4-7-8 Breathing Exercises

4-7-8 breathing helps you relax.
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Breathing exercises that encourage deep breathing techniques help people relax, which is important in the effort to avoid high blood pressure from stress. Stress also weakens the immune system, which leaves people more susceptible to illness, and it contributes to depression and anxiety, according to The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Shallow chest breathing increases tension and anxiety. Deep breathing exercises, such as the 4-7-8 breathing technique, can slow the heartbeat and lower blood pressure.


The name of the 4-7-8 breathing exercise refers to how long you inhale, hold the breath and exhale. Sit down with your back straight. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest, recommends "Health" magazine. You help ensure you are doing the exercise correctly this way. Your belly should push your hand out when you inhale, and your belly should go in as you exhale.


Place the tip of your tongue on the back of your two front teeth. Inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Breathe out for a count of eight. Richard G. McKinney, associate clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, said to make sure the exhale is a “quite active exhalation,” meaning you push out as much air as possible, for the last three or four counts. Repeat six to eight times, twice a day. McKinney explained this technique in a paper he wrote for Integrative Medicine for the Underserved, an online collective of health care providers and educators.

Diaphragm Breathing

The 4-7-8 breathing technique ensures you breathe using your diaphragm. This is a healthier way to breathe, but many people do not naturally breathe this way; rather, they breathe shallowly through the chest. One reason, explains Harvard Medical School, is cultural; people tend to hold in their stomach muscles because this makes them look more attractive. But doing so makes breathing from the diaphragm difficult.

Automatic Breathing

If you do the 4-7-8 breathing exercises twice daily, you can alter your breathing pattern without thinking about it, said McKinney. The benefit of doing so puts your body in a better balance. It’s important for the body to have a stress response to dangerous situations. The trouble begins when stress occurs for non-dangerous situations, such as worries about money, a job or a relationship. Deep breathing allows people to disengage from distracting thoughts, according to Harvard Medical School.


The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is one of two yoga breathing techniques, called Pranayama, that McKinney recommends. Pranayama, the science of breath control, is one of the five principles of yoga. These breathing techniques are practiced to keep the body in good health by increasing lung capacity, bringing more oxygen to the body and by fighting stress.

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