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The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique: How it Works

478 breathing technique
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / LN_Photoart

The 4-7-8 breathing technique can benefit you in a variety of situations. If you need an extra push to help you sleep or calm down, try it out.

4-7-8 breathing is a technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, based on a traditional yoga technique known as pranayama. The goal is to feel more grounded through conscious, intentional breathing. Also referred to as the Relaxing Breath, 4-7-8 breathing is meant to soothe stress and anxiety.

The technique is simple and easy. Anybody can learn the 4-7-8 breathing technique it as it requires no money, no tools, or previous meditation experience and very little time. It can be done anywhere, at any time. All you need is a minute or two to focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.

4-7-8 Breathing Instructions

Find a relaxing spot to practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Find a relaxing spot to practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / brenkee)

When it comes to practicing 4-7-8 breathing for the first time, you should sit with your back straight. Once it becomes routine, you can practice it in any position. Please also note the following:

  • The ratio of 4:7:8 is the most important factor. If it’s difficult to hold your breath or exhale for a longer time, you can speed the cycle up while keeping the ratio. Over time, you will become proficient enough to slow down and breathe more deeply.
  • It’s recommended to start with four total breaths when learning the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Over time, you can work your way up to more.


  1. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper front teeth. If it feels strange to breathe out with your tongue here, try pursing your lips a bit.
  2. Make a whooshing sound and exhale completely through your mouth.
  3. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for four seconds.
  4. Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  5. Exhale through your mouth, making a whooshing sound, for a total of eight seconds.
  6. Repeat steps four through six three times, for a total of four breaths.

When to Use 4-7-8 Breathing

Use this breathing technique whenever you need.
Use this breathing technique whenever you need. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Allinoch)

This breathing technique can be used in any situation in which you feel you need to calm down, release stress or simply have a mental refresh. It’s very popular as a sleeping technique for people who have a hard time falling asleep. You can also use 4-7-8 breathing when you are stressed or overwhelmed. This may be relevant at work, during heated arguments, when on a crowded subway, or around the holidays.

The beauty of this breathing strategy is in how easy and accessible it is. Whenever you feel you could benefit from a moment of silence and a boost of oxygen, take a minute to focus on your breath.

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