Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Am I Breathing Wrong?
I purchased your breathing tapes. I get lightheaded every time I start to do the deep breathing exercises, and it lasts for about an hour. Can you tell me what I'm doing wrong?
Answer (Published 8/2/2004)

Learning breathing techniques for relaxation and stress reduction takes practice. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which often are effective when you first take them but lose their power over time, the effects of breathing exercises are subtle at first but gain power the more you repeat them. At first, some people do become light-headed, but you will find that this passes in time. I recommend that you continue with the breathing exercises, but try not to breathe as deeply or as intensely as you may have when you experienced the lightheadedness. Experiment until you find a level at which the lightheadedness doesn't occur and gradually work up from there.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Aging Gracefully - It's not about the lines on the face, it's about the wisdom behind them. Learn to celebrate what you have achieved, learned, and earned - join the Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide. Start your 14-day free trial today!

If you're learning Exercise: 4-7-8, in which you count to four while you inhale through the nose, hold your breath for a count of seven and exhale for a count of eight, I recommend that you practice at least twice a day but that you don't do more than four breaths at one time for the first month. Then, if it feels comfortable, you can increase to eight. In time, you should notice a shift in consciousness after doing the exercise: a feeling of detachment, lightness or dreaminess - this is a sign that you are affecting your involuntary nervous system and neutralizing stress. Once you develop the technique by practicing it daily, it will be a useful tool that you can rely on when something upsetting happens, to dispel tension, or to help you fall asleep.

Keep in mind that when you breathe deeply, you want to let your abdomen expand. This is abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing as opposed to breathing with the chest. Abdominal breathing allows one to breathe fully, using total lung capacity, whereas chest breathing puts more of a strain on the accessory muscles of the neck and ribs, and limits lung capacity. Shallow breaths of high intensity may be the cause of your lightheadedness.

Don't give up on learning the techniques because of the temporary symptoms you've experienced. With some patience and practice, everyone can benefit from breathing exercises.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here