Dragon Door Interviews Jimmy Halverson, PCC Instructor, Yoga Instructor and Chef


Dragon Door: How did you first get involved with fitness?

Jimmy Halverson: I’ve always been active and skateboarded for most of my adolescent and young adult life. At around 17 I began to make better food choices which led me to start working out and taking better are of my body. That summer I started playing with a footbag for 45 minutes and practicing basic exercises like pull ups, sit ups, and push ups. It became a ritual.

Dragon Door:
At first, were you more into food or fitness?

Jimmy Halverson: Food was first, and my main thing for a long time. Eating better made me feel a lot better which led to my interest of fitness. A few years back I started teaching yoga. I got into yoga after going to a class with a former girlfriend. I hadn’t practiced yoga at all because my other physical practices were super active and I thought that yoga wouldn't do it for me—I thought I would need more activity, movement, and breathing. But this class was a hot Vinyasa yoga class, and as a constant stream of sweat came off of me, a light bulb went on in my head. We just held some very simple poses for a while, but it was totally different than what I expected. It opened up a new chapter for me because I saw it was actually legit.

Dragon Door:
How long have you practiced yoga?

Jimmy Halverson: About three years, I am still fairly new to the game but skateboarding had given me a lot of proprioception. So I mainly had to pay attention to the small micro movements and how my weight is distributed once I move from a static position. Once I got into the practice of yoga, I felt pretty competent in that space because I have developed a relationship of just being in my body and on a skateboard.


Because I work seven days a week, my practice right now is yoga and bodyweight exercises. The more time you can spend in your body the more you cultivate a sense of knowing which brings a sense of empowerment. This clarity and confidence can happen with any practice, martial arts, yoga, bodyweight exercises, conscious food practices, or whatever someone wishes to cultivate. Right now I teach three classes at Yoga Belly in Mountain View. The motto of the studio is light on tradition, heavy on workout. We crank on the music, turn up the heat, and move through a pretty powerful practice. Every teacher at the studio has a different style, but all of us are into our practices in a powerful way. People who practice at our studio really like to be challenged, so its really fun to be there. We don’t chant, but are there to be in our bodies, sweat, groove, and have a good time. I’m really grateful to instruct at that studio.

Dragon Door: How are you using calisthenics with your yoga practice?

Jimmy Halverson: Calisthenics and yoga have a lot in common. I found Dragon Door because one of the teachers at Yoga Belly also practices kettlebells and has a certification from Dragon Door. On DragonDoor.com I learned about the pistol squat and began incorporating it into my flows, and practicing it ever since. It takes a lot of work and skill to do a pistol squat, but people at my studio are willing to try it!

At the PCC workshop, I learned new ways to help people start with the pistol. I would have them begin in a low squat and—almost like in rollerskating’s "shoot the duck"—I’d cue them to straighten a leg then switch back and forth. We’re going to work our way into full pistol squats, and I am offering up different progressions to see what people can do.

At the studio we also practice push-up variations, handstands, inversions, and levers. We practice floor levers in class regularly along with poses like peacock, scorpion handstand, and headstands. In our classes we work our way up to a single posture. None of this PCC or yoga stuff is easy, and not all postures are meant for all bodies.
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Dragon Door: What encouraged you to attend the PCC?

Jimmy Halverson: Earlier in the year I attended a workshop that was super informational and valuable, but broke me down really hard. It made me feel like I really shouldn't be teaching—the mentality was based in a right/wrong way to teach and practice. In the workshop we took two hours to work into a peak pose of downward facing dog. After that experience, I needed to do something that was more in line with my values, beliefs, and personal practice. When I saw the PCC workshop on DragonDoor.com, it resonated with me. I have been doing some form of bodyweight exercise for a long time on a bar and the floor.

Dragon Door: What about the PCC resonated with you the most?

Jimmy Halverson: I liked the fact that the PCC didn’t focus on a right or wrong starting place. It emphasized starting from wherever you are able to start. Every human body is different, and I don't believe that life is so black and white. At the PCC I liked how Al Kavadlo said (paraphrased), "You’re at where you’re at and along this whole spectrum you’ll move forward and backwards which is totally ok. It won’t happen all at once, but keep practicing and having a lot of fun." I really appreciated the level and quality of presence all the instructors had at the PCC—it was all first class.

Dragon Door:
What was your favorite move at the PCC?

Jimmy Halverson: Handstands are a favorite, and I have been practicing and working on them a lot—my goal is a one arm freestanding handstand by the end of the year. At the workshop I was challenged by muscle-ups. At home I have a doorway pull-up bar, so I don't really have the opportunity to do them. Trying to bang out a muscle-up at the PCC was difficult, but I’m excited about it. I couldn’t do it yet, so it was great to find something to work towards.

Dragon Door: Did you achieve any "firsts" at the PCC?

Jimmy Halverson: I held my first 1 arm elbow lever for about 5 seconds. I was also able to do a back bar lever, which I had never done before. I was surprised to see how intense and how much work back levers are. I wasn't even close to doing a front lever but it’s something great to work towards—it will probably take me a few years to accomplish. BUT the back lever was definitely a first, and I couldn't believe how much they worked my lats. The flags were intense, I had never seriously tried them before. The clutch flag was really cool and a first for me.

Dragon Door: Earlier you mentioned making some early nutritional changes. What were they and how did you begin your professional career as a chef?

Jimmy Halverson: My starting point was giving up soda at age 17. I understood it was bad for me and giving it up was my first commitment with food choices. Six months later, I cut out fast food then committed to eating more whole fruits and vegetables. Next I was into the Blood Type Diet for a while, which felt good and made sense at the time. Then I got into raw food and ate nothing but raw food for three years. It was a huge commitment, and led to an understanding of where I was in the moment. After eating a certain way my whole life—cooked food—not cook the food I was eating was a real commitment. It was brilliant and beautiful, but after 3 years I wanted to help others make good food choices and decided to go to culinary school. I gave up eating 100% raw food, since I didn’t want to make that an issue at school, plus I had had many realizations around the choice to eat cooked food again.

I spent about 1-2 years "reprogramming" myself because I very strongly believed that eating cooked food was not a good thing. After graduating from culinary school, I worked in a restaurant for a while, decorated cakes at Whole Foods for a couple of years, and then got into being a private chef. I also helped a cancer patient with their nutrition for a while too.


Next, at Google, I was in charge of the station for raw, vegan and vegetarian food. That was a trip! I was at Google for about three years. On average 800 people came through every night, in the morning 1,500 people came to the cafe. I was cutting my teeth on learning how to create recipes too because I was in charge of the menus at my station. In school they don't really teach you how to create a dish, Google was great for my career because it forced me to get creative with flavor profiles and unique ingredient combinations.

After Google, I downscaled and prepared food at a small technology company. Next I began to focus more on life coaching, yoga, and became a substitute chef for dinner parties. Soon, I landed a job as a personal chef for a family in San Francisco on Mondays through Fridays.

I’m around food all day, every day and am always aware of what food does for the body. In my own practice, I've worked with a large variety of distinct food choices. At 34, I've come to my own perspective on relationships to food and choice. Everyone has a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual body—when we eat, we are really only nourishing two of the four bodies, the physical and emotional. While I'd love for people to work with an 80/20 raw to cooked food ratio, it can be very difficult even socially to maintain that type of practice. A more accessible approach is to think of feeding the physical and emotional bodies in a 80/20 ratio every day, meal by meal. Following a standard like that while maintaining solid form/function—with some Progressive Calisthenics of course—allows you to still enjoy yourself with friends or eat your cookies. I love cookies by the way.

Feeding the physical body is simple with fruits, veggies, and dark greens. And I don't have a specific opinion about grains, animal proteins, or Paleo. I've worked with grains in a consistent food practice and felt wonderful, and I have gone without them and felt just as wonderful. My experience with meat has been the same. Everybody is different, so it is important to figure out your own relationship to food choices. The body is the most important real estate on the planet—and we should tend it well. I've had fun with food my whole life, and will continue to do so for a long time.

Dragon Door: Did you find any parallels with your approaches to food and your movement practice?

Jimmy Halverson: Commitment is commitment. And at the same time it’s necessary to find balance within your practices, because staying committed to only one thing will cause other things in life like friendships to be out of balance. A certain very strict way of eating, or being in the gym 24/7 won't serve you emotionally. It’s important to stay committed to the practice as well as cultivating a sense of balance.

Dragon Door: Congratulations on becoming a PCC Instructor, how did you feel about the Century Test?

Jimmy Halverson: I’ve added the Century Test to my practice and like to do it three times in a row while timing myself. I can do it three times in a row at an average of 18 minutes at this point. Before now, I hadn't worked through a basic physical practice like the Century—it’s very fun.

I like being in the body, and think that bodyweight training is super badass. To me, yoga—plus the bar work—is almost the same thing in my world. The body is moving, committed but balanced without getting lost in the practice. Since we are still in this world, it’s important to have a good association with the world.

If I had to do it all over again, I'd probably be a personal trainer and DJ, but I’m happy with being a chef and yoga instructor now.
JimmyHalversonTrainBridge thumbnailJimmy Halverson trains at Yoga Belly and can be found on Facebook and his blog.