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When a professional wrestler is your yoga teacher

(Photo: DDP Yoga)

“I’m the guy who wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga,” says former star pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page (DDP).

Now, he’s also the guy who created DDP Yoga, a method that he says brings the rehabilitative power of yoga to guys like him—think wrestlers and football players—by eliminating the “namaste mumbo jumbo” and incorporating cardio and calisthenics.

This year, DDP Yoga has been gaining serious traction, first with the viral video of the transformation of a disabled veteran who lost 100 pounds in six months and regained his ability to walk after following the program (it’s had more than 11 million views on Youtube), and then with a feature in the New York Times that delved into his work helping fellow wrestlers rehab their bodies and beat drug addictions, like the famed Jake the Snake.

Now 58, Page’s gravelly voice and weathered skin, from years of hard living, are just as apparent as his slim, toned physique and perfect posture. Page says he’s just getting started.

The back story

DDP started wrestling at 35, and his career took off in 1996, at age 40. “I was wrestling 270 plus days a year, and one wrestling match would be like the equivalent of you getting into four car accidents. Your body gets beat up,” he explains. “When you’re doing that kind of schedule, then getting in your car and driving 100, 200, 300 miles to the next town and doing it all over again and then doing that all over again, over again, over again—your body just gets wore out.”

Finally, his gave out, and after rupturing the L4 and L5 discs in his spine, doctors told him he would never wrestle again. He gave in to trying yoga after his wife (now ex) suggested it, and because he felt he had no other choice, and three months later he was back in the ring. “At 42 they said my career was over, at 43 I was the heavyweight champion of the world,” he says, proudly.

DDP Yoga
(Photo: DDP Yoga)

Yoga for regular guys

Page was amazed by his progress thanks to yoga and really wanted to share it with others, but he knew he had to find a way to make men like him feel more comfortable with the practice. So he began creating what he first called “Yoga for Regular Guys,” in 1999, and later changed the name to DDP Yoga.

First, he dealt with the terminology. “You’ll never hear me say posture or pose. I’m an athlete, I get in a position,” he says. Those positions, in DDP Yoga, won’t sound familiar. He’ll lead you through ignition, touchdown, and thunderbolt. If you need a break, you go into safety zone (child’s pose). And, then there’s the diamond cutter, his adaptation of his signature wrestling move, where you press your fingertips together in the shape of a diamond as you move into a backbend. (He also yells “Bang!” at the end, instead of om-ing.)

Throughout, Page emphasizes creating resistance with your movements, engaging your muscles, and “jacking your heart rate up,” so that while you may be treating your body to stretching and increased mobility, it feels more like a workout. He’s also meticulous about providing modifications for every position, since most muscled dudes can’t imagine their bodies folding in half effortlessly.

The DDP lifestyle

After his recent successes, Page is now on a roll, working with NFL players, hosting workshops and retreats, certifying instructors to teach his method around the country, and filming more DVDs that will bring DDP Yoga to the masses. And while he may bristle if his workout is referred to as just “yoga” (“It’s a method; it’s DDP Yoga!” he said passionately in the Well+Good conference room), it seems he’s embraced at least some of a yogi’s holistic outlook on wellness.

“It’s more of a lifestyle,” he tells me, revealing that he eats gluten-free and dairy-free for his health and then quizzing me on my knowledge of GMOs.

He’s hungry during our interview, so he calls to get delivery from Dig Inn. “What kind of juice drinks do you have, buddy?” he asks. “No, I want green juice drinks.” I listen to him explain his dietary restrictions and can’t help but marvel at the situation. I’m wishing the employee, who as a 10-year-old boy might have watched Page execute his famous move—wrapping his arms around his opponents’ necks and slamming them face down onto the mat with incredible force—could see who was on the other end of the line.

“For future reference,” he says, into the phone, “soy sauce has gluten in it, unless you’re using tamari.” —Lisa Elaine Held

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