How Breathing Affects Your EmotionsDec 17, 2022
Take a moment now and just observe your breath – notice how fast it is moving, where it is primarily focused in your body, and how it feels as you breathe. Whatever you may observe right now is actually a valuable insight into your emotions and your current state of mind. The more connected you become with your breath, the more connected you also become with your feelings.
The connection between the breath and your emotions is a mirror image of the relationship between the body and mind. Today we will explore these intimate connections in greater depth, along with some valuable breathwork tools to balance your emotions. Now, let’s dive in!
The Connection Between Breathing and Feelings
We’ve all been told before to just “take a breath” when we are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. One of the most obvious ways to see the connection between your breath and your emotions is to notice how your breathing changes when you feel anxiety, fear, or anger. When these heightened emotions take over, your breathing often becomes short and shallow, concentrating the breath in the chest. This physiological change in the breath actually has an evolutionary reason to help us survive.
When you are afraid or anxious, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode, kicking your system into gear to fight off a looming threat. But the more significant issues come when we get stuck in this state, which commonly happens in our chronically stressed society. As your body gets stuck in “fight or flight” mode, you may begin to chronically have a shallow breath concentrated in your chest, leading to a range of physical health issues and reduced respiratory function.
This leads to a “chicken or the egg” type situation, in which this shallow breathing rate can actually keep your body stuck in an activated nervous system state. So, does your breath influence your emotions, or do your emotions influence your breath? The truth is that it is both! The vagus nerve is one of the primary cranial nerves that runs from your brain down into your abdomen and around your lungs. When your breath is shallow or short, your vagus nerve does not get the tone that it needs to relax your nervous system, which can also contribute to an activated emotional state.
How Does Breathwork Facilitate the Mind-Body Connection?
Regulating the breath through conscious breathwork can actually begin to change the functioning of your brain and nervous system. Over time, breathwork can control the stress hormone cortisol, which is often linked to feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger. As we harmonize the breath, the mind becomes more at ease, deepening the connection between body, mind, and soul.
The mind and body are essentially connected through the vagus nerve that runs from the brain down into the abdomen. Every time you breathe, your body stimulates the vagus nerve that flows around your lungs and throat, sending messages to your brain. When your breathing is rapid, this sends a faster message from your body to your brain to stay active and alert. Whereas when your breathing is slow and deep, this sends a message through the vagus nerve to your brain to begin to relax and switch into “rest and digest” mode. These simple messages from your body to your mind begin to add up over time, contributing to the balance of your overall mood.
5 Ways to Calm Your Emotions with Breathwork
1. Notice Your Breath
The first step to balancing both your breath and emotions is beginning to observe the rhythm of your breath. When you watch your breath, you can notice your current state of mind and begin to balance your emotions. It is important to observe without judgment and to accept your breath as it is. Then once you know where your breath and mind are, you can begin to implement breathwork techniques to find balance within.
2. Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing
Perhaps the most foundational breathwork practice is diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing involves focusing on moving the breath all the way down the bottom of the lungs by gently pushing your abdomen outwards with an inhalation and contracting it on the exhalation. Often when you are angry or anxious, your body automatically switches to chest breathing. So, by consciously engaging in diaphragmatic breathing, you can change this pattern and tone your vagus nerve to relax your nervous system.
3. Engage in Vagal Toning with the Humming Bee Breath (Bhramari Pranayama)
Vagal toning is one of the most important ways to stimulate the vagus nerve and impact your nervous system on a physiological level. The vagus nerve runs from your brain down into your abdomen, with one of the most concentrated regions passing through your throat. To stimulate the vagus nerve and calm your mind, try the humming bee breath or bhramari pranayama. This breathing technique sends a soft vibration throughout your entire body to facilitate deep relaxation and inner peace.
4. Cool Anger with Calming Breathwork Practices
Anger gets the best of all of us sometimes, but the good news is that with the right tools, we can learn to process and release anger. Often people experience a rising level of heat in their body when they get angry, along with short and shallow breaths. By engaging in the cooling breathing practice of sheetali or sheetkari pranayama, you can cool your body and mind, deepen your breath, and find peace internally.
5. Boost Your Energy with a Cleansing Breath
Another way to use breathwork to balance your emotions is to revitalize yourself when you feel lethargic or have a low mood. Breathwork stimulates the flow of oxygen throughout your body and brain, stimulating a more profound awakening from within. Energizing and cleansing breathwork practices, such as alternate nostril breathing, can powerfully awaken the mind and release stagnation.
Balance Your Emotions with Online Breathwork Courses at BreathYoga
Your body and mind are deeply connected, and one way to see this clearly is to notice how your breath changes as the state of your mind and emotions change. By engaging in conscious breathwork, you can balance your emotions and find a more peaceful inner state. To support you on this profound journey of emotional regulation and inner connection, make sure to check out our online breathwork courses at BreathYoga today!
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