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Breathing To Relax; The 4-7-8 Breathing Method

The 4-7-8 breathing method is my absolute favorite way to unwind before I go to bed. I try to do yoga every evening (emphasis on the word try!) However the 4-7-8 Breathing Method has easily become part of my evening routine.

This breathing technique is simple yet incredibly effective, it takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.

The 4-7-8 Breathing Method. Step-by-step.

As with any type of exercise, form and technique are’s the same for breathing exercises as well.

To get the most out of your practice, sit with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, keep it there through the entire exercise. This step can feel awkward, I promise though you’ll get used to it.

  • 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. (Don’t forget your tongue is still pressed against the back of your upper front teeth)

  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

This technique was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s based on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama, which helps participants gain control over their breathing.

When practiced regularly, it’s possible that this technique could help some people fall asleep in a shorter period of time.

Breathing techniques are designed to bring the body into a state of deep relaxation. Specific patterns that involve holding the breath for a period of time allow your body to replenish its oxygen. From the lungs outward, techniques like 4-7-8 can give your organs and tissues a much-needed oxygen boost.

Relaxation practices also help bring the body back into balance and regulate the

fight-or-flight response we feel when we're stressed. This is particularly helpful if you're experiencing sleeplessness due to anxiety or worries about what happened during your day — or what might happen tomorrow. Constant thoughts and concerns can keep us from falling asleep and then the concerns about how long it takes to actually fall asleep can keep us up even longer. Proponents of the 4-7-8 technique (I being one of them) claim it can soothe a racing heart or calm frazzled nerves. Dr. Weil has even described it as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”

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