One of the functions of mind-body medicine is to tap into the body’s natural relaxation response -- in order to promote slower breathing, improve blood pressure, reduce stress and enhance wellness. Breathing exercises, or the focus on slow, regular and sometimes deep breathing, are helpful ways to manage stress and improve health. One such breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 technique, also called the relaxing breath exercise.
The 4-7-8 breathing is a practice used in Pranayama.Pranayama is a Sanskrit term that describes the regulation of breathing to achieve health benefits.
An ancient Indian practice, pranayama involves the manipulation of breath with 3 phases -- inhalation, retention and exhalation.
A study published in the January 2014 “Journal of Diagnostic Research” linked both fast and slow types of pranayama to reduced stress and improved cognition, including attention, retention as well as speed in tasks that merge vision and physical action, such as playing video games.
Several types of breathing exercises can be considered pranayama, including breathing techniques used in yoga and the 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
The 4-7-8 Method
The 4-7-8 Method simply indicates the count to which you do the inhalation, retention and the exhalation process.
You inhale to the count of 4, retain the breath to the count of 7 and exhale to the count of 8.
Use the technique twice a day for 4-5 times to get complete benefits. The practice retrains your entire way of breathing.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), breathing exercises are linked to a variety of health benefits including improved anxiety, pain and blood pressure.
Precautions and Next Steps
According to NCCIH, relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises are generally safe.
However, anyone with a history of abuse, trauma, psychiatric conditions or epilepsy should talk with their doctor or therapist first, as there have been reports of certain relaxation techniques worsening symptoms in some people with these conditions.
While breathing exercises can improve health, they are not a replacement for medical care and prescription medications, so continue to follow up with your doctor for care of any medical conditions.