In a world that’s addicted to alcohol and overprescribed to anxiety medication, it may surprise you to learn that manual deep breathing will naturally ease tension in the body better than any synthetic band-aid. In fact, many expert swear by the power of the breath, which has long been used to tap into higher states of consciousness by various cultures around the world for thousands of years.
Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known practitioner and teacher of integrative medicine for the last thirty years, says that one specific breathing routine is the “most powerful relaxation method [he] has discovered” in his three decades as a leader in holistic health.
Known as the 4-7-8 technique, this breathing routine is very simple to learn, takes very little time, costs nothing, and requires no equipment. However, it is a practice (not a temporary fix like a glass of beer), which means you have to return to it regularly in order to see longterm results.
To start, quietly breath in through the nostrils for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and then blow air out of your mouth for a count of eight. On the exhale, you want to blow out audibly and forcefully (not aggressively, just with some vigor). After the cycle is complete, you’ll want to repeat it three or four more times at the same cadence.
Manual breathing helps override anxiety because the mind focuses on a specific task, rather than focusing on worry
Afterwards, you should feel a nice altered state of consciousness, even if you are in a boisterous environment. You may not feel that natural high the first time you try the routine (or you may feel “strange,” like you’re disconnected from reality); but with regular practice, you’ll start leaning on the breath work as much as you currently lean on pills, booze, distractions, or other stimuli in order to cope with a frantic mind.
Dr. Weil recommends practicing the breath cycle at least twice per day, but there’s really no cap — return to the breath as often as you’d like. After a few weeks of practice, if you want to increase the number of cycles to eight, go for it; but there’s no reason to go any higher. Hit your mark, and then enjoy the benefits.
Regularly returning to the breath will produce immediate short-term changes; but over time, you can induce lasting physiological changes like lowered blood pressure, lowered heart rate, improved digestion, improved circulation, and better sleep. If you are someone who regularly wakes in the middle of the night and has trouble returning to sleep, the 4-7-8 technique will almost guarantee that you drift back to sleep effortlessly.
According to Dr. Weil, even the most extreme forms of panic disorder can subside with regular breath work. He said it is the most beneficial practice for anxiety that he has come across. Try it out tonight!
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