We all know that we need to breathe to survive. Oxygen is the most vital nutrient for our bodies. It is essential for the integrity of the brain, nerves, glands and internal organs. The functioning of all systems of the body depends on delivery of oxygen and removal of carbon dioxide. In fact, if the brain does not get enough oxygen, all vital organs in the body will degrade. We can survive for weeks without food and for days without water, but without oxygen, we will die within a few minutes.
Although we breathe every minute of every day many of us do not breathe properly. We develop unhealthy habits overtime and shallow breathing is one of them.
Learning how to breathe deeply can rejuvenate both the body and the mind. . It’s a fantastic stress buster that can be done anywhere without any special equipment.
Doctor Andrew Weil developed a Relaxing Breathe Exercise called 4-7-8 to help us learn how to breathe deeply again. It’s a technique that you can use whenever you are feeling stressed, when you need to slow down, or it can be incorporated into meditation.
For those who are not familiar with Doctor Weil, he’s a medical doctor, a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine. He’s a regular contributor to TIME Magazine and Prevention Magazine.
You can do this exercise in any position, Dr. Weil recommends that you sit with your back straight while learning the exercise.
As described on Dr. Weil’s website, to begin, you sit tall, and place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
5. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. Or a set of four.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time, you will get used to it! Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; but the ratio of 4:7:8 is. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. For example, you could try 3:5:6 instead. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply. Dr. Weil recommends that you practice at least twice a day, but you should not do more than four breaths in one set for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish and as you become more accustomed to this breathing technique, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; as you get used to deeper breathing you will no longer get this feeling.
Breathing exercises are a wonderfully effective way to reduce stress, regulate mood, and feel energized. If your not quite ready for the 4-7-8 technique, you can still promote deeper breathing and better health is by exhaling completely, with another simple technique recommended by Dr. Weil. Try it: take a deep breath, let it out effortlessly, and then squeeze out a little more, kind of like squeezing out that last bit of air from an air mattress. Doing this regularly will help build up the muscles between your ribs, and you will find that your exhalations will naturally become deeper and longer. Start by practicing this exhalation exercise consciously, setting some time aside for deep breathing every day. Eventually it will become a healthy, unconscious habit.