Besides the fact that he puts ketchup on his rice, Johan Montijano considers himself a pretty predictable guy. His life, though, is not as predictable. As a college freshman in his native France, he did background work on a soap opera called Sous le Soleil (Under the Sun); after only a few episodes, he was promoted to a recurring supporting player.
From there, he was recruited by modeling agencies in France, London, and Los Angeles. In New York, he’s repped by Abbey Lynn Models.
“I love New York,” Johan says of his current home. “Every day brings a new story here. I love the energy, and the different cultures. Here, anything goes. Everything is possible. It’s a place forever changing and reinventing itself.”
The Big Apple is the perfect locale for Johan, who is also forever changing and reinventing himself. In addition to his modeling career, he has earned his yoga certification, and leads a much-sought-after class at the Soho Equinox.
“Yoga has helped me become moldable,” he says. “It also helps me stay grounded before I go to an audition. Being nervous is okay, but you don’t want your nerves to get in the way. Using centering and yoga breathing techniques before auditions has helped me stay focused and sharp so that I can give the best version of myself.”
To faithful yoga practitioners, benefits include aligning your breath, your body and your mind with a range of motion. To the uninitiated, it may look a bit intimidating and complex, but Johan is there to patiently lead you to where your mind and body need to be.
“Yoga does not have to be difficult,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be a strenuous, physical, sweaty practice, or a deep and intense meditation. It could be a short centering walk focusing on your breathing; it could be listening instead of talking, or spending time with loved ones. Practicing yoga is to be present and aware, whatever action or inaction is involved.”
Johan’s preferred brand of yoga, called Vinyasa, translates as “arranging something in a special way.” Students use their breath to transition from one pose to the next, which creates a natural flow.
“Vinyasa yoga appeals to people who like to be active and move,” he says. “It’s fun, there’s music; it often feels like a workout with a nap at the end. If you teach or practice Vinyasa with an intention– love, detachment, acceptance, contentment, kindness, gratefulness — it could be very healing and beneficial both physically and mentally.”
Johan’s class — and the need for it — seems to be timed perfectly, considering the way we live now.
“We see our kids losing their ability to focus,” he says, “because they spend hours on the iPad; we see friends experiencing signs of depression because they can’t keep up with the seemingly perfect lives of others on Instagram. We take work home, we sleep with our phones on the night stand, we keep track of how many steps we take, how many calories we burn, and so on. All this could be really hard on the nervous system. It’s information overload — we are always ‘on.’”
Enter Johan’s yoga class, and exit the world for a bit. He’ll help you with your Pratyahara, which means gaining mastery over external influences.
“Yoga helps us detach ourselves,” he says. “We learn how to put the phone down, sit up tall, close the eyes and follow the breath. Thoughts will still be there, but we are now observing them; we do not react to them anymore. We detach ourselves from the hurtful thoughts and find peace and healing.”
Of course, your yoga experience shouldn’t end the minute you leave Johan’s class. You have to live it. As an example, he suggests you remember the last time you had an argument with someone. Were you aware of your breathing? How was your posture? Did you feel grounded? He says that we tend to go back to old habits very quickly when we’re not in a yoga environment. And it’s challenging to consistently remember that. The intention behind the practice: to apply what you learn in class to your life and lifestyle.
“If you practice yoga, change is meant to happen,” he says. “Many students learn to apply the wisdom they experience in class to situations in everyday life. They inevitably learn and grow.”
Johan understands the student’s challenge at the end of each class (because it’s his challenge too): to take the practice off the mat and into the world. He says that if the class is taught properly, the teacher gets the same benefits as the students. The class is successful if both the students and the teacher are healed by the yoga practice. For both the teacher and the student, it takes discipline and strength.
“I am now content how things are,” he says of his life. “Modeling and acting are extremely competitive paths, so I always feel very grateful when I book work. I am excited for the future.”
His philosophy these days: “loosen yourself on who you think you are.”
Click here to see Johan’s portfolio.