The 4-7-8 or Relaxing Breath


This breathing practice triggers the relaxation response in the autonomic nervous system. It’s quick and easy enough to use it whenever you experience tension or stress.

Once you begin to add it to your everyday practice, you’ll find it helpful for preventing a stress response before it happens. The effects are subtle at first try it but become more pronounced with repetition and practice. It’s also an effective tool for falling asleep.

Although you can practice this breath in any position, you’ll want to keep a tall spine, and shoulders back and down unless you’re lying down.

The Method

Begin by placing the front tip of your tongue against the space behind your upper front teeth the gum line, and keep it there for the entire practice. You will be exhaling through your closed mouth to the sides of your tongue; try extending 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 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 round. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.


Inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth.

The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time.

The exhale is twice as long as the inhale, so keep the 4:7:8, even if you need to adjust the speed of your breath to avoid discomfort. You can slow down as you become comfortable inhaling and exhaling more deeply.

Practice as frequently as you can for best results, but avoid doing more than 4 rounds at one time at first. Later 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.

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