Pull the Plug on Stress with the 4-7-8 Breath

Dr. Weil and Dr. Oz rap about holistic health

Recently, Dr. Andrew Weil appeared on Dr. Oz to share some of his expertise into the field he has arguably pioneered in this country: holistic and integrative medicine.

I’m a fan of Weil’s, of course–having worked with his staff at the now-defunct Self Healing newsletter, when it was a sister pub of Body+Soul (now Whole Living magazine). And while he knows pretty much everything there is to know about food, fitness, meditation, supplements, you name it–I’ve heard him say again and again that when people ask what’s the one thing they can do TODAY to improve their health, it’s always this: Breathe.

Not just any old breathing of course–mindful breathing. There are tons of different breathing and meditation exercises. And the fact is if you do any of them regularly you’ll be better off than you are now–simply because focusing on your breath brings you back into your body, out of your head, and with that simple act comes a host of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. This is why it comes as no surprise to me that people are using things like a Fitbit to help them keep control of their breathing. If they can understand how fast their heart is beating then they can also practice at getting better at their breathing technique. Having a good breathing technique, and also exercising regularly can be hugely beneficial to your health. So if you are interested in getting a Fitbit to help you with this, then check out Mobile Mob for more information.

Moving on from there though, there’s one exercise, in particular, he recommends that is worth trying. I do it (not as often as I should). It’s called the 4-7-8 breath.

What It Can Do For You

Weil says this simple breathing exercise relaxes mind and body; he calls it a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. However, unlike tranquilizers, which can knock you out first and then gradually lose their power, he says, this breathing exercise, while subtle at first, gains power and effectiveness as you do it more. Weil mentioned on the show that it can also lower your blood pressure and improve focus. Not bad for something that anyone can do. For free.

How to Do a 4-7-8 Breath

(These instructions come directly from Weil’s site)

  • 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.

Weil adds that you should not do more than four breaths at a time during your first month of practice, and to do it twice a day. You can gradually extend to eight breath cycles. He says it’s normal to feel lightheaded at first, and that it should pass.

Read more about Weil’s recommended breathing exercises.