Masculinity, Fatherhood, and Breathwork: Opening the Door to Emotional Freedom​

Practicing mindfulness and healing modalities, like breathwork, can have various effects on the way people perceive themselves, their relationships, and society at large. Mainstream media often portrays yoga, mindfulness, and associated healing modalities as innately feminine. But, we think there is opportunity across the gender spectrum for healing, both individually and collectively. Today, we are focusing on masculinity, and particularly fatherhood, as the practice of both can be positively influenced by breathwork and other mindfulness practices. Breathwork in particular is shown to improve emotional well-being, release limiting beliefs, and assist in healing past trauma. As Western society has a history of pressuring humans to mold themselves to narrow ideas and expressions of gender, we want to take a moment to focus on ways we can all push back against the status quo. We want to draw the line between divine masculinity and toxic masculinity, breathwork and other mindfulness practices and help break down the limiting beliefs at the core of toxic masculinity.

Keep reading to see what native San Diegan and Holotropic breathwork practitioner, Ivan M. Ochoa, has to say about his experience with masculinity and fatherhood.

dark skinned man breathing and meditating in nature.

Here are some ways in which practicing breathwork can impact masculinity & fatherhood:

1. Emotional Regulation: Breathwork techniques, such as deep abdominal breathing or alternate nostril breathing, can help regulate emotions and reduce stress. This can be particularly valuable for men who may have been socialized to suppress or disconnect from their emotions. By developing the ability to regulate emotions, breathwork can support healthier emotional expression and enhance emotional intelligence, which are important aspects of masculinity and fatherhood.

2. Increased Self-Awareness: Breathwork practices often involve focusing on the breath and observing one’s physical and mental states. Through this process, individuals can cultivate greater self-awareness and a deeper understanding of their thoughts, emotions, and patterns of behavior. This heightened self-awareness can allow men to challenge and question societal expectations of masculinity and fatherhood to develop a more authentic sense of self.

3. Expanded Definition of Masculinity & Fatherhood: Traditional notions of masculinity and fatherhood often emphasize stoicism, toughness, and self-reliance. However, practicing breathwork can challenge these narrow definitions by encouraging vulnerability, self-care, and a more holistic approach to well-being. By embracing breathwork, men can explore and embody a broader range of emotional qualities, including empathy, compassion, and self-reflection.

4. Improved Communication and Relationships: Breathwork practices can enhance communication skills, active listening, and empathy, which are essential components of healthy relationships. By improving these aspects, men can cultivate stronger connections with others, including their partners, children, friends, and colleagues. This can contribute to a more fulfilling and satisfying experience of personhood and masculinity.

5. Stress Reduction and Resilience: Breathwork techniques, such as deep diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing, have been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing stress. By incorporating regular breathwork into their routines, men can enhance their ability to manage stress, improve mental well-being, and build resilience. This can positively influence their overall experience of masculinity by promoting a healthier work-life balance and reducing the negative effects of chronic stress.

What is Holotropic Breathwork?

Holotropic Breathwork was originally developed by psychiatrist and researcher, Stanislav Grof, and his wife Christina Grof.  The couple were two of the principal developers of transpersonal psychology and research into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness for purposes of exploring, healing and obtaining growth and insights into the human psyche.  The goal of this altered state of consciousness in Holotropic Breathwork is to bring unconscious issues into awareness.  This would enable participants to work through them and experience healing. 

Holotropic Breathwork has two major components which creates the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual journey that many experience when practicing this technique.  These two components appear to provide access to unusual, unexpected, transpersonal experiences in non-ordinary states of awareness. Holotropic breathwork is comprised of a circular and rapid breathing pattern sometimes called voluntary hyperventiliation, paired with evocative music.

One of Ivan’s Breathwork Events

Meet Ivan M. Ochoa

Now that we have some background on the relationship between masculinity, breathwork, and pathways to emotional freedom, let’s hear from Ivan!

Ivan facilitating Holotropic breathwork

“I am Ivan M. Ochoa, a native of San Diego, and a certified breathwork instructor and traditional/Hellenistic astrologer. Through my practice, I have cultivated the ability to navigate the various challenges and fluctuations of life with joy, love, patience, and accountability. This enables me to establish a healing environment and lead a purposeful life. Even after three years of daily practice, I vividly recall my initial experience with breathwork. It was during an online event that I eagerly participated in, enticed by the promise of a transformative moment. As someone who becomes enthused by the prospect of healing, recognizing old patterns, or releasing stagnant emotions or memories, I seized the opportunity.

Overcoming a last-minute request from my wife, which almost prevented me from attending the session, I remained resolute in my determination to partake in this experience. I am grateful that I did, for it proved to be one of the most profound moments of my life. Breathwork captured my heart, transcending the powerful spiritual encounters I had previously encountered. During that session, my body shook, my fingers and hands cramped, and I alternated between crying and laughing uncontrollably. It was accompanied by an overwhelming sense of love and purpose that remains with me to this day. In that moment, I realized I had discovered a medium that truly facilitates healing for myself and others.”

Ivan facilitating Holotropic breathwork

“When I commenced my breathwork practice, I had only one daughter. However, over the past three years, life has blessed me with the arrival of two more precious daughters. This expansion of my family underscored the importance of balance as a foundation for both my practice and family life. While I would love to claim that I have effortlessly managed this feat, it has proven to be a significant challenge and learning curve for me. Nonetheless, my heart deeply resonates with the desire to be of service to others and share the tools that have enabled me to find purpose and live a happier, healthier life. Balancing these ambitions with my responsibilities as a father and husband necessitates a continuous investment of attention, energy, patience, and time.

Thankfully, through my practice, I have acquired the discipline and focus required to discern what aligns with my heartfelt aspirations, enabling me to prioritize accordingly. One of my utmost priorities is to instill in my daughters the belief that perseverance and patience can enable them to achieve anything they set their minds to. By exemplifying this principle, we can communicate the significance of such values in a manner that transcends words. This philosophy serves as the wellspring of my strength, motivating me to effectively manage my time, so as to provide my children with a devoted father while advancing the development of my practice.

Men often encounter difficulties expressing and honoring their emotions in safe communal spaces. However, it is through this practice that I have been able to embrace my masculine energy more fully and process my emotions in a manner that prevents them from affecting those around me. This is an integral part of fatherhood, or at least it should be. As fathers, we are protectors and providers, choosing duty over immediate gratification, and prioritizing responsibility over personal desires. Holotropic Breathwork is not a passive exercise; it demands presence and active engagement. However, for those daring enough to confront their inner selves and put in the necessary work, the rewards are akin to a profound cerebral orgasm.

I still experience challenging days, and there are occasions where I find myself overwhelmed. Nevertheless, the gaps between such episodes have grown increasingly wider over time. This ultimately allows me to dedicate more of my life to embracing joy and, most importantly, cherishing my family. Life passes by swiftly, and it is imperative to seek out the positive aspects, to engage in endeavors that challenge us and ignite our souls. Embrace life as a grand lesson and an ongoing challenge, and let us ignite the cosmic spark that resides within each and every one of us.

Thank you for your time, and may life reflect your inner beauty back to you.”

-Ivan M. Ochoa

Where to Find Ivan

Presently, Ivan hosts breathwork sessions twice a month, coinciding with the new and full moon cycles, which occur regularly. Ivan conducts these sessions at the welcoming Atma Prema Yoga Studio in National City, California. 

As part of our commitment to fostering self-awareness, inner power, and the transformative potential of the breath, Ivan and his co-host Greg Kinsey are organizing an Ice and Breath Ceremony to celebrate the divine masculine energy and harness the vitality, strength, courage, clarity, and enlightenment associated with the sun as we transition into the summer season. This event will take place on June 21st in San Diego and on June 25th in Los Angeles.

For astrological readings and upcoming events, visit Ivan’s IG account, @ivanm.ochoa

One of Ivan's Holotropic breathwork events

It’s important to note that the impact of breathwork on masculinity can be highly individual and subjective. Different men may have varying experiences and interpretations of how breathwork influences their sense of self and masculinity. Additionally, the cultural and societal context in which masculinity is understood can also play a role in shaping these experiences. Ultimately, practicing breathwork can offer men (and all genders) a valuable tool for personal growth, emotional well-being, and a more expansive and authentic expression of masculinity.