should you do breathing exercises?
To help with managing anxiety, the 4 7 8 breathing technique should be done twice a day to start with. This means completing four breath cycles (four iterations of the 4-7-8 breathing pattern) two times per day. After a month, you can increase to eight breath cycles, two times per day.
How long will it take to notice effects from 4 7 8 breathing?
If you practice 4-7-8 breathing twice a day, every day, you should start to notice positive effects almost immediately: Slowed heart rate, a less tense posture, an easier time managing anxiety, and a clearer mind, to name a few. Stick with it, and after about six weeks, you’ll begin to notice even more significantly positive effects, like better sleep and lowered blood pressure.
Remember to practice fastidiously, and try not to miss a day. Fortunately, staying on track with this breathing exercise shouldn’t be hard as the technique takes just a few minutes to complete.
Are you interested in learning this breathing technique? Reach out to us and let's talk about it.
“From the perspective of meditation, every state is a special state, every moment a special moment.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn
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Written by Clint Johnson
Clint teaches Yoga, Pilates, breath, and mediation to students and teachers all over the world. Prior to joining the wellness world, CJ as his friends call him, started his career as a MBS derivative trader and portfolio manager on Wall St. Clint is the founder of Anahana, and holds an MBA from INSEAD.