Practice Notes: The 4-7-8 Breath

One thing a yoga, wellness, or spiritual practice teaches us is, is that we are what we do every day. We also know that these practices, which will look a little differently for each one of us, only work when we practice them consistently, not just every once in a while.

And here’s another thing… A powerful practice does not need to be complicated or lengthy... or trendy (but that’s a topic for another post). In fact, sometimes the most seemingly simple or basic practices can prove to be the most effective. You don’t always need 90 minutes or an hour. You don’t need incense or Mala beads. And you sure as hell don’t need all the “latest and greatest” gear and goodies (sometimes nice, never necessary, but again a topic for another post). All that matters is that you make the time daily to show up for your practice, however that needs to look for you. Because really, showing up for a daily practice just means that you’re choosing to show up for yourself - and we all know we gotta be our own #1 fan!

Now for me, as a yoga teacher and a bartender (yes, I wish I could live off of teaching yoga but unfortunately that’s not the case), making time for my practices - yoga asana, meditation, breath work, time in nature - is crucial. It would be next to impossible for me to hold space for my students and to lead them authentically through a practice if I didn’t make the time for my own. Plus, carving out moments for my practice(s) daily helps keep me sane through the unavoidable obstacles and challenges (cough, cough, especially those challenging people I encounter while tending bar) that life is surely to serve up.

And also personal to me, my practice does not look the same every day. Some days its movement and breath work and meditation AND a walk on the beach. Other days… and to be completely transparent, most of my days, it may just be a few minutes of breath work, or just a sun salute or two, or sometimes just a 10-minute, guided meditation on my phone. And I share this because it’s been essential for me to (1) stay curious and find practices that work for me and (2) adopt techniques that are simple, require little additional gear, and are easy for me to fit into the constantly changing schedule of my day-to-day life. So whether I have five minutes or an hour, I can show up and jump straight into a practice that grounds me, reconnects me, and helps to refill my cup. Because remember the “be your own fan” thing?? If you don’t take care of yourself, who else will??

So because of this, I thought it’d be cool to start a new segment on my Journal page called “Practice Notes,” a place where I can share pieces and insights from my own practice(s) as well as techniques that I’m currently learning and exploring.

In the last six months or so, breath work has become increasingly important to me in terms of daily practice because, well, the way I see it is that control of the breath is ultimately control of the mind. And I find that I feel significantly more calm and connected when I take time to sit focus on my breathing (Look for my next Practice Notes where I will explain WHY breath work helps us control the mind and feel more calm and connected).

But to keep ya’lls attention, I will keep this one short. So. what I really want to share with you all is my current favorite technique, a simple & effective daily breathing practice called the “4-7-8” Breathing Pattern.

The “4-7-8” technique was coined by Dr. Andrew Weil an integrative medicine specialist and advocate for holistic healing. The technique is extremely simple and effective (you’ll learn a bit more about why it’s effective on my next post) and it literally takes less than 5 minutes… So no excuses, yea?? We (myself very much included) can all find a few minutes in our day to sit down and consciously breathe! I’ll outline the basics of the breathing pattern below and I’ve also attached a short video where Dr. Weil gives a short demonstration and explanation of the technique as well!

The “4-7-8” Breathing Pattern by Dr. Andrew Weil

  • Begin in a comfortable seated position (a chair works great!) and sitting up tall with whatever support is needed to sit comfortably

  • Close your eyes, relax the muscles of your face, neck and shoulders, and take a deep breath in and out

  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of 4

  • Hold your breath at the top of the inhale for a count of 7 - remind yourself to relax your muscles (especially the face, neck and shoulders)

  • With control, exhale through pursed lips (make a “whooooosh”ing sound) for a count of 8

  • The completes one round. Repeat the “4-7-8” Pattern four more times for a total of five rounds

  • After your 5th round, take another deep breath in and out

  • Keep your eyes closed as you allow your breath to settle into a natural rhythm for a few rounds

A few tips…

  • Commit to these 5 rounds twice a day (remember, it only takes a few minutes!). I aim to do it in the morning as a part of my daily practice and usually again at night as I’m laying in bed about to go to sleep.

  • To minimize distractions, keep track of how many rounds you’ve completed on the fingers of one hand.

  • Try to stay present to the sensations within the breath. When your mind begins to wander, direct it back to the sensations from the inhale, during the hold, and in the exhale.

  • Once you get comfortable you can lengthen out the inhale, hold, and exhale - just be sure to keep the same ratio of 4:7:8 (hold is slightly less than double the inhale, the exhale is always double the inhale).

  • Make sure that you can breathe and hold with ease.

  • Literally no equipment needed (just your magical self) and, again, it takes less than 5 minutes!!!

But don’t take it from me… Hear it from Dr. Weil himself!!!

If you decide add the 4-7-8 Breath to your daily practice drop a comment below and let me know how it goes for you! As always I’d love to hear your thoughts.