Emotions have a lot to do with breathing. When a person is relaxed and happy, diaphragmatic breathing is a natural result. When people are angry, fearful or otherwise “tight,” they mostly use thoracic or clavicular breathing. Some people don’t even realize that they freeze between breaths, stopping the breathing process altogether. This can happen whether these emotions are conscious or unconscious. It has been suggested by some scientists that perhaps people use thoracic or clavicular breathing in order to block angry, aggressive, anxious or fearful emotions from their conscious mind. These powerful emotions have strong associations with the lower parts of the body, including associations with lower chakras, so it only stands to reason that the breath is shallower in order to escape these emotions, or at least tone them down.
Hyperventilation is a result of acute anxiety, and this triggers the sympathetic nervous system. The para sympathetic and the sympathetic system are both parts of the autonomic system, two branches. The para sympathetic system deals with slowing the heart rate, speeding up digestion, and activating cleansing processes in the body, things that the body does while in a state of repose. The sympathetic system deals with active things like responding to emergency situations, physical exercise, anger, and panic. Adrenaline rushes are triggered by the sympathetic nervous system.
Just as emotions can trigger certain breathing patterns, which could be learned and habitualized, breathing can also recreate or reinforce an emotional atmosphere. It becomes a potential tool for interrupting, inspiring or controlling emotional response patterns. The breath plays a crucial role in whether one’s disposition is a calm or anxious.
Chest breathing is also a result of self-consciousness about image in this society, since abdominal breathing is not seen as a very attractive thing in adults. The female hourglass figure is preserved by using chest breathing, rather than diaphragmatic breathing.
Most people use chest breathing rather than diaphragmatic breathing. This results in shallow, irregular breathing. The oxygen does not reach the lower lobes of the lungs, which contain the most blood flow. Diaphragmatic breathing also takes a load off the heart, for it creates more suction pressure in the thoracic cavity, improving venous return of blood.
Chest breathing is a part of the fight or flight reaction and the human organism thinks that it is always in a stressful or dangerous situation. Chest breathing gives the mind anxiety, unsteadiness and tension. All meditation techniques, or relaxation techniques, are ineffective unless chest breathing is replaced by diaphragmatic breathing. The habit of breathing into the diaphragm must be consciously practiced with diligence before it becomes the person’s natural and unconscious way of breathing, automatic.