Adopt the usual position.

Close you mouth and 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. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue.

Become aware of your breath.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Through the mouth, take in a long, deep breath, counting slowly to four in your head: 1-2-3-4.
  • Hold the breath for a count of seven:1-2-3-4-5-6-7.
  • Slowly release the breath to a count of eight: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
  • Keep your attention fully on your breath throughout.

This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four times.

This exercise only takes two minutes and is profoundly stilling. Use it in times of anxiety or stress, when you cannot stop thinking or racing mind, when you know you need to sink deeper while composing, whenever you want to bring yourself to that place of clarity, peace and awareness that DH Lawrence  called “achieved stillness”.

Note that you inhale quietly through your nose and exhale noisily through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time.

Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The time you spend is not important; it’s the ratio of 4:7:8 that’s important. With practice you will slow it all down, hold your breath for longer, and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

“This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system,” says Dr Andrew Weil. “Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often 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. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.”

Watch a video of Dr. Weil demonstrating the 4-7-8 Breath.