When thinking about modern breathwork, some might be quick to focus on advanced techniques like Holotropic Breathwork. However, there are easier techniques to begin a breathwork journey with. One of these is the 4-7-8 breathing method.
So what is it, and why does 4-7-8 breathing work? We’ll answer these questions and more in the following sections:
Let’s start with an introduction to the fundamentals of the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Also, if you’re looking for other techniques for beginners, check our guide on breathwork for beginners.
Before you can master 4-7-8 breathing, you need to understand what it is. If you’re someone who has been asking “what is the 4-7-8 breathing technique?”, this section will provide you with all the basic information.
What is the 4-7-8 breathing method? Also called Relaxing Breath, this technique was popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil in 2015. It’s a method of promoting relaxation for those who struggle with stress, anxiety, and more. It's inspired by popular Pranayama exercises, and has helped many who've used it improve their lives.
Now, how does the 4-7-8 breathing technique work? Like other breathwork exercises, practicing the technique activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation. If stressed or experiencing fight-or-flight mode, the activation informs the body that there's no longer a threat, allowing for relaxation.
So is 4-7-8 breathing dangerous at all? The short answer is no. This technique is relatively safe, and can actually benefit your health. However, if you’re a beginner, you should only practice 4 cycles at a time until you're more comfortable with the practice. Avoid practicing breathwork if you are pregnant or have a severe medical condition. Always ask your doctor before starting a breathwork practice.
The 4-7-8 method is often compared to a similar breathwork technique called box breathing (also known as square breathing or 4-4-4-4 breathing). To better understand the differences between the two, use the table below to compare box breathing vs. 4-7-8 breathing.
As mentioned, there are several health benefits of 4-7-8 breathing that you can gain with regular practice. These are some of the top 4-7-8 breathing benefits that you should know about.
Using the 4-7-8 method to fall asleep is one of the most popular uses of the technique. Many are able to use 4-7-8 breathing for sleep due to its ability to promote relaxation throughout the body. Those who struggle to fall asleep can use 4-7-8 as a sleep method to silence thoughts and relax the body (as many other deep breathing exercises can). A 2015 study even found that slow-paced breathing helped participants with insomnia decrease their vagal activity, helping them to fall asleep. This supports using the 4-7-8 method for sleep if struggling with insomnia.
Those wanting to reduce their stress and anxiety can try breathing in 4-7-8 intervals. In fact, using 4-7-8 breathing for anxiety is another of the technique’s top uses. A 2018 study on breath control demonstrated its effectiveness in targeting the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety among others. As a breath control exercise itself, this supports the use of the 4-7-8 breathing technique for anxiety.
Another great benefit is being able to calm a panic attack by breathing in 4-7-8 intervals. This technique, as well as other deep breathing exercises, have been shown to help reduce symptoms and causes of conditions that result from stress and anxiety. A 2017 study showed that diaphragmatic breathing has a psychophysiological effect on the body, which helps the body to relax when under stress. This is why exercises like the 4-7-8 technique are able to help calm panic attacks.
Another great use of 4-7-8 breathing is to lower blood pressure. This is because slow breathing exercises help the body to enter and remain in a relaxed state. A 2005 study even determined that these exercises helped reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients. This backs the use of 4-7-8 breathing for blood pressure, should one need to improve this area of their health.
Respiratory system improvement is another of the 4-7-8 breathing technique benefits worth knowing about. This particular breathwork method involves the use of slow, diaphragmatic breathing through the nose. This retrains the body to breathe in a healthier fashion. A 2019 study focusing on the 4-7-8 technique even found that it could be used to reduce dyspnea in COPD patients. This suggests that the technique is effective at improving one’s ability to breathe.
Maybe you’re still wondering: “does 4-7-8 breathing work?” The technique’s ability to help calm negative emotions and increase positive ones would suggest it does. A 2020 trial study that introduced a SKY breathing program to university students found that participants showed improvement in various areas, including reduced depression and increased positive affect. Due to these results, it can be argued that the 4-7-8 method (which is similar to the teachings of SKY) is great for relieving negativity and promoting positivity in its place.
If you’re struggling with food habits, the 4-7-8 technique might be able to assist you in fighting cravings. A 2017 pilot study using slow-paced breathing exercises resulted in delayed hunger for those who practiced them. This effect on the body leads many people, including Dr. Weil, to encourage the use of the 4-7-8 method to curb food cravings.
If you’ve been stressing over how to do the 4-7-8 breathing method, it’s easier than you might think. Follow the guidelines below to learn how to do the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
You can practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique to help reduce stress and anxiety any time throughout the day. Since it’s great at promoting relaxation, you can also use the 4-7-8 breathing exercise for sleep by practicing it right before going to bed.
If you’d like to be guided through this technique, there are plenty of guided breathwork videos about 4-7-8 breathing on YouTube that you can follow. For an example, watch our 4-7-8 breathing video below:
Breathwork apps are another great way you can practice breathing with 4-7-8 intervals anytime, anywhere. Here are our recommendations for some of the best 4-7-8 breathing apps.
Othership is a breathwork app designed to help you connect with your body and mind. It contains over 500 classes covering a variety of breathing techniques – including 4-7-8 breathing – to help you learn how to master your breath and explore the benefits of breathing. You can learn from some of the top facilitators in the world while also connecting with a global community.
Cost: 7-day and 14-day free trials available; subscriptions available for $18/month, $48/quarter, or $128/year.
The Breathe app exists primarily to teach users about the 4-7-8 breathing method. It uses on-screen instructions and guided breathing exercises to teach the technique in a way that anyone can easily learn and practice. The goal of the app is to help everyone sleep better, as well as tackle stress and anxiety.
Download it Now: iOS
Cost: Free to use; in-app purchases available.
4:7:8 Breathing is an easy-to-use app that guides you through the technique. Simply open the app and breathe along with the on-screen visuals. This app can help you relax, and even fall asleep in a minute or less.
Download it Now: iOS
4-7-8 Relax Breathing is another breathwork app made specifically to help users master the method. It utilizes simple designs and onscreen instructions that make it easy for users to follow along. The app also has more in-depth information about Dr. Weil’s technique.
Download it Now: Android
BreatheIn is a breathwork app that includes four different breathing exercises you can practice. They include box breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, humming bee breath, and coherent breathing. The app uses stunning visuals to help guide you through the exercises, and also includes Apple Health integration
Download it Now: iOS
If you’re looking to learn more about Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing method, there are plenty of ways you can do so. Check out the resources listed below:
If you’re ready to see how 4-7-8 breathing can help you relax, explore our many class styles offered on the Othership app.
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