Yoga has been a long-time passion of mine. The first time I tried it was a half-hour exercise show that came on every morning when I was younger. It was relaxing and yet also gave me sore muscles (in a good way). My balance, flexibility, and coordination improved as I practiced yoga, using different forms, videos, or classes. Most of my learning came from videos – DVDs or websites like YouTube or Do Yoga With Me.
Over the years, I’ve also tried and enjoyed various forms of yoga: Hot Yoga, where I’m drenched in sweat and my pores feel cleansed; Yin Yoga, which is a very slow, almost meditative style that’s fantastic for relaxing at night. My favourite style, though, is Power Yoga. I love the sweat I’d get from this style. For a long time, I enjoyed a DVD hosted by yogi, Eoin Finn.
But there was always something with yoga programs that I couldn’t get into: the meditative aspect. I had a difficult time taking phrases like “find your center” seriously. Maybe it was from my years in weightlifting and wanting to focus on the workout, itself. That’s something I’d still like to work on now that I’m learning about mindfulness.
A few years ago, I discovered a yoga style that was exactly what I was looking for: DDP Yoga. It focused purely on the workout, telling you specifically what to do with your body without using weird spiritual phrasing that went over my head. Even after a 20-minute workout, I’d broken a sweat.
With the return of Top Ten Tuesday, I’d like to list Ten Reasons Why I Love DDP Yoga.
10) “Kick Out! You’re a Dead Man…and Woman! Heh heh!”
DDP Yoga is named after its head instructor and program co-designer Diamond Dallas Page (co-designed with the Yoga Doc, Craig Aaron). DDP is a former pro-wrestler, with accolades including several WCW World Title reigns. I won’t lie: as a long-time wrestling fan, DDP’s name made me curious about the program.
But his gruff, tough guy energy and charisma is undeniably infectious. He has a genuine eagerness for yoga, always talking about how yoga saved his career after a back injury. He’s constantly pushing you and wanting you to do better. At the end of Energy, the program’s introductory workout, he says, “You can do this! You can own this! Every day, you will get stronger and better! Don’t forget to do your YRG tomorrow!” (Note: YRG stands for “Yoga for Regular Guys,” the original name for the program. I don’t think it’s called that anymore.) When you hear Page say things like this, you can’t help but feel motivated to keep trying, to keep pushing yourself, to keep improving.
I know I have.
9) “It’s Your Workout! Make it Your Own!”
One of the things I love about yoga is that anyone can do it. There are so many different styles that I think there’s a form out there for everyone (like Chair Yoga, for seniors). Not everyone is on the same level and everyone’s body is different. Yoga allows for multiple modifications within the same pose.
DDP Yoga is no different. Like most yoga programs, each workout has someone in the background performing modifications for people who can’t, say, do a push-up off their knees or needs to go into a lunge with their back leg’s knee on the floor.
And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. When I started doing yoga, I couldn’t even touch my toes when I bent forward. I needed yoga blocks for balance or a strap to get a proper (or deeper) stretch. Now, after practicing for years, my hands can touch the floor in a forward bend and I don’t need blocks or a strap at all.
All it takes is time, patience, and consistency.
8) “What You Do to One Side, You Gotta Do to the Other!”
I appreciate that yoga is very symmetrical. Because of how some poses work, you’re not working the same muscles on both sides. So when you switch legs in a lunge, with one leg in front and bent, the other as straight as possible in the back, it works different muscles.
But I like that because rather than working both legs at the same time while, say, working an isometric machine in the gym, you focus even more on one leg at a time. Plus, it gives each leg a break when you switch. Sure, you still work the back leg in a lunge, but most of the work comes from the bent front leg.
7) “Now, Grab the Ball! Imagine a Fire Hydrant Coming on. The Water Shooting Out Your Arm! BANG!”
When I did yoga before, I usually just went through the motions. I’d hold poses as best I could, but all my focus was on whatever muscles were working in that pose; my arms and my shoulders in Downward Facing Dog, for example.
DDP Yoga introduced me to the idea of dynamic resistance. In every pose, Page asks you to flex every muscle in your body. Even when stretching my arms to the sky, all the muscles in my legs are flexed and contracted. As a result, not only do I work more muscles than usual, but my heart rate rises because I’m working more parts of my body.
The dynamic resistance has made me even more aware of what I’m doing with my body not just during workouts, but in everyday life. I think about what my body is doing when I’m standing, walking, or even sitting. I think about how I could adjust my body even slightly in order to burn a few extra calories while running or walking. The dynamic resistance allows my body to work muscles that I hadn’t worked before in other forms of yoga.
6) “Ah, I Just Adjusted My Back! Heh, I Love it When That Happens!”
In any yoga style that I’ve tried my favourite moment is always what I call “the lightbulb moment.” Anyone yoga practictioner knows what I’m talking about: when you’re in the middle of a pose or workout, you adjust yourself, even slightly. Suddenly, there’s this “pop!” feeling, and you’re suddenly working a new muscle or you’re getting a deeper stretch. This can be a small tweak, flexing a different muscle, or turning or twisting slightly.
It’s happened to me a few times while in a yoga class. The instructor would slightly adjust my body and suddenly, I’ll say, “Oh! Yeah, that’s even better!”
Because I’m constantly trying to flex different muscles or push myself during DDP Yoga, I find this happens very often. I’ll go slightly deeper into a lunge and all of a sudden, my quad muscles are working more than ever. I’ll push a little in Downdog and realize I can stretch my hamstrings even better.
5) “No Weights Involved! You Don’t Need ‘Em!”
Imagine this: you’ve reached the end of a very intense workout. We’re talking almost an hour long. You’re drenched in sweat, your muscles are begging for mercy, and you’re praying for it to end. And then, right when you’re ready to collapse, you’re asked to do a specific type of push-up: a 10-second slow burn push-up. You start in Plank, lower slowly for 10 seconds, hold in a low plank for 10 seconds, push back up for 10 seconds, lower again for 10, hold again for 10, and then lower all the way down to your stomach.
That’s exactly what happens in the 50-minute Diamond Cuter workout. And to this day, I still can’t finish that 10-second push-up. The workout includes a number of slow-burn push-ups like that, including 3-second push-ups early on, followed by 5-second push-ups about halfway through. By the time I reach that deadly 10-second push-up, my arm muscles are killing me.
With these exercises, I don’t feel like hitting the gym as much. After all, what’s a better weight to use than my own? Yoga is all about using your own body without a reliance on equipment. I currently weigh 210 pounds (down 20 pounds since October), so a push-up – especially those deadly slow-burn push-ups – means I’m pushing up a lot of that weight. Who needs weights?
Plus, the great thing about yoga is that, if I’m travelling, all I need is my mat. I don’t have to worry about making it to a gym or what the weather is like.
4) “Anything’s Possible!”
One of the most amazing things about yoga is its curative properties. I’ve noticed that many exercises recommended by doctors and physical therapists are actually versions of yoga poses or moves. A good friend of mine got a bad back injury from playing basketball. He started doing yoga and almost all his back pain and back problems disappeared. DDP has a similar story, as do many others.
Without question, no success story tops Arthur Boorman’s. A paramilitary veteran, Arthur gained a lot of weight due to crippling back and leg injuries. After months of struggling through DDP Yoga, he not only lost all that gained weight, he no longer required crutches or braces. He’s now become a yoga instructor himself. Just watch this video. If you’re like me, your jaw will be on the floor by the end:
3) “And Guys? Guess What? This Workout Kicks My Ass. So Don’t Skip Over It.”
Since I primarily enjoy doing my yoga at home with a video, it’s hard not to get bored of the same video after a while. Fortunately, that’s one of my favourite things about DDP Yoga: the variety. Depending on my mood, I might want to do a quick workout just to get some yoga in that day. Some days, I want to exhaust myself. The DDP Yoga program has 9 main workouts of varying length and difficulty:
Diamond Dozen: This is the workout for those starting out, but the Diamond Dozen is primarily instructions on how to do each of the 13 poses (“Yeah, I said 13. I ain’t so good at counting.”). Personally, I’ve practiced DDP Yoga for so long that I no longer need it, but I always recommend it to beginners.
Energy: Only about 20 minutes long, this is the first full workout. Page takes his time with each pose and goes at a slower pace than later workouts, but even today, it’s still a great, little workout if I don’t have a lot of time.
Fat Burner: And this is where the workouts really start. DDP introduces the slow-burn push-ups here, a slow-burn lowering squat, along with leg crunches while in Broken Table (a balancing pose where you start on your hands and knees, then stick one arm out and the opposite leg out). It’s only a few minutes longer than Energy, but it’s at a faster pace with new, challenging modifications.
Below the Belt: Not gonna lie. I did overlook this one sometimes. Boy, was that a mistake because this and Stand Up are the next level up from Fat Burner. If you want a really great leg and glute muscle workout, this is for you. (“If you don’t know what the glute is, it’s your butt!”) This one’s about 30 minutes long and definitely a challenge for such a short time. By the end of this one, you will hate Thunderbolt Pose (aka: Chair Pose).
Stand Up: Another one I overlooked early in. It’s also about 30 minutes long, like Below the Belt. Its major focus is on balancing. Trust me, when you’re forced to balance on one leg for a long period, you’ll wobble and shake at first. It happens to everyone. But like me, you’ll improve to the point that you’ll start to try those modifications.
Strength Builder: At 40 minutes, Strength Builder is kind of the middleman before the hardest workouts. This one introduces side planks into the routine, which is a definite challenge for your arms and side muscles. I find this one a particularly good workout for my arms.
Red Hot Core: At 10 minutes, this is a quick, but very focused workout. Red Hot Core is exactly what it means: working your core. In other words: your gut. For such a quick, focused workout, I honestly think it offers the most modifications. In each exercise within the workout, there are at least two modifications. For example, with a leg lift exercise, you can just lift your head and shoulders, you can lift your bent legs off as well, or you can do it with straight legs. At this point, I’m doing most of the exercises with straight legs, but it took me a long time to get there. As DDP says, this is a great workout to add to the end of any other DDP Yoga workout.
Diamond Cutter: This 50-minute workout is a killer. This is where those 5 and 10-minute slow-burn push-ups come into play. It’s exhausting, challenging, but at the end, you’ll feel amazing. I have literally dripped sweated during this one. Most times, my mat and clothes are absolutely soaked.
Double Black Diamond: I won’t lie: I haven’t done this one yet. I’ve never felt healthy enough to try braving it. This one is even longer than the Diamond Cutter, at about 70 minutes. If the Diamond Cutter is difficult, I can only imagine how exhausting this one is. I may try this one in a few weeks, but as of this writing, I haven’t yet.
Wake Up: I think this one is my favourite. I’m not a morning person. I’m groggy and grumpy when I wake up, even after a good, 8-hour sleep. This 10-minute workout, though, is great for stretching out my stiff spine in the morning. It wakes up my muscles and gets me ready for the day. I’d even suggest beginners do this program a few times if Energy is too much for them.
2) Thunderbolt, Broken Table, Broken Airplane, Hood Ornament, Dead Bug, Safety Zone
DDP’s unique branding includes an unusual decision: renaming yoga poses. Even after doing the workouts dozens of times, I still giggle at some of the names. Chair Pose becomes Thunderbolt. Balancing Table becomes Broken Table. Child’s Pose becomes Safety Zone. Happy Baby becomes Dead Bug.
Honestly, I don’t know why they felt the need to change the names. I guess it’s to make things sound tougher and more “manly” since DDP Yoga was originally designed as “It ain’t your mama’s yoga.”
The great thing about any yoga program is that the core poses, no matter the modification or flow to them, remain the same. I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned from other programs and apply them to the DDP Yoga workouts, and vice versa. For example, when I have attended a yoga class, the instructor often compliments the form of my Triangle Pose. I have DDP to thank for that because of how he instructed or suggested how to do that pose.
Still, I can’t help but laugh to myself in a yoga class when the instructor tells us to go into, say, Chair Pose, because in the back of my mind, I now consider it “Thunderbolt.”
As I said at the beginning, I’ve never really gotten into the meditative aspect of yoga. I’m certainly not selling it short or saying it’s useless. It obviously works for millions of people. For me, I enjoy the workout. I enjoy learning what my body can do and pushing it to new limits, even ones that surprise me.
Some compare DDP Yoga with an aerobic program called P90X. I’ve never tried it, but from the clips I’ve seen and what I’ve heard about it, I think it’s an appropriate comparison. DDP Yoga isn’t traditional yoga by any means. And that’s what I like about it. It ain’t my mama’s yoga (though Mom’s never really done yoga) and I like that just fine. It’s like a rebellious form of yoga. Its style, workout, attitude, and even its names all fly in the face of tradition.
Yet, it’s still grounded in the same, core elements of yoga. The names might be different, but the poses are the same. The flow and symmetrical balance is no different than other yoga programs that I’ve tried. I would even argue the positivity within yoga’s core is there. Diamond Dallas Page infuses his program with a never-give-up, you-can-do-this attitude. He doesn’t just tell you do to it; he believes you can do it. Just because you can’t do a lunge off your knee today doesn’t mean you couldn’t possibly do it tomorrow. DDP’s positive attitude is infectious.
My favourite part of every workout is at the tail end. All other yoga classes end their workout with a pray-like phrase: Namaste. DDP, using his trademark Diamond Cutter symbol (pictured above by yours truly), has you inhale deeply, then exhale everything out, slam your hands into the mat, and shout “BANG!” After a good, long workout, it feels amazing to cap it with that.
In fact, that’s what I’ll do right now.
Big inhale in.
Hold it for a second.
Now exhale it all out and…