Daily Archives: April 8, 2015
Naturally Fall Asleep Fast, Stay Asleep All Night, Wake Up Refreshed
For as long as I can remember I had a hard time sleeping and even after getting to sleep I couldn’t stay asleep even as a small child I would lay awake in bed. My aunt would assume it to be bad food late at night, too much caffeine before bed, and stress. I found it incredibly difficult to shut my brain down and give it a break at night. After weeks of not being able to sleep a full night, a friend of mine told me about the “4-7-8″ breathing trick.
What is that you ask?
This method was developed by a wellness practitioner, Harvard-educated Dr. Andrew Weil, who studies meditation, breathing, and how it can be used to counteract stress. It’s easy to do. You breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. She explained to me that it slows down your heart rate and it also releases chemicals in our brains that soothe you. This is also a great technique while praying because in ingrains gratitude through your nervous system bringing your heart and brain in sync.
Pretty neat, huh? If you’re skeptical just try it. For me it ended up working like a total charm. I was out before I reached my fourth repetition and it tends to knock me out easily in less than a minute.
This is good for more than just falling asleep though. When we’re stressed, our endocrine system releases adrenaline through our adrenal glands. This elevates your heart rate and can make you feel jittery, unwell and even panicked. Often times, your breathing also becomes rapid and shallow.
By using this breathing method, you counteract the natural effects of adrenaline and your body is forced to slow down your heart rate. It simply doesn’t have a choice! When you begin, you may feel somewhat uncomfortable.
As you continue with it, you really do feel your heart rate slow and your mind clear. It’s almost like you’re spending a leisurely afternoon at a beach. So relaxing. Give it a try tonight and tell us what you think! You can also heck out Dr. Weil’s site if you are interested in further reading. Once you develop this breathing technique by practicing it every day, twice a day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens, before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. Use it to deal with food cravings. Great for mild to moderate anxiety, this exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.
Breathing: Three Exercises
three breathing exercises inside
Three Breathing Exercises
“Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Since breathing is something we can control and regulate, it is a useful tool for achieving a relaxed and clear state of mind. I recommend three breathing exercises to help relax and reduce stress: The Stimulating Breath, The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise (also called the Relaxing Breath), and Breath Counting. Try each and see how they affect your stress and anxiety levels.
The Stimulating Breath (also called the Bellows Breath)
The Stimulating Breath is adapted from a yogic breathing technique. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness.
- Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.
- Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle.
- Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute.
If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen. Try this breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee.
Watch a video of Dr. Weil demonstrating the Stimulating Breath.
The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. 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; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. 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.
Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.
Watch a video of Dr. Weil demonstrating the 4-7-8 Breath.
If you want to get a feel for this challenging work, try your hand at breath counting, a deceptively simple technique much used in Zen practice.
Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow, but depth and rhythm may vary.
- To begin the exercise, count “one” to yourself as you exhale.
- The next time you exhale, count “two,” and so on up to “five.”
- Then begin a new cycle, counting “one” on the next exhalation.
Never count higher than “five,” and count only when you exhale. You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself up to “eight,” “12,” even “19.”
Try to do 10 minutes of this form of meditation.