The Mother of All Breathing Exercises: Belly Breathing (AKA Diaphragmatic Breathing, or 4-7-8 Breathing)
This basic breathing technique can be used to benefit your brain, body, and soul in just about each and every way. I encourage you to try this exercise now and practice as often as possible. Work your way up to naturally breathing like this throughout the day.
This breathing technique is a foundational exercise that will help you improve sleep, reduce stress, release toxins, lower your blood pressure, reduce your heart rate, release feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters, improve your memory and focus, reduce pain, and improve your energy, circulation, and digestion.
The following steps are from Joel McPherson and the AHHA. You can also watch an online video titled “How to Perform the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise” posted on YouTube by Andrew Weil, MD, where he teaches this technique.
For a great, animated, kid-friendly video, check out the YouTube video “4-7-8 Breathing Exercise by GoZen.”
Step by step 4-7-8 breathing:
- Inhale. Begin by slowly breathing in through your nose, focusing on inhaling the air into your belly, not your chest, for a count of four. (You can put a hand on your stomach to see how well you’re doing.)
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale. Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. As you exhale, try to make a soft whooshing noise by holding the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
- Repeat this process, called 4-7-8 breathing, three more times, for a total of four cycles. With practice, you can work your way up to eight cycles, or breaths, at a time.
Start by doing this exercise two times per day, but be sure to stop if you become dizzy. As you increase your capabilities, add to your number of sessions until you can do four to eight breaths per hour all throughout your day.