How Diamond Dallas Page developed yoga to help disabled veterans
World Championship Wrestling star Diamond Dallas Page was badly injured at the height of his career. To get back to the top of his game he created a unique mix of yoga and rehabilitative motion -- what he calls DDP Yoga.
"I'm the guy who wouldn't be caught dead doing yoga the first 42 years of my life," says Page, now 59. "Especially when I started wrestling at 35, and my career literally took off at 40."
Page was on top of the world in 1998, when he was one of the top four wrestlers in the world. Soon after, however, he blew out his back, rupturing his L4-L5 spinal segment.
"Three specialists I went to and they all said the same thing," he continues "'You're done. You had a great run, but you're done.' On that Sunday, I just signed a multimillion dollar three-year deal."
They guy who wouldn't be caught dead doing yoga was suddenly willing to try anything.
"All the reasons I didn't ever do yoga, the whole spiritual mumbo jumbo, it wasn't my thing," he says. "But I started doing yoga and learning the moves on VHS tapes. I would mix those moves with rehabilitation techniques because I had to rehab both shoulder surgeries, both knee surgeries, and my back."
This combination of forces worked like a charm. He was back in the ring in three months. At age 43, he was the oldest champion ever to wear a belt. His wrestling career continued well into 2005 and he still makes sporadic appearances to this day.
"At 42, they tell me my wrestling career is over, and at 43 I'm the world champ. Yeah, I'm going to keep doing that," he says.
While DDP Yoga is for anyone who wants to be stronger, recover from an injury, or just generally look and feel better, Page created it for workers and athletes who, by the nature of what they do, end their careers having put a great deal of physical stress on their bodies.
"I developed DDP Yoga for cops, firefighters, the military, the worker, the roofer on his knees, tile layers, the athlete that's beat up," he says. "If you played high school football or soccer, there's a good chance that by the time you got to your forties, you're pretty beat up."
One day, a disabled Gulf War veteran named Arthur Boorman bought the DDP Yoga program. Page sent Boorman a questionnaire and was moved by the vet's responses.
"He wrote, 'I'm a disabled vet that's morbidly obese and so beat up I've relegated to thinking of myself as a piece of furniture,'" Page says. "I told him to send me some pictures so I can see what I'm looking at. I saw knee braces that took him twenty minutes every morning to put on. They attached into his back braces. His wife had to do that for him every morning. Then he grabbed these canes, he called them wrap around cups. I saw those cups and was like, how am I going to help that guy?"
Page and a dietician developed a meal plan for Boorman while Boorman started DDP Yoga. In ten months, Boorman lost 140 lbs, as well as his knee and back braces, his canes, and was not only able to walk, he started running.
"If he would've wrote back to me, 'I think I can do this' or 'I'll give it a try,' I would've typed back, awesome, keep me posted," Page says. "But he didn't do that. He wrote, 'I can do this.'"
These days, Boorman appears in DDP Yoga workouts.
"When you see him on the energy workout which is twenty-five minutes, you're like, 'Oh my God, that's that guy! Wait a minute, that's ten years later!'" Page says with a smile. "Then when you get to the hour-long workouts, there's Arthur again. Doing the most extreme levels."
As he developed DDP Yoga, he found two of his fellow wrestlers in despair. Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Scott Hall (aka Razor Ramon) suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. In 2012, Roberts was obese, addicted, and contemplating suicide. Hall faced much the same situation. World Wrestling Entertainment wouldn't even let the legendary wrestlers into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. They both turned to DDP Yoga and made remarkable changes. Roberts' turnaround is the subject of Page's new film, The Resurrection of Jake the Snake.
"All I did was guide my two buddies who guided me in other times in my wrestling career," Page says. "It was great to help my buddies get their lives back in order."
DDP Yoga has expanded exponentially. Page has a live-streaming studio in Atlanta, as well as DDP Yoga apps for Android and iPhone formats, which include cooking and nutrition. His Twitter account is full of people like Arthur who thank him for developing the program. The company tries to respond to every tweet.
"I'm not a doctor," Page says. "And I have enough lawyers to know that I don't claim to do anything. What I am is a guide. I don't put the work in for you and I won't. I will help guide you from what I've learned."