The 4-7-8-Breath: How I Stopped Anxiety in it’s tracks
It has been a wild month reworking this new version of Live Learn Evolve whilst simultaneously attempting to juggle multiple start-up projects behind the scenes. This stemmed some epic levels of anxiety (an interesting mixture of excitement and nerves) and with that prompted me to take time out to experiment with this pranayama yogic breathing technique I stumbled across.
WHAT IS 4-7-8 BREATHING?
“The single best anti anxiety method I’ve found” – Dr Weil.
This is a simple breathing technique that seems to very effectively stop inner turbulence in it’s tracks. A natural anti-anxiety if you like. Almost immediately creating a calm inner peace that tames the fight-or-flight response and cools your body’s inflammatory reaction to all those stress hormones. It disperses anxiety and panic, I could quite accurately compare it to a twenty minute meditation sitting on the physiological front.
You simply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. But there’s more to it than that which I’ll elaborate on below.
WHY USE IT
Navigating the modern world can see our daily lives bombarded with people and objects that leave us feeling both insecure and hooked into an alert problem solving level of consciousness. This routine can lead our bodies and minds to become accustomed to living in a constant state of fight-or flight, which when running amok can:
elevate stress hormones
cause shallow breathing
prompt panic and anxiety attacks
raise blood pressure…
To name a few, and these are all natural responses of our stress response system, but are simply perpetuated by the modern societal environment – especially hyper vigilant if like me you used to work in the city. Fortunately India’s yogis have as usual an ancient technique for this modern issue and here’s how you do it.
PREPARATION & TECHNIQUE
1. Sit comfortably in a straight up position. 2. Place the tip of your tongue on the ridge of your gums, just under your front teeth. 3. Expand your diaphragm and slowly inhale through your nose for a count of four. 4. Hold your breath for another count of seven. 5. Open your mouth slightly and exhale for eight counts, drawing your diaphragm in. 6. Repeat this cycle four times in total.
You may find yourself feeling mildly light-headed after doing this. That’s actually a sign it is working, and it will quickly pass. It’s advised 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.
THE REAL RESULTS
Although the anti-anxiety calming effects of this exercise can be experienced immediately the real power of this technique comes with regular daily use, at least twice a day, over 8 weeks says Dr. Andrew Weil. By practicing these deeper rhythms voluntarily we create more effective involuntary patterns of breath integrating the physiological effects into our daily lives. With enough practice, you should begin breathing more deeply without having to give it any extra thought.
“All life is an experiment, the more experiments you make the better” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Honestly can’t recommend this technique too highly. Jump in and try it out whenever you feel anxious or create a routine around it once a day for 7 days. I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Thanks for reading.
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