Harnessing Breath for a Better Life with 4-7-8 Breathing

Harnessing Breath for a Better Life with 4-7-8 Breathing

Our circadian rhythms are under attack. From caffeine to short-wavelength light from our cell phone and television to the routine noise pollution in city living, modern society doesn’t make achieving great sleep an easy task. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 60 million Americans suffer reoccurring sleep disorders.

Fortunately, Dr. Andrew Weil has a remedy. Doctor Weil is a renowned medical doctor, trained at Harvard University, and a leading proponent of Integrative Medicine. He calls it the “4-7-8” technique. Originating from ancient India, the exercise is blissfully simple. With just a little practice, perfect sleep is on the horizon.

Your Circadian Rhythm is Critical

         Every living thing on this planet follows a circadian rhythm—humans, animals, and even plants! While variations among individuals occur, your circadian rhythm is set by your ‘biological clock’—influencing your sleep-wake cycle, the release of hormones, bodily functions, and appetite.

         The problem is that modern life disrupts nearly all our circadian rhythms. We go to bed late, wake up early, and when we do get enough sleep, very often the quality of our slumber isn’t ideal. Stressors that affect our circadian rhythms can have a major impact on our life and health. For example, studies have found that even the one-hour shift that comes with Daylight Saving Time correlates with more traffic accidents, workplace injuries, lower serotonin levels and weakened immunity.

Sleep as Easy as 4-7-8

         We can begin the 4-7-8 exercise in any position. As with other types of yoga breathing, Dr. Weil advises us to place the tip of our tongue gently behind our upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the entire exercise. With each exhale, we’ll be blowing air out around our tongue.

         The full technique is as follows:

  1. Exhale deeply and forcefully through your mouth—make a big whooshing sound.
  2. With your mouth closed, inhale through your nose to the count of four.
  3. Now hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale forcefully and audibly through your mouth. Sustain your exhale to a count of eight.
  5. This is one cycle! Inhale again and repeat this cycle three more times for a full set.

It’s as simple as that! Your heart rate and blood pressure will drop, and you’ll immediately feel a real sense of relaxation and calm.

 Consistency is Key

Practicing the “4-7-8” technique regularly is critical. Take the time to do a full four-cycle set at least twice a day. Requiring just a minute and a half per day, it’s the perfect exercise to fit into a busy schedule. After a few weeks of dedicated practice, you can increase to an eight-cycle set. Doctor Weil states that by training your breath with this unique rhythm, it will eventually influence the involuntary nervous system, leading to a deep and tranquil state, ideal for getting to sleep.

         The “4-7-8” technique isn’t just a bedtime routine. It should be used anytime anxiety or internal tension set in during waking life. Difficult boss, bumper-to-bumper traffic, cravings for junk food? Try the “4-7-8” breath. It’s the perfect tool to assist you in taking a moment of self-care and reflection in a very hectic world. So grab a bowl of matcha and start breathing! 


Team Matcha Kari,