The 4-7-8 (Relaxing) Breathing Exercise

Practicing deep breathing exercises is an act of self-love and provides many benefits for mental health and healing. I know that taking care of my body is important. Life beats us down, constantly. The stress of life; work, children, relationships, finances, education; it can really take a toll on the mind and the body.

“One recent survey found that women were more likely to experience physical symptoms of stress than men. But we don’t have enough proof to say that this applies to all women. We do know that women often cope with stress in different ways than men. Women ‘tend and befriend,’ taking care of those closest to them, but also drawing support from friends and family. Men are more likely to have the ‘fight or flight’ response. They cope by ‘escaping’ into a relaxing activity or other distraction.”

Office on Women’s Health , U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

Andrew Weil, M.D. and the Benefits of Breathing

I learned about Dr. Andrew Weil in my Strength-Based Family Workers Credential class, when we were discussing the negative factors of stress on the body. Dr. Weil is a Harvard graduate, and is currently the, “Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, where he also holds the Lovell-Jones Endowed Chair in Integrative Rheumatology and is Clinical Professor of Medicine and Professor of Public Health.” Andrew Weil, M.D.

The American College of Rheuamatology 

“A rheumatologist is an internist or pediatrician, who received further training in the diagnosis (detection) and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions commonly referred to as rheumatic diseases. These diseases can affect the joints, muscles and bones causing pain, swelling, stiffness and deformity.”

In the article, Three Breathing Exercises , Dr. Weil, describes how to complete three deep breathing exercises and the health benefits of practicing each of them.

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

Some of the benefits of deep breathing exercises, according to Dr. Weil are:

  • Stress Reducer
  • Muscle Relaxer
  • Mood Regulator
  • Endorphin’s Release
  • Relieves Anxiety & Agitation
  • Gives energy & clarity to the mind
  • Helps to, “build up the muscles between your ribs, and your exhalations will naturally become deeper and longer.”
  • Promotes Relaxation, Calmness and Inner Peace


Image from The Art of Living

The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise

Dr. Weil, provides a step-by-step process on how to complete the 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise:

The 4-7-8 breathing exercise, is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise 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 through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

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

Note that with this breathing technique, you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time.

This breathing exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. 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. Do it 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. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.”

Please visit Dr. Weil’s article, The Art and Science of Breathing  for more information.

My deep breathing Journey

I have been doing this breathing exercise for the last 2 years. At any moment when I am feeling overwhelmed, I stop what I am doing, and practice this exercise by doing  four cycles of breathing. The benefits of relaxation and lowering my heart rate is almost instant. I feel more relaxed after the 4 rounds and my mood is completely calm.

If you are struggling with the following, please consider practicing this deep breathing exercise for relief:

  • Depression + Anxiety
  • Caring for young children and older adults
  • Loss and grief
  • High Stress + Overwhelmed
  • Sleeplessness + Insomnia
  • PTSD

© 2019, Ta’lor L. Pinkston

17 thoughts on “The 4-7-8 (Relaxing) Breathing Exercise

  1. It’s good to have a relaxation strategy that you can use just about anywhere. It reminds me of the deep breathing that I did in yoga classes. They really did help! Thanks for sharing and I wish you the best with your health and wellness.

    1. Thank you very much! I am glad you found it helpful. I am already seeing the changes in my thought process when I get agitated or irritable. I immediately think about breathing. Thank you for reading!

  2. Really interesting! I just tried the exercise and it was so weird… I instantly felt relaxed after doing 4 breaths! My heart and mind are completely at ease. I am curious to see how this exercise could affect me positively over a longer period of time. Anyhoo, thanks for sharing! Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂

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