Introduction to the Breathe and Emotions


How we breathe is how we think – Edward Dangerfield


In this post I will be introducing you to the relationship of the breath to the body and the emotions.  Then I will give a few short instructions on developing a relationship with breath, and then concluding with an introduction to mindfulness meditation


Without training, breathing patterns naturally guide the physical body to experience and express the dominant patterns of the Mind.  Therefore, an individual in an excited state of Mind, will have a breathing pattern much different than that of someone who is feeling sleepy. Further, emotional stress, for example, can increase the rate of the body’s respiration.


The body, breathe, and emotions

Any shift in a person’s body, emotion, and thought will cause a corresponding change to all 3 systems. In Chinese medicine each of the five element’s primary acquired emotions are associated with a specific breathing pattern.  The follow is an introduction to 6 important breathing patterns. 

1.       Anger – liver: Respiratory pattern will be shallow with a stronger emphasis on the exhalation

2.       Joy – heart: Respiratory pattern will be moderate, and irregular, with quick bursts

3.       Shock – heart: When a person experiences shock, the breath immediately stops as the Qi attacks the heart  

4.       Worry – spleen: The breath is shallow and weak, and often held for long periods of time, follows by a long gulping burst of inhalation and exhalation. Spontaneous sighing is also common

5.       Grief – lungs: A grieving or sad person’s respiratory pattern will be choppy, broken, and obstructed

6.       Fear – kidneys: A fearful or scared person breathe pattern will be fast, held high in the lungs, and shallow

In several psychological experiments specific breath patterns are follow and the corresponding emotions can be felt.  For example, its quiet common for someone using the grief response respiratory pattern to start to cry. 

Now that you are aware of some breath patterns and their emotional associations you can use this information to understand another person’s state of mind. The breath does not lie. 





Stress and the breath

When we are relaxed and at peace we breathe comfortably, expanding our diagram from bottom to top.  As we exhale we release the breath and or muscles relax.  When we are stressed, we are more inclined to take short shallow breaths from our upper lungs and hold our exhale.  When we hold our exhale we retain tensions in the body, these tensions represents stored emotions, stress, ad energy.  As we learn to relax and release of our exhale we let go of tensions, emotions, and stress, and restore the harmony of the respiratory cycle and the cycling of energy throughout the body. 

The amount of stress you retain is not necessarily related to the amount of stress you encounter, retained stress is a function of your reaction to it.  If you are constantly rushing, not paying attention to your breath, your stress, and your emotions, its easy for them to build up in the body.  When we are mindful, even in stressful situations we can guide our breath to release and relax, and thus carry no tensions. 


Try and build a relationship with your breath throughout the day.  Checking in with your breath, your emotions, and your thoughts in the morning to guide your body to relaxation, then check in throughout the day, and then again at night to release any energy stored in the body. This schedule can be achieved in as little as 10 breaths per session, and if practiced for weeks and months will work towards building a constant awareness of the breath, and thus an awareness of the moment to moment changes in your body, your thoughts, and your emotions.

Mindful breathing meditation

Sit in a relaxed and comfortable position, either sitting or lying or standing. 

Keep the spine straight with the chin gentled tucked towards the neck

Take a moment to presence your body and feel the support of the earth below

Set an intention to mindfully meditate for the next few minutes

Inhaling from your diaphragm and through your nose, breathe in and in your mind say “I am mindful that I am breathing in”

Exhale through your nose or mouth, and say in your mind “I am mindful that I’m breathing out”

After 10 breaths simply say (in your head) In, upon inhalation, and out, upon exhalation.

After another 10 breaths simply and mindfully witness breathing in and out

Witnessing the breath




Witnessing any emotions, and thoughts that arise, and when they come simply leave them be, and return to mindfully watching the breath

When your mind becomes calm honour your practice and leave with the intention to carry that calm state of mind into your day



With love and support

-Zachary Koop

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