The 4-7-8 breathing technique has its roots in the yoga breathing practice, Pranayama but is popularized by Dr Andrew Weil.


Kimberly Rodrigues

For overall good health, getting an adequate night’s sleep is crucial. However, many of us struggle to get the required seven-plus hours of this restorative sleep.

If you are among the many individuals who toss and turn in bed at night, the 4-7-8 breathing technique might relax you, and help you doze off, the Mirror informs.

This method can reportedly help you drift off by reducing your anxiety and relaxing your mind.

So, what is this method that is helping people to get the recommended hours of sleep?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique reportedly has its roots in the yoga breathing practice, Pranayama, but is promoted and popularized by Dr Andrew Weil, M.D who is an integrative medicine specialist.

Describing this technique as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system,” the doctor also writes on his website that it “is the perfect, portable stress antidote, as it puts the practitioner in a relaxed state almost immediately.”

He adds, “Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it, but gains in power with repetition and practice.”

Also known as the “relaxing breath,” the 4-7-8 technique includes breathing in for four counts, followed by holding your breath for seven counts and exhaling for eight counts.

According to Dr Andrew, “Practicing a regular, mindful breathing exercise can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”

Based on the information provided on the expert’s website, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise is extremely simple, takes hardly any time, needs no equipment to be practiced, and can be done anywhere.

Dr Andrew’s website also notes, “Although you can do it in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there throughout the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.”

To do the 4-7-8 technique properly follow these steps:

• Making a whoosh sound, exhale completely through your mouth.

• Keep your mouth closed, inhale through your nose quietly, and count to four in your mind.

• For a count of seven – hold your breath.

• Making a whoosh sound again to a count of eight, exhale completely through your mouth.

By following these steps, you complete one breath cycle – inhale again, and start the cycle again – continue three more times to complete four whole cycles.

According to the expert, practicing the 4-7-8 technique regularly will make you better at it. Also, the more you practice it, the more your body will get used to it to manage your anxiety and stress.

You are able to get the required amount of sleep with this technique because it helps shift the focus on your breath rather than you wondering why sleep is evading you.

Dr Andrew adds that this technique also helps to calm the nerves. He is quoted as saying, “Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension or stress. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.”

However, on the other hand, Dr Animesh Arya, senior consultant and HOD, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute seems to slightly disagree and has warned against “using it excessively for everyday stresses,” the Indian Express reports.

Dr Arya is quoted as saying, “This fight-or-fright response can help you survive but can be harmful to your health if used excessively for everyday stresses. In case of excess stress or uneasiness, a person must consult an expert to find out the real cause and begin treatment immediately.”

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