What is the 4-7-8 breathing technique?

To be human is to know stress. If you deal with stress or anxiety on a regular basis, chances are, you know there’s power in slowing down and taking a deep breath, but something you may not know is that while focusing on your breath is a great way to calm yourself, the cadence in which you breathe might be even more important. That’s where the 4-7-8 breathing technique can be useful.

You may have heard of this breathing technique before. 4-7-8 breathing, also called “relaxing breath” is a pattern of breath that has been used for centuries as a way of promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and aiding sleep.

woman in a meditative pose, practicing her breathing

If you’re like most people, your normal breathing is shallow and you most likely hold your breath a lot throughout the day without even realizing it. This actually can contribute to stress and tension. Conscious breathing exercises, like the 4-7-8 technique, help you clear your mind and promote an increased feeling of calm.

It does this by calming the nervous system and helping to break out of the fight-or-flight response that is triggered by fear.  By focusing solely on your breath, you will essentially transfer your focus away from the immediate worries and calm your mind.

How do you do the 4-7-8 breathing technique?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is pretty simple once you get the hang of it and can be done anywhere and any time, although it’s best done while seated or standing with a straight back. This allows your lungs to fully expand.

Before you begin: Begin with an audible exhale to open your lungs and release any tension you might be holding in your shoulders. You should make a “whoosh” sound with your mouth when exhaling.

Step one: With your mouth closed and tongue pressed gently on the roof of your mouth, take a deep breath in slowly and deeply through your nose while you mentally count to four.

Step two: Next, hold your breath for a mental count of seven.

Step three: Lastly, exhale through your mouth as slowly as you can for a count of eight.

Repeat for four cycles.

4-7-8 breathing

Anytime, anywhere.

The best part about the 4-7-8 breathing technique is that it can be used anytime and anywhere. Practice this method before a long flight, before a presentation at work, or on your living room floor after your kids decide your freshly folded laundry is a landing pad for jumping off the couch. (Yes, moms I feel your pain.)

If you’re into the 4-7-8 breathing, try it while watching one of my 60 Seconds of Calm videos. I can feel the stress melting away as we speak…

Happy meditating!