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Diamond Dallas Page returns to the (y…
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Former pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page teaches yoga to Laguna Beach High School students after school.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Diamond Dallas Page returns to the (yoga) mat
MORNING READ: Once one of the WCW's biggest stars, DDP teaches a wrestler's version of yoga.

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LAGUNA BEACH Manic giggles slip from the rows of student athletes who are balancing in plank position, as if frozen at the top end of a push-up. A hulking, muscular man wearing a bandanna and headgear microphone weaves among them, his orders booming through the crooked aisles of quivering bodies. The students are giddy while the man growls and grunts and barks as if he were performing in a pro wrestling ring instead of teaching yoga – yes, yoga – on the baseball field at Laguna Beach High. "If you're talking, I'm going to walk by and clothesline you." It hurts to laugh. But the yoga students – high school athletes – do it anyway. This tattooed giant could body slam any of them with one hand. The students met Diamond Dallas Page a half-hour ago. He stood in front of them on an indoor basketball court and recounted the days when he unleashed The Diamond Cutter, his signature match-ending move, against pro wrestling luminaries like Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. He told them how he is known as DDP (acronyms being common in his vocabulary), and then he picked up his front foot, extended his leg out from the side of his 230- pound body, and demonstrated just how flexible and strong his yoga program could make them. "None of you are fat yet," he told them. "But, someday, you will be." Now, they've moved to a grassy baseball field, where the students are trying to comply as teacher DDP shouts out yoga poses with the manic energy of a bad guy on "Monday Night Nitro." "I hope he doesn't come over here and correct me," whispers a grinning but shaky Maya Butler, a senior and one of the few girls in the group. "I'm scared." ••• Diamond Dallas Page was born Page Joseph Falkinburg, Jr, in 1956 in Point Pleasant New Jersey, an area he describes as Springsteen and Bon Jovi country. He played contact sports – football and hockey – until age 12, when he was hit by a car and his right leg was smashed. Doctors told him he'd never have a serious shot at pro sports, that he should take up chess or something…/ddp-yoga-wrestling-…



Diamond Dallas Page returns to the (y…

similar. So he opted for a sport that people said would be lighter contact, basketball, while harboring a secret desire to be involved in something very high contact – pro wrestling. As he grew, he cultivated the look and attitude of a wrestling character. But it would be decades before he'd get to live out that dream. Instead, he spent his 20s working in nightclubs, mostly as a bouncer and emcee. He was huge and dramatic and loud, and when he hosted ancient nightclub gimmicks like hot legs contests, partiers came in through the doors. Soon, he gained a nickname, POP, a.k.a. "Prince of Promo." "I looked like a rock star," he says. "I had a polished rap from being in front of a crowd." He was living in Ft. Meyers Beach Florida and running Norma Jeans Dance Club ("The hottest place from Sarasota to Cuba") when he had an opportunity to bring his particular skill set to the American Wrestling Association. His role? He was the manager, a key player in any wrestling show. It was 1988, and, in those days, DDP was a full-time bad guy, or heel. Before each match, he'd saunter into the ring and bark orders at his scantily clad female companions, (The Diamond Dolls) and generally talk trash. He was universally loathed, which, in wrestling, is great. In 1990, he moved to Atlanta to break into the World Championship Wrestling, a production that has evolved into World Wrestling Entertainment, which dominates the market today. He started at WCW as a manager. But that changed, he says, when his personality began to overshadow the talent. His bosses suggested he become a color-commentator. But, with seven months left on his contract, he countered: At 35, DDP said he'd wrestle. "Everyone rolled their eyes," he says. Still, he did it. "At 35 and half years old I made it to the show. I was the oldest man ever living the dream of an eight year old child." ••• In the late 1990s, DDP was a big enough name in pro wrestling that'd recently been part of two huge pay-per-view tag team events. In one, DDP teamed up with then pro basketball star Karl Malone against Hulk Hogan and another NBA player, Dennis Rodman. In the other, DDP tagged with Jay Leno against Hogan and former WCW executive producer Eric Bischoff. But, in early 1999, during a match with less famous partners, DDP threw his back out. Though pro wrestling relies on soap opera-type scripting and pre-sketched results, DDP says there's one thing you can't fake – gravity. Doctors told the man who loves acronyms that his L4 and L5 discs were tapped out. His wrestling career, he was told, was done. His wife suggested yoga. "I was, like, yoga? You're kidding, right?" he says. "I always thought (yoga) was a bunch of spiritual mumbo jumbo." But he was desperate, so he gave it a shot. And, learning to be bendy helped DDP regain enough strength and flexibility to get back into the ring. He went on to claim the championship title three times. Still, traditional yoga was a bit fey for DDP. So he made some tweaks, incorporating strength conditioning, Pilates and mixed martial arts moves into his routine. And, when he wasn't in the ring, he spent time teaching his particular version of yoga to other pro wrestlers. In 2002, at 46, DDP ended his wrestling career. But he transitioned all the bending and balancing and strengthening techniques he had been developing over the years and started Yoga for Regular Guys – or, as he prefers it, YRG. It's like yoga on steroids (though, it should be noted, no steroids are actually involved), and it's available on DVD. In YRG, a traditional yoga position known as "child's pose" is re-christened "the safety zone," while "warrior lunges" become "road warriors." And "happy baby" was'happy porn star' until DDP struck a fitness video deal with Warner Bros. and he had to tone it down to its new, PG name: "dead bug."…/ddp-yoga-wrestling-…



Diamond Dallas Page returns to the (y…

But DDP brings more than new yoga names. He turns yoga into theater. Students hiss when they bend into cobra. They flex and shout, Hulk Hogan style, after long yoga exhales. And when they inhale, lifting their arms above their heads, they push their fingers and thumbs together to make a diamond – DDP's signature symbol. The workout is peppered with tributes to DDP's days in the ring, but it's more than just about keeping the diamond cutter alive. The former wrestler also dishes out motivational messages, using his unlikely later-life break into wrestling as the example of what people can do with effort and energy. He's taken his motivational speech several times to Iraq and Afghanistan. He worked with an injured paratrooper, who walked again after sticking to YRG workouts. He preaches on the speaking circuit, in his YRG videos, and in an infomercial due out in April. You may have heard some of what he says from other motivators. "Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react, how you adapt, how you breathe and how you take action." "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." "Nobody can pull you down more than you." But DDP's enthusiasm and voice are unique. "I honestly believe I'm gonna change the world in a big way." ••• Of late, DDP's YRG has been touted as a difference maker in Laguna Beach. Since January, when DDP first worked with the baseball team, the baseball coach has dropped 40 pounds. The school's principal, Don Austin, also has lost more than 20 pounds, and credits DDP's workouts with giving him the strength to surf, golf and do YRG in the same day. "He has a different intensity level than any guy walking down the street." It's also clear that this world DDP has created – the one in which he's helping people get fit and healthy and preaching about hard work, and in which he's no longer body slamming or diamond cutting or otherwise inflicting faux pain on his stage mates – is changing him in a big way, too. Back on the baseball field, the young athletes shift from a "space shuttle" lunge to "superstar." They shout and pose with "sparkle fingers" as if they were doing a skit on "Saturday Night Live." The big, acronym-addled man smiles, charged by the energy. "I love you guys!" he shouts at them. LYT, DDP! Love you too. Contact the writer: 714-796-7813 or

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