The 100 Breaths
Updated: Oct 10
Simple 'How to"
Commit yourself to doing it for a short period like a week, or a month. If you’re feeling better at that point, then keep on. Slow deep breathing like this is not natural . Like any new skill, it takes practice!
Find a place you can sit comfortably with your back straight and supported by your spine. The sofa at 4 am works for me. Don’t lie down because: 1) you can’t inhale as deeply and 2) you’ll fall asleep.
Find a time where you won’t be distracted or interrupted for 20-50 minutes. As you learn to breath more slowly the time it takes to do 100 breaths increases.
Don't try to do this after a large meal. An empty stomach gives better results.
If it's cool I have a blanket.
If your pants stop your belly from fully inflating, undo them.
The 100 Breaths
Close your eyes, with your hands palm up in your lap, and start with a normal out breath and count it as zero.
Breathe in as slowly as possible until your lungs are full but not straining. Count 1
Breathe out as slowly as possible until your lungs are almost empty but not straining. Count 1.
Carry on to 100. Don’t jump up when you are done. Take a few minutes to come back.
Things to notice
You’re first breaths, as many as 10-15 won’t be particularly long, but they will tend to get longer and slower as you go on.
On the out breath feel all your muscles relaxing as if they are melting.
All this diaphragm movement often makes me burp and/or yawn. Let it happen and carry on.
I also twitch and shake at some point, every time I do this. Let it go...Surrender to the experience of deeply relaxing.
Notice if the muscles around your mouth and jaw are tense and let them relax.
See if you can breathe without making a sound, either in or out. This is the opposite of the Yoga breathing technique where you intentionally make a sound.
Your “monkey mind” will tell you lots of things you should be remembering or doing or regretting, etc. Try not to follow it and focus on the process of slow inhales and exhales, and the count.
If you lose count just pick up somewhere close to where you know you were.
Anything is permitted – scratch an itch, sneeze, sigh, twitch, memories and images in your mind. Then breathe and count again.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes. There are no prizes for finishing sooner or later. If 100 is too many do fewer and see if you can work up to 100. If counting is annoying just set a timer and do 20 to 30 minutes. I like counting because it keeps the monkey mind busy.
Starting in 2017, every spring I would find myself short of breath. I could not eat gluten and a long list of other foods. Each year I went to the doctor, had a chest x-ray and blood tests and was told I was fine. Then it would go away. In early May of 2019 when my dad was in hospital in Toronto, I had a flight booked for June 9. I was a bit short of breath. I thought I should go back to Toronto sooner. The moment I decided to pack up the dog and drive there, my anxiety went away and my breathing was fine. So the light went on. I can suffer from anxiety and not be consciously aware of it.
By September 2019 I had pain in my right arm and shoulder when I made certain movements. It was not related to any activity.
I knew I had to find a way to regularly relax in a deep way but didn't know how to start. I did remember that when I did Reiki for someone my breathing always got long and slow. I always felt good after doing Reiki for someone else. So my intuition told me to do 100 long slow breaths.
At first the 100 breaths only took about 20 minutes. While breathing those first few months, my painful right arm and shoulder would spontaneously shiver and shake. You might find this or something else might happen. Let it happen. I could stop the shaking, but did not. By the end of 4 months (December 2019) the pain was mostly gone. By March 2020 it was gone completely.
Then I had a period where I didn't shake much at all. I had read about a method people use while meditating to enhance the experience. You pick a section of your body (head, legs, knees, etc.) and notice the interior sensation, then the exterior. I alternated that quickly (every second) and the shaking came back. Along with it came a new motion, the contraction of my abdominal muscles on the out breath. I carried on this way until Jan 2021.
This year the new insight was to hold the 'in' breath, then hold the 'out' breath. It took a few months to figure out how to do this in a useful way. I'll give you more precise details on this if you ask. It's difficult and sometimes unpleasant until you figure out how to do it. You will know when you're ready for it.
In May this year I was hearing from the little voice in my head that I could eat gluten. But I was cautious. I started by adding 25% wheat flour to my GF bread. I gradually increased it to 75%, then threw caution to the wind and started making regular bread. Wheat has a flavour that you don't get in GF bread. I had really missed it.
Of all the essential systems in our bodies, breath is the only one that we can consciously or unconsciously control. It's where our two minds meet. By consciously relaxing our breath we invite our unconscious mind to relax and release energy from life events that we don't want to deal with. Trauma gets stuck in our bodies. This is the basic Reiki insight. Giving Reiki helps people release energy. Conscious long slow breathing with the mind/body relaxed and letting go of things seems to do the same. And it's easier than going to someone for a Reiki session every day.
Official Internet Benefits of Deep Breathing
1) Decreases stress, increases calm. When you become stressed or anxious, your brain releases cortisol, the “stress hormone.” By taking deep breaths, your heart rate slows, more oxygen enters our blood stream and helps the brain relax. Deep breathing also raises the level of endorphins, the “feel good” chemical.
2) Relieves pain The release of endorphins reduces pain.
3) Stimulates the lymphatic system (Detoxifies the body). Breathing releases carbon monoxide. Breathing does a large part in of cleansing of the body of toxins.
4) Improves immunity. When your blood is fully oxygenated, it carries and absorbs nutrients and vitamins more efficiently.
5) Increases energy. The more oxygen that is in the blood, the better stamina we have.
6) Lowers blood pressure. As your muscles relax, this allows your blood vessels to dilate, which improves circulation and lowers blood pressure. Deep breathing also slows and regulates the heart rate, which also helps with lowering your BP.
7) Improves digestion. The more you breathe deep, the more blood flow you will produce, which in turn allows your organs to function more effectively, including your intestines.
8) Helps support correct posture. Next time you breathe in, notice that you simultaneously lengthen and straighten your spine. When you take a deep breath in, your lungs take up maximum space, your diaphragm pulls down and your torso straightens.
Don't just take my word for it: How one hour of slow breathing changed my life
Guided Meditations - Start with #1 - the 5 minute guided meditation