Here’s another meditation practice for you. This is the “4-7-8” technique.
- Sit comfortably
- Inhale through your nose to a count of 4
- Hold your breath for a count of 7
- Exhale through your mouth to a count of 8
It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you count as long as you use a consistent pace and keep it comfortable. In the beginning as you get used to holding your breath, you will probably end up counting a little faster. Then with continued practice, you will find that you are able to count more slowly.
Ever wonder why so many meditation techniques focus on your breathing? Our body performs thousands of automated activities (by what’s called the autonomic nervous system) every day that we don’t have conscious control over. You don’t have to actively command your body “Okay Stomach, now start digesting food. Skin, heal that bruise. Heart, keep pumping.” The body just takes care of it when healthy. But on the flip side, when something does start breaking down, the same thing applies – we can’t just tell it to work better – we have to help it to work better by promoting relaxation.
Of all the automated functions, the only one that can be directly influenced by our thinking brain is our breathing. You have the ability to ramp up stress (sympathetic nervous system) or relax the body (parasympathetic nervous system) by simply changing your breathing. Any time you relax the body, it will automatically start digesting better, sleeping better, and healing better. (Yes, there is a time when the stress system needs to be activated too, but I think you will agree that we are all out of balance too much on the stress side.) So next time you’re feeling stressed, do a couple of rounds of the 4-7-8 technique to calm and relax the body.