4-7-8 Technique for Cravings, Anxiety and Sleep

Hello from Vail!

Boy is it beautiful up here, I definitely wouldn’t mind moving to Colorado at some point in my life.  With over 300 days of sun per year in this wonderful sport-oriented state, I can’t imagine depression and anxiety are very prevalent in the people who live here.

For those who don’t know me, I tend to be a very anxious person, and every now and then my anxiety is debilitating.  When under a lot of stress, I am incredibly prone to panic attacks and I often find it difficult to explain what triggered it or why all of a sudden my throat closes up, I can’t breathe, my vision gets blurry and I start hysterically crying.

Now, my anxiety isn’t always this bad.  Generally I become more anxious from school/work/family/self-image stress, from feeling out of control (yes, I have control issues in case you guys couldn’t tell from the way I treat food), and from neglecting myself and my body’s needs.

Sometimes though, I simply just get anxious.  I’ve been very sick the past couple of days, and this morning when at the Farmer’s Market, I was feeling weak, achey and physically uncomfortable. Those feelings plus the large crowds quickly turned on my anxiety and I had to step aside for a minute to collect myself.

The reason I bring this up is because in the past few days I’ve started practicing this breathing technique, which I stumbled upon the other day, and it has been a great tool to use when trying calm down or sync my mind and body. So…

What is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique?

This practice originated in Ancient India, and is currently being promoted by Dr. Andrew Weil, who practices, teaches and writes about holistic health.  He discusses how the technique brings about an altered state of consciousness by creating a circuit of breath within your body.

How to Practice this Technique

To start, you should be standing, sitting up straight with your feet flat on the ground, or laying down.  Also, this technique is practiced with yoga tongue placement, which involves resting the tip of your tongue on the gum between the roof of your mouth and your front teeth.  This tongue placement relaxes your neck and head by preventing you from clenching. Now here’s how to practice this breathing exercise:

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth to prepare for the exercise
  2. Inhale for a count of 4 using your diaphragm and allowing your ribs to expand (as opposed to belly breathing, which is shallow)
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7
  4. Exhale out your mouth for a count of 8
  5. Repeat for 4 cycles

This is meant to be practiced at least twice a day, every day.  Dr. Weil promotes the long-term benefits of doing this everyday, and although I can’t speak on whether or not this is true, I have no doubt in my mind it brings greater awareness and peace of mind overtime.  Even after just a couple of days, I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to manage my stress.  After 4 cycles, I truly feel calmer, in tune with my body and I find that I have forgotten about my stress.

Dr. Weil also discuses the benefits of this technique for getting to sleep, falling back asleep and fighting cravings! I haven’t tried it for cravings yet, but I can see how this would be beneficial because whenever I end up running to the fridge and indulging in my craving, I am usually highly anxious.  I rarely stop to think about what I’m doing before indulging.  This technique can provide a nice mental and physical break to relax whatever is going on inside causing this urge to binge. 

I suggest everyone give this technique a try for a week or so, and see how it works! I’m going to make an effort to practice this every day, and I’ll let you know if there are any noticeable changes in my anxiety levels overtime.

To learn more, here is a video of Dr. Weil’s explanation of the technique: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/VDR00112/The-4-7-8-Breath-Benefits-and-Demonstration.html 

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