Breath-Generated EmotionsAngelique Laaks
“Life is Not Measured By The Number of Breaths We Take. But By The Moments That Take Our Breath Away.”*
The opening line of the above quote references an Eastern belief, which holds that we’re given a certain amount of ‘prana’, a delightful word encompassing oxygen and energy, to use in our life. We die when our spark of life sustained by oxygen intake is used up.
It makes sense then that the fewer breaths taken, the longer we live. Without particularly understanding breath-generated emotions, seasoned meditators and yogis have long worked with the power of breathing in exercise and meditation practice to access positive emotions. Happily, research in the west has confirmed the emotional component in brain responses to breathing.
Science of Breath-Generated Emotion
At least three vital areas of the brain are affected by the way we breathe; the amygdala – our emotional centre, the hippocampus – responsible for our memory, and the piriform cortex- controlling the olfactory system (sense of smell). All three are part of the limbic system, which handles our instinctual drives, from hunger, sex drive, and caring for offspring right through to our noble qualities and emotions. Studies show that proper breathing aids our memory but more significantly, positive breath-generated emotions can be brought into our decision-making process. Rather than suppressing our feelings and trying to keep them out of the equation imagining that we do better having our head over our heart, research is telling us that our emotions can be invoked as our ally, once we know to access and generate them.
Breath-Generated Emotions Based on Synchronised Brain Oscillations
The vital question is; does emotion cause the breathing pattern or does the breathing pattern cause emotion? And the answer is? Both!
French scientist Pierre Phillipot has championed the reverse technique of harnessing breathing techniques, to evoke emotions. He monitored the emotional effect on study participants, who felt the associated emotions when instructed to breathe in various patterns.
Not only do breathing techniques stimulate brain oscillations of the limbic system, but it appears that certain patterns involve our parasympathetic nervous system – the insula, in particular. Positive breath-generated emotions significantly lower our Cortisol, or ‘stress hormone’ levels. Stress can be driven by fear. Reducing this emotion with breathing techniques and filling the void using breath-generated emotions such as love and forgiveness, means we can actually change our reality from anxiety to serenity, just by taking a moment to change or listen to our breathing.
The Long and The Short of Breath-Generated Emotions
There is a two-pronged solution to managing our emotions using breathing techniques. Firstly, it would be best to hone our emotional equilibrium with long-term, life-long breathing habits, which set us up for having a better day every day. But even veteran breathwork practisers need a quick-fix technique for managing midstream, in the moment, on the spot crises as they arise.
1) Maintaining Emotional Equilibrium
- THE SLOW-DOWN BREATH-GENERATED EMOTION MOVE
Inhale and count ‘one’ on the exhalation, repeat but count ‘two’ with the exhale breath and go on till ‘five’. Go back to ‘one’. The art with this practice to still the mind and evoke higher emotions. If our mind wanders off, listening to our own breath will bring us back into the moment. Quelling memories of events where we experienced shame, embarrassments or mistakes, or by imagining future scenarios, which cause us to feel anxiety, we succeed in remaining in the present from where we access higher emotions of expansiveness, love and forgiveness.
- THE 5-STEP BREATH-GENERATED EMOTIONS PLAN
- Take a few breaths saying mentally; “In” on the inhalation and “Out” to exhale (bear with it)
- Take the next few breaths saying; “Deep” to inhale (and as you do, let it go deep), and “Slow” for the exhale
- Take the next group of breaths saying; “Calm” on the inhale and “Easy” on the exhale
- This time, make sure we smile for the inhale saying; “Love” and “Release” for the exhale
- Lastly, we use the inhale for centering saying; “Here”, and “Now” on the exhale
1) The Quick-fixes
- THE MIDSTREAM BREATH-GENERATED EMOTION MOVE
When we’re in mid-conversation, or we feel irritation or judgement rising, take a long, deep breath and listen to it. In that one second, we generate opportunity for a better emotional response. It will burst through the emotions of any situation such as being yelled at or challenged or being unfairly accused and give us a chance to access a stillness or calmer response.
- THE “SHORT SNORT” BREATH-GENERATED EMOTION MANOEUVRE
Warning – we’ll need to leave the room for this one! Much like loud sniffing, we take rapid in and out breaths through the nose only. It purifies the bloodstream and stimulates the pituitary gland. Our electromagnetic field is thereby charged so, we become a magnet for positive emotions. It is said that one minute of this ‘snorting’ breath is worth an hour of stillness.
- THE “4-7-8” BREATH-GENERATED EMOTIONS RATIO
Inhale through the nose to a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7, exhale to a count of 8 through the mouth. Start twice a day with just four of these power breaths for the first month, then increase slowly to as much as eight. This is a great preventative measure whether we use it to start every day, or while driving or before that important meeting.
Certainly our bodies are incredibly complex organisms, and we have only begun to scratch the surface of our understanding of its intricacies.
If you would like to know more, and possibly harness the innate power that we all hold within ourselves in order to live our best life, then I would love to assist you.
Please feel free to contact me for more information.
*The opening quote has no less than seven claimants as to its origin so, we’ve not ascribed it to anyone in particular.