Harvard doctor, Andrew Weil, has claimed he has created a powerful technique that will help you sleep better and relieve your stress. It’s not a drug, nor is it a mattress or any sort of funny contraption. It’s the “4-7-8 breathing technique” and all you need is your very own breath!
So what the heck is this technique and what will it do for you? Well before I get into the 5 W’s of the 4-7-8 breathing technique, let’s talk about HOW it is done. Follow the descriptive steps below to complete the 4-7-8 breathing technique:
- First go to a quiet space. Sit or lie down with a straight back and if you like, place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart. Start by closing your eyes and emptying your lungs of air.
- Here’s where the fun really begins. Once comfortable, place your tongue at the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth and breath in through your nose for a mental count of 4 seconds. You should feel your belly rise as the air fills up your lungs.
- Next, you are going to hold in that breath for a mental count of 7 seconds. Do not try to inhale or exhale, stay in your position and let the air stay in your lungs.
- Finally you will exhale all of the air in your lungs for a mental count of 8 seconds, do this with gusto! A whoosh sound should or can accompany your exhalation.
- Once you have completed this- inhaling for 4 seconds, holding for 7 seconds and exhaling for a count of 8 – you have completed one cycle of breath. Repeat this cycle of breath no more than 4 times. Keep your breaths counting consistent, don’t slow down too much and remember it gets easier with practice!
You can check out a full instructional video of Dr. Weil completing the 4-7-8 breathing technique below:
For maximum impact, Dr. Weil suggests that you do 4 cycles of breath at least two separate times a day for 6-8 weeks. After this point, if you are comfortable, you can do up to 8 cycles of breath at each time. He claims that after 2-3 months of consistently completing the 4-7-8 breathing technique you will notice “huge changes in your physiology”. Some of these changes include a lower heart rate, better digestion and lower blood pressure. The instantaneous effects of this technique include more oxygen flow into the body, this helps immediately relax the body and aid in calming the mind. Not bad for such a simple, equipment-free technique, huh?
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is dubbed by many as the “fall asleep in 60 seconds technique”, however it is so much more than a sleep aid. Dr. Weil’s says “it is a very powerful anti-anxiety measure, in fact much more powerful than anti-anxiety drugs that are commonly prescribed”. Even if the 4-7-8 technique doesn’t put you to sleep instantaneously or take away your anxiety, know that the breath can be a powerful tool in working towards a desired state.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is based on a component of yoga known as pranayama or “the control of breath”. This idea resonated with me as I attended a yoga class prior to writing this article. The teacher told us “your breath is a medicine”, this is something I believe to be true and it is why I wholeheartedly recommend trying out the simple technique. Dr. Weil is definitely not the inventor of any new phenomenon, but his 4-7-8 breathing technique is an effective reminder. A reminder that, at times, we have the power to heal ourselves with dedication and without medicine.