The 4-7-8 breath is a yoga breathing exercise I encountered several months ago at Dr Andrew Weil’s website. It’s now a regular part of my daily yoga practise. It’s delightfully calming as well as being simple and portable. It can be done anywhere — standing or sitting — as long as you keep your back straight.
Start by placing the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the entire exercise.
Here are Dr Weil’s instructions:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. Purse your lips slightly as you exhale around your tongue.
- This is one cycle. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four complete breaths.
A couple of things:
- Ensure you inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth.
- Diligently keep the tip of your tongue on the ridge of tissue behind your front teeth for the whole time.
- Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. Dr Weil says, “The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; but the ratio of 4:7:8 is. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply. Practice at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice.”