February 19, 2019
Continuing the theme of breathing exercises, the 4-7-8 breathing is particularly calming and soothing for our overstimulated bodies and minds. For that reason it is great to practise before bedtime or to wind yourself down before relaxing into Savasana.
Set the timer for 5 minutes.
Sitting or lying down, take a few minutes to tune inwards. Close your eyes, notice the space around you and any physical sensations, deepen your breath and start to even out your inhales and exhales. Breath through your nose if possible.
When you're ready, the exercise is very simple - we inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, and exhale for a count of 8. Count it down in your head as follows:
Inhale, 2, 3, 4
Hold, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Keep the breath easy and deep, don’t force any part of this. Find the speed of counting that works for you. If you find it difficult to keep the 4-7-8 ratio try to shorten the retention and exhalation by one count until you find a comfortable ratio. Over time you can work on matching the count to seconds.
Don't worry if you lose the count or your mind drifts off - just gently bring your attention back to your breath and start counting with an inhale when you realise you were distracted.
Keep a gentle focus on the breath in your mind and notice if you hold any tension in the face or the forehead - consciously relax the space between your eyebrows.
The exercise helps you notice and bring awareness to the third part of our breath cycle that we tend to ignore or forget - retention.
Working on breath retention increases your lung capacity and improves the quality of your breathing, giving your body more time to absorb the oxygen.
The exercise lengthens your exhale to inhale ratio - longer exhales are known to have a soothing effect on our nervous system, it slows your heart rate, reduces blood pressure and regulates your fight or flight response that gets triggered when we're feeling stressed. Even after you finish the exercise your breath should feel deeper and the exhales naturally longer.
Keeping track of the phases and counting, requires gentle focus which helps quiet worrisome thoughts and keep you present in the moment.
All the great stuff to leave you less stressed, calmer and more ready for a good night's sleep.
Happy breathing, counting and maybe sleeping!