4-7-8 Breathing Exercise: What You Need To Know

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Ever heard of the breathing technique 4-7-8? As far as exercises go, this one is a go-to for yoga instructors and breathing coaches like myself. 

This particular technique is designed to help you gain a better understanding of controlling your breath (a.k.a breath awareness). Deep breathing exercises like the 4-7-8 method benefit anyone who experiences debilitating stress and anxiety.  

Although there are many ways to calm anxiety in ourselves and children, low and slow diaphragmatic breathing is the fastest tool we have to settle the nervous system on the spot.

In some cases, they can even help you stop a panic attack.

Before you try it, here’s information you’ll want to know to make sure this exercise aligns with your current health. 

4-7-8 Breathing Technique: What Is It and Who Came Up with It?

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The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is designed to help you manage your breath (and, therefore— your emotions) by practicing breath-holding. 

Dr. Andrew Weil, the original creator of this method, also calls this the “Relaxing Breath.” The key to relaxation is in the extended exhale. 

As John Hopkins puts it, “When you breathe, you inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide (CO2).”

It’s like a dance. The longer you can exhale, the more oxygen you can get into your bloodstream. This helps you replenish the oxygen in your lungs, brain, and organs and settles your nervous system. 

RELATED: Physical Stress Effects On The Body

4-7-8 Breathing Technique is Good for Anxiety 

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When people breathe too fast (e.g. hyperventilating), they dispel too much carbon dioxide, which lowers the oxygen intake. 

People who hyperventilate due to anxiety have a low tolerance for C02. Likewise, if you cant hold your breath long (e.g., you have COPD or asthma), you have low CO2 tolerance.

Breath-holding increases CO2 tolerance and is a great tool to rebuild CO2 tolerance.

With this tolerance, you can effectively manage your inhales and exhales. This balance gives you the tools you need to use breathing exercises as a way to reduce your stress and anxiety. 

RELATED: Learn How to Breathe Well + Breathwork Benefits

4-7-8 Breathing Dangerous?

While this exercise is not dangerous, it’s not recommended for children and teens.   

Watch some of my Instagram Reels for safe kids breathing exercises, or download my FREE Self-Care Guide for Kids with Anxiety.

If you find it challenging to hold your breath for 7 counts, start with the 4-2-6 breath. Here’s how it’s done! 

With practice, shorter breath holds will build up your CO2 tolerance leading to less breathlessness and healthier stress response. 

RELATED: My Favorite Breathwork Tools For Parents on Amazon

How To Do 4-7-8 Breath Exercise

DISCLAIMER FOR BREATH HOLD: Breathwork practices are generally safe and can improve physical, mental, and emotional health but are not meant to replace medical advice. Before participating in breathwork or breath-holding practice, please consult your doctor if you have epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, heart problems, psychological conditions, anxiety, depression, or pregnancy.

You can try this breathing exercise anywhere, anytime you feel like releasing some stress: in the car, at your work desk, or while you’re cooking dinner!

Here’s how to perform the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique using my S.T.O.P and B.O.P. method:

First, S.T.O.P and get the body ready.⁠⁠

S– Shoulders relaxed⁠⁠

T– Tummy soft⁠⁠

O– Open & close the mouth⁠⁠

P– Posture tall⁠⁠

Now, B.O.P or Breathe On Purpose.

  1. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Your tongue needs to be here for the entire exercise. 
  2. Slowly part your lips and exhale all the old, stale air out of your lungs. It may be difficult to keep your tongue in place on the exhale, but you’ll get there with practice!).
  3. Close your lips and inhale for 4 counts. Your belly should grow wide a ballon. 
  4. Now hold your breath for 7 counts or as long as you feel comfortable. 
  5. Part your lips and exhale for 8 counts. You should be able to hear the air coming out of your mouth. Feel your mind and body relax as the air exits your lungs. 

Repeat this exercise 4 times for a single session.  Do this twice a day every day.  Eventually, you can work your way up to 8 cycles in a single breathing session.

If you find that you still can’t manage your breathing and often feel breathless, you might need a breath coach! Schedule a FREE 15-minute consultation with me.