Jeffrey Posner is definitely a “guys” guy, with a teaching style that gives his classes a slight testosterone boost. All of which isn’t really surprising considering that he was a bit of a jock in college, playing lacrosse and football, while also putting in time wrestling.
While his teaching style is very guy friendly, it's his passion for teaching students how to make their dreams of doing inversions and arm balances a reality that make his classes and workshops popular with both men and women. You see Posner is a wee bit obsessed with showing students how to use their hands to make sure these poses are pain-free, much easier to do and fun.
YogaCity NYC's Dar Dowling recently caught up with Jeffrey to find out more about how he found his way out of the locker-room and onto the mat.
Dar Dowling: What did yoga give you that those other sports didn’t?
Jeffrey Posner: Never in a million years did I think that I would be going to class regularly or become a teacher, but of all the sports I've done yoga never got old and kept me wanting to learn more.
Moderns sports tends to build intensity and pride, along with skill and strength – it's more ego driven. Yoga got me back into shape, but it also made me a nicer more easy-going person, and I naturally started wanting to live better. It was a very different and amazing experience.
DD:During your classes you often call yoga the Indiana Jones of workouts – why?
JP: At first I had all the preconceived ideas that guys have about yoga, and why I couldn’t do it, but I came to realize that it really is the Indiana Jones of workouts. It's an ancient practice and to this day it's one of the best ways to transform your body. Every sport I've ever done has a bit of yoga in it from calisthenics and stretching to concentration. Back when I was playing football before a game my coach would come into the locker room, and say “for the next 15 minutes I want you to sit and envision how the game is going to go,” which for me is very much like a guided mediation.
DD: What was it like doing your teacher training at Laughing Lotus?
JP: Well, at first I was planning on doing my training at a studio in New Jersey, but it fell through, so a friend suggested I try the one at Laughing Lotus. I hadn’t even taken a class there and didn’t know anything about it, but I decided to sign up. At first for lack of a better word I was actually a bit of a “dick,” and caused some conflicts even before I arrived over email. At the time I was just very judgmental about the guidelines they had set up, and really challenged the teachers about them without meeting them face to face.
Long after graduation I learned that Dana Flynn said “he's just not ready yet” when she heard about my behavior, and let me take the training anyway. I'm really grateful she did. I was really closed off emotionally, and I really needed the Laughing Lotus training to open me up. It's a special place. Sometimes people see how much joy there is at Laughing Lotus and think it's just about having fun, but it's so much more than that. They are very serious about their practice, they just make it fun too.
DD: Your classes attract a lot of men – why?
JP: I try to make my classes “guy friendly,” but in reality I'm just really detailed oriented when it comes to describing how to get into a pose and following prompts. Something I bring with me from my corporate and sports background. I think it helps men connect a little bit better to the movement.
I went to my first class because my sister said “the teacher is a guy, and you'll like him. ” She knew that since the teacher was a guy I would probably give it a shot – and she was right. It's the same for many of the men who come to my classes, their friends, sisters, wives or girlfriends will bring them or suggest they check out my class, and if they like it they stay.
It makes me feel really good when I see guys in my class because they are letting their guard down and I really respect that.
DD:You struggled with wrist pain early on in your practice, can you talk about how you turned that around?
JP: After a few years of taking yoga classes my wrists were killing me, partially due to some old lacrosse injuries. We spend half our time on our hands, doing poses like plank and downward facing dog, not to mention arm balances and inversions. I guess I could have just stopped doing those poses, but I didn’t want to, so I started looking for ways to do them without pain. Along the way I discovered different ways to distribute weight across my hands more effectively. These techniques then helped me do inversions, which I love doing and teaching.
DD: Do you teach these techniques in your classes?
JP: Yes, when I started teaching I realized that it wasn’t just an issue for me, a lot of my students had wrist pain, which can be really discouraging. It takes a long time to learn how to walk properly. Unless your a trained acrobat, a gymnast or you've been in circus, it can take a while to learn how to use your hands so you can easily move in and out of poses, arm balances or inversions.
At the beginning of classes I do three or four exercises I developed to help students distribute weight across their hands and how to move it around the hand to the knuckles and fingers. Later in class we apply those techniques while doing any kind of arm balancing pose.
For some students coming into any kind of inversion seems impossible or like a dream, but it's not, it's just about learning how to properly distribute your weight. Whether or not you have pain while doing inversions, knowing how to use your hands correctly makes yoga more accessible.
DD:Any workshops or events coming up this summer?
JP: Yes! I’m teaching a monthly Hashtag Handstand Workshop coming up at Laughing Lotus. It's basically a path to handstand, you will see where you are in terms of your handstand, and discover how to get to the next step. Students learn everything from how to get away from the wall and how to stop falling to learning how to control their jump. It's actually a really fun class!
I'm pretty excited a new yoga blog I started with a friend of mine from college, called Yoga Slate, where we give away a month of yoga to a random person on our list, at any studio they want.
You can get more information about Jeffery on his website.