If you’re a cancer patient or caregiver, this may be one of the most stressful times of your life. But Board Certified Radiation Oncologist and Integrative Oncologist Dr. Brian Lawenda says keeping your stress levels down is key to fighting the disease and feeling your best.

One of the most powerful and effective relaxation techniques that you can do anywhere or anytime when you are feeling stressed can be as simple as paced breathing. It is called “4-7-8 relaxation breathing” or simply the “4-7-8 breath technique.”

This is a breathing technique, adopted from a yoga breathing practice (Pranayama), and was popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil (Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona).

How do you do it?

  1. Get into a comfortable position. Some prefer to be in a seated position with their hands on your lap. You can also do this lying down.
  2. Press the tip of your tongue on the ridge of tissue just behind your top, front teeth, and keep it there throughout the breathing cycles.
  3. Breathe in deeply through your nose for 4 seconds.
  4. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  5. Breathe out slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. As you exhale, you will be blowing the air around your tongue, which remains pressed on the ridge of tissue behind your front teeth.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 for three or more breathing cycles. You can gradually increase the number of cycles over the next few weeks. It is generally not recommended to do more than 10 cycles in a row. It’s normal to feel a little light headed when you are first starting out, but this will pass as you get more comfortable with the technique and your body adjusts to it.

It is recommended to do this at least 3-4 times per day.

Adapted from Dr. Brian Lawenda, 21st Century Oncology’s National Director of Integrative Oncology and Cancer Survivorship and founder of Integrative Oncology-Essentials.