Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Janice Cotto began practicing yoga in 2009. She completed her 200-hour teacher training in 2013 and since then has expanded her education and commitment to sharing her experience with others. Janice currently teaches afternoon Hatha Flow classes at EastSide Yoga. Be sure to check the schedule and pay her a visit soon!
How would you describe your approach to yoga?
My approach to yoga is finding spiritual freedom through the physical form. As humans we are physically connected to this planet and therefore we have the ability to utilize our physical form to create more potential for expansive opening and letting go. Strength and surrender are two pieces of a puzzle that we can find within our bodies. My approach to yoga is to allow our habitual thinking patterns and old habits come to a pause while we redirect our intentions to something greater. One of my favorite Iyengar quotes is “It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”
What led you to begin practicing yoga?
When I was 19, I was dating a guy who’s mom was really into yoga. She was a bright light and always positive and encouraged me to join her in a yoga class that she had been attending. I had done a few poses before but had never taken a public class. My first experience in public yoga class was extremely challenging. I had no idea what I was doing and the teacher kept coming up to me and making adjustment in my poses. I wasn’t embarrassed by being a beginner. I was intrigued by the challenge and wanted to keep going until I understood the flow and could do it without having to look around. It took time and practice and soon I became drawn to the therapeutic quality of flow. My start in practicing yoga definitely began as a physical practice, as many people start. Over time it turned into a journey within and I started to dive deeper into a spiritual practicing, binding my mind with my body. It changed my life and started to affect my life off the mat. When doing yoga transformed into living my yoga, I knew I had found what I wanted to do with my life. Share yoga and my experiences with others.
In your biography, you mentioned that you used to suffer from chronic back pain. I believe many us also struggle with that problem on a daily basis. What postures did you often turn to to help relieve your pain?
Lower back pain is one of the main complaints from most people. My history with overcoming my low back injuries included a sense of commitment to noticing how I was doing things all the time, not just on my mat. I used to wait tables and would use the same arm to hold a tray and stick my hip out, which over time did some serious damage to my Quadratus lumborum (QL) on my right side. It became so intense that I had a incident where I collapsed out of pure dysfunction. I knew then that something had to change. It took a while to undue the habits in my physical form, but a willingness to learn and listen to my body paved the way to healing. When people ask me what postures to do that help them with low back pain, sometimes I tell that its not the poses that you DO to create change, but rather the poses that you DON’T do. Not saying that you can’t ever do back bends or twists, etc. but modifying to your personal needs is crucial to self love and healing. For example, in poses such as forward folds where students are more concerned about having their legs straight, are risking the safety of their low back. Knowing when to modify and not letting the ego run your life or your practice are ways that helped me find freedom from pain and suffering.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned through your journey to yoga?
It sounds crazy, but yoga found me. It has a way of doing that. Whenever we are ready to receive something, we do. Everything happens as it should, and nothing is an accident. Yoga taught me to listen to something other than the committee in my head. It helped me see myself through a lens that I hadn’t seen before. My reaction to poses on my mat started to show me how I showed up in my daily life out in the world. And sometimes that didn’t look so good, and so I learned from it and grew. It taught me patience, self-love, compassion and willingness to just let things be and witness the present moment unfold without an attachment to what “I” think it should be. It began as a physical journey for me and then out of nowhere I woke up to something more. It unified my body and mind in a way that I never thought was possible. I found God. A lot of people don’t like that word. Misconceptions arise when people hear the word “God”. When I say it a refer to the energy, prana, divine source all around us and within us.
What do you like the most about EastSide Yoga?
EastSide Yoga is a sanctuary. There is so much love in this studio that you can feel it when you walk in. It harnesses a realness about yoga that is sometimes missing when you go to a class that strictly focuses on pushing yourself physically. Being challenged is good, and so I’m not saying that one shouldn’t do a hot class or a power vinyasa class because that’s how my path started, so I know that it has the ability to reach inward. EastSide Yoga reaches out to every corner of the yoga community, holding space in a way that is truly inspiring and makes me feel so blessed to be a part of.