Pranayama is the Yoga practice of regulating one’s breath. In the yoga tradition the breath, or prana, is said to be the source of a person’s vital life source. Some yoga gurus believe pranayama is even more important than asana, the more widely known aspect of yoga poses. “Yogic breathing, defined as a manipulation of breath movement, has been shown to positively affect immune function, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and psychological or stress-related disorders.”1 Therefore it’s extremely important to improve the quality of our breath through mindful exercises and techniques.
There are many simple and different breathing techniques that can be learned and practiced on a day-to-day basis. One that has gained recent popularity is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique espoused by Dr. Andrew Weil.
How to perform the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
First, find a place to sit or lie down comfortably. Be sure you practice good posture, especially when starting out. Throughout the practice, you’ll rest the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your top front teeth. Practice this with several breaths as you’ll need to be comfortable with this, especially while exhaling. Exhaling can be easier for some people when they purse their lips.
The exercise comprises four distinct practices:
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound.
Close your lips and inhale silently through your nose for four counts.
Hold your breath for seven counts.
Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.
Repeat this cycle four times. Once you master the basic you can add additional cycles.
Take a look at this brief video describing how to perform the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Click Here to view.
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