Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2013, 10:07 am
Former wrestler uses yoga to transform lives
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By Jon Waterhouse
ATLANTA — This house in Smyrna, Ga., with its manicured lawn and plush confines could be a fitting abode for Martha Stewart.
Former professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page is the CEO, owner and face of DDP Yoga, a growing health and fitness company with a line of instructional DVDs and books.
You don't expect to be greeted at the door by a couple of grizzled former professional wrestlers.
The house is ground zero for the retired wrestler's second career as a fitness guru and, more poignantly, a possible last hope for his friend and former mentor, Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
Page is the developer, CEO, owner and face of DDP Yoga, a growing health and fitness company with a line of instructional DVDs.
Roberts, who once taught Page the ins and outs of the wrestling business, now is the student, attempting to restore a life battered by addiction and physical and financial ruin.
Known to wrestling fans throughout the 1980s and '90s as the menacing Jake "The Snake," Roberts resembles someone's dad or young grandfather. In reality he's both, a job he admits he hasn't handled well.
Redemption is the reason he is here. Regarded by fans as one of the best performers of all time, his more recent televised appearances had been his intoxicated meltdowns on celebrity TV gossip shows.
If all goes as he hopes, Roberts' next video highlights could play out as inspirationally as a "Rocky" movie.
Page's newfound status as a health guru and practitioner of the smooth art of yoga was not planned.
"The first 42 years of my life, I was a guy who wouldn't be caught dead doing yoga," he said.
But after ruptured discs sidelined him in 1999, doctors told him he'd never perform again. He was willing to try whatever it took, though. Even yoga.
Within three weeks, the pain lessened. He began tailoring a workout to fit his needs, weaving in rehab exercises, calisthenics, mixed martial arts and dynamic resistance. It morphed into DDP Yoga.
In less than three months he was back in the ring. At age 43, he became WCW world heavyweight champion.
Page partnered with pal Dr. Craig Aaron to craft the business and exercise program. Their book, "Yoga for Regular Guys: The Best Damn Workout on the Planet!" came out in 2004.
After a slow start, DDP Yoga is thriving. Inspirational stories from clients such as Arthur Boorman helped him go viral.
Boorman's YouTube video, with more than 7 million views, shows the 40-something disabled veteran using Page's system to transform from obese and barely able to walk to a poster child for reclaimed fitness.
DDPYoga.com has a community of some 12,000 members. The biggest success story may become Jake Roberts.
As Page's business took off, Roberts' life was fading.Early last year, when Page was checking on Roberts by phone, he could tell something was wrong.
"He sounded like he was near death," Page said. "I was horrified." A series of concussions Roberts suffered while wrestling caused synapses in his brain to misfire. As a result, his hands and feet were stiff and curled.
Roberts ballooned to 305 pounds and fell deeper into addiction, numbing his pain with alcohol and crack cocaine.
Page offered him a way out with DDP Yoga. If Roberts was willing to do the work and help himself, Page was there to aid him along with way.
"I agreed to do it just to get him off the damn phone," Roberts said.
He received the DVDs and the accompanying dietary plan in the mail. But his damaged body wouldn't allow him to go from standing, down to the ground and back up again. He stuck to the diet suggestions, however, and lost nine pounds in 10 days.
With a documentary filmmaker in tow, Page visited Roberts at his Texas home and, with his permission, began to chronicle his progress. The first session showed how far they had to go. Roberts was in such poor physical shape he could not do the exercises. After five minutes, Page ended the session.
Roberts' shame turned to anger.
"Whether it was by design or not, it put me in a rage," Roberts said. "I was going to do it if it killed me."
He persevered and gave Page hope, so the pair struck a deal. If Roberts agreed to do DDP Yoga and lost 30 pounds, Page would move him to Atlanta, help him with his bills and film his transformation for a documentary.
In six weeks, Roberts shed 30 pounds. He came off drugs cold turkey. Though he continued drinking, that would soon change. Hecalled his doctor to request a prescription for Antabuse, a drug that makes the user violently ill if he drinks alcohol. He also began attending recovery meetings.
Roberts continues in the DDP Yoga program and has lost 50 pounds. The stiffness in his hands and feet are gone.
Page said he knows the old Jake, "but I don't know this guy. This is a new one, a guy who wants to own his life."
If this happens, Page is willing to make a place for Roberts in the company. The hope he could provide other potential DDP Yoga clients suffering from addiction would be invaluable, Page said.
"Page, for whatever reason, is doing this to help me," Roberts said. "I believe it's because he loves me." Roberts' eyes moistened and he began to weep.
"This is the toughest thing I've ever done in my life," he said. "But it's also the one thing in my life that I really want. I would trade my success in wrestling in a heartbeat for sobriety and the chance to be a man."