4-7-8 Breathing: “most powerful anti-anxiety measure I’ve found” (Dr. Weil + Rumi)

(Video link here.)  In this short video, trusted alternative medicine doctor Andrew Weil demonstrates a simple breathing technique he calls a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system”, and “the single most powerful anti-anxiety measure I’ve found”. Over time, it lowers heart rate and blood pressure, improves digestion, can help you deal with cravings, and fall asleep.

I don’t know anyone these days, including myself with my super sensitive nervous system, who wouldn’t benefit from it. I started practicing it this weekend, as part of my daily routine.  I few days in, I did indeed start to feel its effect, though Weil says it can take 4 to 6 weeks.

Weil gives the essential info and how-to in the video above. Watch the first 4 minutes of this video for more in-depth understanding.

It’s something you want to do every day, religiously. The results come not instantly but by doing it regularly over time.

The theory is that by imposing certain rhythms on the breath with your voluntary system, gradually these are induced in the voluntary system. And that comes with time, so it’s the regularity of doing it that counts. 

        After two months of regular practice, significant changes occur…


Says Weil, it “takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.” We notice that Weil does the breath practice with his eyes closed, a detail that turns it quietly inward, into a sort of meditation.



All it takes, for the first month or so, is perseverance and faith.

While practicing 4-7-8 breathing, I am reminded of the last lines of this wonderful Rumi poem from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks (a perennial favorite):

Only Breath

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.


first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

11 Responses to 4-7-8 Breathing: “most powerful anti-anxiety measure I’ve found” (Dr. Weil + Rumi)

  1. Masha 04.24.2018 at 6:27am #

    Hello Sally and all,
    I find the Buteyko method, resulting in keeping more CO2 in the body, effective (see e.g., https://aamsinfo.org/buteyko-breathing/) to cope with anxiety.

    Per Dr. Ray Peat (as interviewed in in http://itsrainmakingtime.com/_radioshows/140602Peat.mp3 ):

    “He [Buteyko] was a Russian doctor who, starting in the 1950s, noticed that sick and dying people tended to hyperventilate and he found that if he could calm them down and get them to breathe more slowly they often recovered. I don’t think he was aware of the research that Yandell Henderson did. Henderson got the emergency fire fighters and such – from the 1930s and 1940s, it was standard to use
    8% or even 10% CO2 in the respiratory tanks with O2 to treat suffocation victims, carbon monoxide poisoning and such because CO2 is so essential to restoring respiration and it even activates the Krebs cycle. I personally think it’s involved in the actual formation of ATP from ADP by facilitating the dehydration withdrawal of water from the phosphate precursors to form the ATP itself.”

    Best regards.

  2. Ellen 04.24.2018 at 7:29am #

    I’ll give that a try… Why not? Thank you IL

  3. Jeff Kelton 04.24.2018 at 1:44pm #

    Great Tip. Thanks Sally.

  4. Sally Schneider 04.24.2018 at 7:53pm #

    I started a couple of days ago. It’s so easy, I’m doing it several times a day, looking forward for the payoff…

  5. Sally Schneider 04.24.2018 at 7:55pm #

    Really interesting. Thank you. What effect have you seen and how long did it take?

  6. Masha 04.27.2018 at 11:01am #

    @Sally “What effect have you seen and how long did it take?”.

    Sorry for the delayed reply.
    The sense of calm is pretty much immediate for me when I consciously apply the slow breezing.
    When getting better with “shallow” breezing (a là Buteyko technique) the benefits are more systemic I feel (less/no insomnia, better coping with altitude, and with transatlatic flights).


  7. Sally Schneider 05.01.2018 at 6:15pm #

    Thanks, Masha.

  8. Igor Bozic 11.25.2018 at 1:50pm #

    Hi i have a question about the 4 7 8 breathing excercise?can I do this 4 breath cycles every 15 minutes all day long

  9. Igor Bozic 11.25.2018 at 1:51pm #

    Hi i have a question about the 4 7 8 breathing excercise?can I do this 4 breath cycles every 15 minutes all day long?

  10. Peter 04.12.2019 at 2:04am #

    Isn’t this just one of the many traditional Indian / Tibetan Pranayama techniques. Why not just given them credit, instead of plagiarizing , by obfuscation with a new name for appropriation? The world would benefit more if you honor the source that has much depth in its search over 1000s of years instead of cheating the world of access. So many masters of pranayama alive today that are still transmitting these techniques. And it’s despicable that you hide their great service to humanity by not acknowledging your source.

  11. Sally Schneider 04.13.2019 at 3:38pm #

    In the video, Weil explains that this is an ancient technique. There is no conscious “cheating” here or hiding of the source. The title chosen is so that people can easily know what it is, in very few words.

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