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Health & Fitness

The Instagrammable Handstands of The Movement Standard

Brian Johnson was once a pec-flexing pro bodybuilder before he went on a journey to find a more holistic lifestyle. Now he's standing on his hands.
By |
Elizabeth Lavin

Brian Johnson, the gentleman pictured here in mid-one-handed handstand, was once a pec-flexing pro bodybuilder before he burned out and went on a journey to find a more holistic physical lifestyle. After he came across the eye-popping clips of Ido Portal, an Israeli movement guru credited with sharpening MMA fighter Conor McGregor’s intuitive fighting skills, he began working with Portal remotely by sending videos back and forth. Nearly four years later, Johnson now practices and teaches at a 1,200-square-foot space in Old East Dallas he calls The Movement Standard, one of only a few studios in the nation dedicated to Portal’s method.

The work steals from all types of movement—dance, gymnastics, martial arts, yoga, etc.—then twists and mashes it into slow-burning, ever-expanding programs unlike the many get-fit-quick workouts trending today. “It’s kind of the antithesis of the social, modern, distracted culture,” Johnson says. “We’re not selling six-pack abs and beach bodies—but it happens as a byproduct.” Johnson himself practices three to five hours a day, though, he points out, the work can include bouncing a tennis ball to hone motor skills.

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One skill that gets a lot of attention in Johnson’s studio is handstands, which in Portal’s practice, puts an emphasis on maintaining a straight form—no banana arches here. Handstand classes, offered Wednesday afternoons and Sunday mornings, begin with a half-hour of warm-ups, going from fingers to shoulders, before students get upside down (beginners start against a wall, or continue with floor exercises until they’re ready to work on their hands). The purpose: it’s an integrative skill that requires full-body focus, and, as Johnson jokes to his class, “It looks cool on Instagram.”

So, who goes to a 75-minute handstand class on a Wednesday afternoon? On our first visit, we met a dentist, a 33-week-pregnant woman, two men on a business meeting, and a pair of New York-based yoga instructors who flew in specifically to work with Johnson. Here’s who was present on another recent Wednesday (left to right in photo at the top): Carter Twitty, a teacher at The Movement Standard, who just returned from a nine-and-a-half-month road trip with his wife and a 15-foot trailer. Brian Johnson, founder of The Movement Standard. His wife, Kami Johnson, who works in corporate wellness. Clint Murchison, who recently started a grass-fed beef ranch on his family’s acreage in Athens, Texas. (His French bulldog, Roger, is also a regular at the studio.) Patrick McDermott, a project manager for Johnson & Johnson pharmaceuticals. Will Harris, who teaches the kids classes at the studio and runs the bike shop at the nonprofit Mercy Street. Jeff Beatty, former CrossFitter and current Lululemon employee.

The Movement Standard is celebrating its one year anniversary tomorrow Saturday, March 24th with a movement class from 2-4 p.m., followed by food and games. Maybe in time, you too can do a handstand push-up.


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