Calm Down Quick With this Simple Trick: Extended Exhale
What is 4-7-8 breathing?
“Unlike the heart’s one-dimensional, slow-to-fast continuum, there are many distinct types of breaths: regular, excited, sighing, yawning, gasping, sleeping, laughing, sobbing. We wondered if different subtypes of neurons within the respiratory control center might be in charge of generating these different types of breath.”
New research from Stanford scientifically demonstrates the precise neurological mechanism by which our breath affects emotion. Their research confirms what yogis have known for thousands of years, and validates exercises like the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Practicing the 4-7-8 breathing technique
Dr. Andrew Weil developed the 4-7-8 breathing technique to help with reducing anxiety, insomnia, and controlling/reducing anger responses.
This technique asks a person to focus on taking a long, deep inhalation for four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds, then exhaling slowly (making a ‘whooshing’ breath sound) for eight seconds. Structured, rhythmic breathing like this is central to many meditation and yoga practices as it promotes relaxation and mindfulness.
Breathing is special because it is both an automatic reflex and a voluntary action. Our breathing speeds up when we’re afraid and slows down when we’re calm, all without conscious effort. When we apply conscious effort to slow our breath, it can slow down those negative stressful feelings as well.
Yoga Specialist Becky Mann
Yoga Instructor Becky Mann explores breathwork with her clients while easy poses help reconnect to emotions within the body. As Becky says, “There are issues in our tissues!” Becky guides her clients with soothing, instructive visualizations like this:
As you inhale, feel your lungs expand…feel your rib cage rise with cool air entering the nostrils. As you exhale down to the last whisper of breath, feel the belly soften and feel the warm air leave the nostrils.
Breathing exercises are so effective they have been adapted for use by the US Military. Try their ‘Box Breathing’ technique as well: Inhale for four seconds, hold for four, exhale for four, and wait for four seconds before repeating. Like a square or ‘box’, this breathing technique consists of four parts of equal length.
Experiment with these structured techniques to find a style that works for you! Thank you to Tara Treatment Center’s Becky Mann: Learn more about Becky’s specialized practice here.
Interested in the application of Yoga and breathing exercises to mental health? Check out Anne Halleck’s blog article here.