In today’s fast-paced world, stress and anxiety have become almost ubiquitous. Finding effective ways to manage these pressures is essential for maintaining mental and physical health, along with good TMJ health, reduce headaches and migraines! Among the various techniques available, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise stands out as a simple yet powerful method to promote relaxation and improve overall well-being. In early May I attended the 2024 AAOP scientific meeting, and one of our guest speakers we invited was Adriaan Louw, PT, PhD and he reminded us all of the value of the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise. It is a great way to down-regulate our Autonomic Nervous System and improve heart rate variability and overall relaxation and well-being.  

The History of 4-7-8 Breathing 

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is deeply rooted in ancient yogic practices known as pranayama, which is the art of breath control. These practices have been used for thousands of years in India to improve mental, physical, and spiritual health. The modern adaptation of this specific exercise was popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil, a renowned integrative medicine specialist, who has been instrumental in bringing holistic health practices to a wider audience. 

Dr. Weil introduced the 4-7-8 breathing exercise as part of his comprehensive approach to health and wellness, emphasizing the importance of mindful breathing in reducing stress and enhancing overall quality of life. His promotion of this technique has led to its widespread adoption and validation in various clinical settings. 

The Inventor: Dr. Andrew Weil 

Dr. Andrew Weil is a Harvard-educated physician who has dedicated his career to integrating conventional medical practices with alternative treatments to promote holistic health. He is the founder and director of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. Dr. Weil’s contributions to the field of integrative medicine have been profound, and his advocacy for the 4-7-8 breathing exercise has helped countless individuals find a simple, effective tool for managing stress and improving health. 

Benefits of 4-7-8 Breathing 

The 4-7-8 breathing exercise offers numerous benefits that can significantly impact your overall well-being: 

  1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety: By promoting a state of relaxation, this technique helps lower cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone, thereby reducing feelings of anxiety. 
  2. Improves Sleep Quality: Practicing this breathing exercise before bedtime can help quiet the mind and prepare the body for restful sleep. 
  3. Enhances Focus and Concentration: By increasing oxygen intake and improving blood flow to the brain, the 4-7-8 technique can enhance cognitive functions such as focus and concentration. 
  4. Lowers Blood Pressure: Regular practice can lead to improved heart rate variability and lower blood pressure, contributing to better cardiovascular health. 
  5. Promotes Emotional Stability: The calming effect of this breathing exercise can help regulate emotions and improve overall mood. 

How to Do the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise 

The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is simple and can be done anywhere, anytime. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started: 

  1. Get Comfortable: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Ensure your back is straight if you’re sitting. 
  2. Position Your TonguePlace the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth. Keep it there throughout the exercise. (sound familiar? The relaxed position of the mandible!) 
  3. Exhale Completely: Start by exhaling completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound. 
  4. Inhale QuietlyClose your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. 
  5. Hold Your Breath: Hold your breath for a count of seven. 
  6. Exhale Completely: Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound, for a count of eight. 
  7. RepeatThis completes one breath cycle. Repeat the cycle 3 more times for a total of four breaths, in only about 90 seconds. Do this at least twice a day, or at least once before bedtime. Over a month, you can increase the frequency you do this exercise. 

Tips for Success 

  • Consistency: Practice the 4-7-8 technique twice a day for the best results. Over time, it will become more effective as your body gets used to it. 
  • Mindfulness: Focus on the counting and the sensation of your breath. This helps anchor your mind and enhances the calming effect. 
  • Gradual Progress: If you find it difficult to hold your breath for seven counts initially, start with shorter durations and gradually increase as you become more comfortable. 


The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a powerful tool that can help you manage stress, improve sleep, and enhance overall well-being. Its simplicity and effectiveness make it accessible to everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. By incorporating this practice into your daily routine, you can unlock a greater sense of calm and balance in your life. Give it a try and experience the transformative power of mindful breathing. 


I have also included a 2022 study in support of the 4-7-8 breathing exercise noted below! 


In good health, JUST BREATHE! 





Vierra J, Boonla O, Prasertsri P. Effects of sleep deprivation and 4-7-8 breathing control on heart rate variability, blood pressure, blood glucose, and endothelial function in healthy young adults. Physiol Rep. 2022 Jul;10(13) 

Michael Karegeannes
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