The 4-7-8 relaxing breath exercise


It's simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Tick, tick, tick...ready to start...?

'Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it. Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never mastered the art of correct breathing.' - Joseph Pilates

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.


Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are experiencing tension. Use it to help you fall asleep.

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

  • exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation


This breathing exercise is a natural tranquilliser for the nervous system. Unlike tranquillising 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 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.


Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are experiencing tension. Use it to help you fall asleep.


Breathe. Breath again. x

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