Breathing is necessary for life functions, yet many people give little thought to the actual process of breathing. Breathing intentionally is central to the practice of yoga and meditation, and is believed to support in relaxation. Intentional breathing has also started to make its way into more western medical practices, and some therapists incorporate breathing techniques into their sessions. Proper breathing is easy to practice and may offer many benefits.
The 4-7-8 technique
The 4-7-8 technique of breathing is a three-stage exercise. The first stage involves breathing in through your nose to a slow four count. Next, you hold your breath for a seven count. Finally, you exhale through your mouth for a slow eight count. You can make a soft whooshing sound by lightly pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth on the exhalation breath.
Frequency of practice
When you first begin the 4-7-8 breathing technique, try to complete the exercise four times. Repeat the exercise twice a day. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests limiting yourself to four repetitions at a time for the first month you practice this breathing technique. As you get more comfortable with the practice, you can steadily increase your frequency to eight repetitions twice a day.
Tips for practice
When you first begin this breathing technique, you may get lightheaded, so practice from a seated position. If at any point the exercise makes you uncomfortable, stop and begin again only when you feel ready. If you struggle with holding your breath, you can speed up your counting as long as you are consistent across all three stages of the exercise. The important thing is the ratio of 4-7-8, although you will receive a greater benefit from counting more slowly.
This exercise is also called the relaxing breath, and it can be helpful in reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. It can be beneficial in grounding yourself before reacting in a tense situation. The 4-7-8 exercise can also help you relax before going to sleep.