Breathing… It’s something most of us rarely think about. It happens naturally and without effort most of the time.
Using your breath with skill and intention can lead to reduced stress and blood pressure and less anxiety. It can enhance relaxation, reduce pain and even act as a sleep aid for some. I invite you to try including the 4-7-8 relaxation breathing exercises as described below in your daily routine; when you feel tensions rising, when you just need a break, or in place of having a cigarette should you be trying to quit smoking, or even before you fall asleep if sleep doesn’t come easily to you. I invite to make this exercise a habit and see for yourself the profound effects simply breathing with intention can have on you and your overall health.
• Ideally, sit or lay with your back straight.
• 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.
• Exhale through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
• Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
• Close your mouth & inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4.
• Hold your breath for a count of 7.
• Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, to a count of 8.
This is one breath. Now, inhale again and repeat the cycle 3 more times for a total of 4 breaths.
The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important, but the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed up the exercise, but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice, you can slow it down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more, and more deeply.
What the Exercise is Good For?
This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which often are effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it, but gains in power with repetition and practice. Use this new skill whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep.
Do it at least twice a day. You can’t do it too frequently. Do not do more than 4 breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to 8 breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned – it will pass.
Karōshi is a Japanese word that translates to ‘death from overwork’. It is used to describe occupational sudden deaths, which occur most commonly by heart attack or stroke due to stress and starvation. We don’t have such a word in English and in general, stress is downplayed in our daily lives. Sentences like, “it’s just stress,” are common. So what is this stress that the Japanese revere so much that they have a word to describe death by it, and that we in the West seem to commonly brush off and ignore as so very minor? Continue reading