written by sean hyson
I’ve never been blind or pig-headed enough to deny yoga’s benefits, but I hadn’t given it much thought in the past. I had taken yoga classes here and there, but with the gym already chewing up so much of my time, I couldn’t justify paying more money and scheduling more hours to go to a yoga studio several times per week. I figured that since I was already stretching, I probably had it covered.
Then, a few weeks ago, Diamond Dallas Page came into the Muscle&Fitness office. If you watched pro wrestling in the late 90s—and virtually every guy between ages 12 and 50 did—he was a big part of the WCW show. What I didn’t know is that DDP was in his 40s then (a late bloomer to a meat grinder of a sport, to say the least), and he ruptured two discs in his back taking a powerbomb from Kevin Nash. It was yoga that brought him back, within months, and he wrestled for several years afterward.
I had heard of his Yoga For Regular Guys book and I was intrigued, but I never got around to checking it out. All of a sudden, here was DDP in our conference room—all six-feet four of him, and he was doing handstands and toe touches in jeans with no warm up. Beyond his impressive flexibility, I was really moved by his passion. He was clearly very sincere about the positive impact yoga has had on his life, and he wanted to share it. He also shared a bevy of testimonials for his program. Guys who had lost buckets of fat and gotten very strong and limber.
I wasn’t interested in using yoga to “shake up” my workouts, but I did want to give it a go for rehab. For the past year or so—I’m not sure exactly when it started—my left hip has slowly been killing me more and more. My piriformis, glutes, and hip flexors are tight. I feel it when I walk, but it’s very noticeable when I squat and push my knees apart. If I’m lying in bed, bend my knees and let my legs fall to the sides, it feels like my thigh is a lobster claw and someone’s breaking it off for dinner.
I have stretched my hip and rolled it and had ART done to it, but nothing seemed to make any noticeable or lasting difference.
I started doing DDP Yoga two weeks ago, and it instantly felt better. I mean before the first workout was over! I suddenly had a pain-free range of motion I hadn’t had in years. And it’s not just because I was working out and had pumped blood into my hip. I’ve been warmed up for squatting and it still hurt. This stuff is pretty amazing.
So I’ve been using his DVDs on my own time. I don’t have to go to a yoga studio and look stupid—if I fall, I just fall on my own floor in my own apartment. (Although, honestly, I’m not too bad at it.) Making time has been a little tough, but when I’m feeling lazy I think back to the message in my last post. If it’s important to me, I must find a way, no matter the lack of convenience. I get up earlier and do the routine or I do it when I get home, regardless of how late.
DDP Yoga comes on several DVDs and in different packages, and the way they’re selling it is a little confusing. Some discs have some workouts and others have different ones, but they all seem to cover beginner to advanced levels. Some of the workouts are designed to really work you out—get your heart rate up and burn fat. Others are focused on strength, particular weak points (like core), or rehab. I’ve opted for the rehab angle, as offered on the DDP Extreme DVD set, which features the “Hip, Back, and Knee Opener” workout. This is the one I’ve really been hitting hard.
It’s got all the classic yoga poses like warrior and down dog, but presented with DDP’s unique brand of wrestling charisma. When reaching your arms overhead, you make his famous “Diamond Cutter” hand gesture. Lying back on the mat is called “pinfall”, the piriformis stretch with one leg crossed over the other is “figure-four leg lock”… you get the idea.
But Page hasn’t just renamed poses. He’s modified some movements so that guys with big bellies and bad backs can still get a lot out of them. I’ve been to yoga classes where the instructor didn’t take the time to do as much, so kudos to DDP for that alone. The biggest benefit, however, is DDP’s personality. With him talking you through the moves, very unpretentiously, he really helps you enjoy the process of what is essentially stretching and holding a lot of uncomfortable positions. If you’re like me and saying “Namaste” or repeating a mantra doesn’t make this action any easier for you, you’ll like that DDP grunts and squirms his way through. It’s very honest. Consider also how mobile the man is, versus how crippled he used to be, and you can fully appreciate how much yoga can do to help you—no matter how bad the shape you’re in now.
So what is the big advantage to yoga over stretching and other kinds of mobility work? Well, I can’t say the spiritual aspect here, as DDP skips all that. I think it goes back to the idea that stability must precede mobility. If your muscles are strong enough to stabilize a joint position, they’ll let you move into that position more easily. Yoga is as active a kind of stretching as you can do. Trying to touch your toes and other kinds of static stretching only focus on lengthening the muscles you think are tight. But there are usually a host of other muscles they’re connected to that are also tight. Unless everything improves, nothing improves.
I think there’s a strong neural component to it. By getting into a lunge, say, and holding that uncomfortable, not fully balanced position while twisting your torso or raising your arms teaches your nervous system to activate certain muscles to control you through this awkward movement you’re not used to. When you prove to your body that you can control it, it lets you move a little further.
Subsequently, you get stronger and more mobile. I haven’t attempted any handstands yet, but I am more comfortable holding a variety of pretzel-like positions than I was, and now my left hip is much looser. I’m pretty sure I could sit cross-legged for hours with no discomfort. I can hold the classic piriformis stretch (one leg crossed over and bend your torso forward) in a deep position for a long time. I can squat ass to the floor, cold, with no pain. I still feel it a little when I try to push my knees out, so I’m not sure I’m ready for heavy squats again yet, but I’m confident that I’m getting there.
I’ve been doing the workout—which only lasts a little more than 30 minutes—several times a week. Roughly every other day and sometimes on back to back days.
Let me be clear that I DO NOT get paid to endorse DDP Yoga at all. I don’t think the company or Mr. Page himself even know about this blog post. This is just something I’m fooling with that I think can help people. Think of it as a bonus chapter to the free e-book I just put out (which, by the way, everyone in the free world should own).
Pick up DDP Yoga and the Hip, Back, and Knee Opener workout HERE.