The Benefits of Breathing Consciously & Ehekapahtinime
Western research is now proving what the ancestral people of Anahuak (or the "Americas") have known all along: Breathing consciously, mindfully and intentionally offers many powerful benefits to our mind & body.
As more and more research continues to confirm native practices it is worth taking a look at the research while also keeping in mind that western science is still very young compared to ancestral sciences. So while we always enjoy reading the latest scientific affirmation of an ancestral practice, we also are fully aware that it is not needed. All we have to do is practice the discipline of Ehekapahtinime and we will see and feel the results ourselves.
That being said, lets take a look at some interesting information regarding the benefits of maintaining disciplines like Ehekapahtinime...
Despite the fact that breathing is a primarily unconscious act that requires little conscious interaction on our part, most of us still have a lot to learn about breathing. For example, many of us tend to take shallow, lung-focused breaths instead of deep belly diaphragmatic breaths. Or most of us tend to breathe pretty quickly, taking on average 14-20 breaths per minute, instead of the ideal 5-6 breaths per minute, which, according to Patricia Gerbarg, author of the Healing Power of the Breath has been proven to help us feel in an optimal state. And there are many more “bad habits” that are worth unlearning…
Why is any of this important? Well on the most basic level, breathing has a direct influence over our nervous system, which subsequently has an influence over many of our physiological functions and mental state.
Here’s how western science breaks it down: every breath we take activates millions of sensory receptors in our respiratory system which then sends signals via the vagus nerve to our brainstem. Faster breathing activates the brain at a higher rate, which can then trigger it to activate our sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for increasing stress hormones, heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, sweat production and anxiety. Essentially this is our fight/flight/freeze response. On the other hand, slower breathing signals to your brainstem to induce the parasympathetic response, our rest & restore response, which will relax our heart rate, lower stress hormone production, and helps relax and calm us while increasing mental clarity.
This is an important evolutionary response designed to use our autonomic nervous system as a survival mechanism by adjusting our heart rate,respiration and digestion up or down as needed in response to potential threats. But today an increase in subtle stressors like traffic, social media pings, cell phone beeps, bill or work deadlines, etc have all been shown to increase our levels of stress, anxiety and, you know it, our breathing rate.
By working with our breath, we can set off a whole domino effect of benefits to our physiology and more!
So its easy to see how breath changes in response to triggers like activity, emotions and even thoughts. But many “modern” studies are now proving what our ancestors have already observed and practiced: actively changing our breath rate can actually change autonomic function, our mood and emotional state, our brain activity, and our states of consciousness…
When you practice a discipline like Ehekapahtinime (or Tai Chi or Pranayama Yoga) you learn there are many different breathing techniques & exercises. Different breathing techniques will have different effects & benefits on our body/mind/spirit. And they may vary from person to person as well. It is always important to learn your own body’s signals and language and to listen to your body’s messages. This is the number one rule of all self-healing. However there are many proven benefits by both western science as well as ancestral teachings that comes with mindful, conscious breathing and different breathing techniques. Some of them are:
Beyond the science, our ancestors found that there are powerful effects on our state of consciousness and have used breathing techniques as tools for meditation, encouraging the development & flow of bioenergy in our body, activating different states of consciousness, expanding different levels of perception and deepening ritual work.
Whether it is for healing certain conditions or to maintain a harmonious state in your body or to deepen your spiritual practices... it's obvious that the benefits of conscious breathing are numerous. However the true potential lies in combining breathing techniques with intentional movement & meditation like in Ehekapahtinime. It is as a holistic & multifaceted discipline that it can not only have an impact on our body, mind, bioenergy, consciousness and spirit, but, in line with the ancestral principle of living in harmony with our environment, in Ehekapahtinime even has exercises with the focus of creating a harmonious state for the planet as well.
While western science is only now starting to take an interest in these practices, ancestral societies, like those of Mesoamerica, not only took an interest but intentionally developed potent disciplines like Ehekapahtinime. We are incredibly grateful that our teachers and our teachers' teachers have guarded and preserved these exercises for us to learn today. We have felt for ourselves the powerful impact of this discipline and have witnessed many fascinating effects on others around us. This is part of our ancestral heritage and a discipline that deserves uplifting and dignification.
To learn more we encourage you to attend our Ehekapahtinime classes every Sunday. You can find more info here.
by Clarissa Gonzalez Mazehuani
“The Healing Power of the Breath” Richard P Brown, Patricia Gerbarg
Akaxe Yotzin Gomez
Arturo Meza Gutierrez
Angela Maria Martinez Sanchez
“Diaphragmatic Breathing”, Sean Ramsden
“Diaphragmatic Breathing Training Program Improves Abdominal Motion During Natural Breathing In Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: a Randomized Controlled Trial” Joao Salge
“Standing Posture & Pulmonary Function in moderate-persistent asthmatics following aerobic and diaphragmatic breathing training” by Ina Shaw
“Coping Skills Anxiety Deep Breathing” by Dr Naglaa Ibrahim
“Effects of Deep Breathing, Visualization and Vocalization on Levels of Stress and Anxiety” by Clayton Micallef
Patanjali Research Foundation