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Yoga program leads Presque Isle man to Georgia summit

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — When Loren Johnston of Presque Isle began an exercise program last May called “DDP Yoga,” created by former pro-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, he had tried other fitness programs such as P90X and weight lifting but had never finished what he started.

He weighed 280 pounds and suffered from major back pain due to a herniated L5S1, pelvic floor disorder, had high blood pressure and the early stages of sleep apnea.

By August, he had lost 50 pounds and was doing DDP Yoga “religiously” every day.

“Now I don’t have to take any medication for the hernia and I barely go to the chiropractor. It lowered my blood pressure and the sleep apnea symptoms are gone,” said Johnston, who is a Customs and Border Protection officer at the Fort Fairfield Office of Field Operations. “DDP helped me take control of my life.”

Presque Isle resident Loren Johnston (left) in a headlock with former pro-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page at the March 1-3 DDP Yoga Transformation Summit in Smyrna, Georgia. Johnston has used Page’s exercise program DDP Yoga, which combines elements of yoga, sports therapy and traditional fitness routines, since May 2017 and is an advocate of the program’s ability to help people lose weight and take control over their health and fitness goals. (Courtesy of Steve Yu, DDP Yoga)

According to https://ddpyoga.com/, DDP Yoga is based on the concept of “dynamic resistance” and combines elements of yoga, sports therapy and traditional fitness routines. The exercises are done with slower movements in order to create greater muscular resistance. Diamond Dallas created DDP Yoga as a result of his own career-ending physical injuries.

Instead of doing 20 to 30 pushups, Johnson explained, he moves into a push-up plank position for 10 seconds. He counts down from three to one and lowers to a “crocodile” position, not fully on the ground but almost, counts to three and rises slowly, and repeats the exercise two more times.

Johnston said the same concept applies to all DDP Yoga exercises, including sit-ups, with only two or three repetitions needed to get the full effect.

“In place of a sit-up you would do an exercise called ‘broken table’ where you get on your hands and knees with your back flat. You lift your left leg straight behind you and put your right arm straight in front of you,” Johnston said. “You bring your left knee to your right below slowly while counting ‘one, two, three.’ The movement strengthens your core from the shoulders to the tailbone with little to no impact.”

DDP Yoga was much more than an exercise routine for Johnston. He began regularly completing a weight-loss progress form on the team’s Facebook group. Later he received an email that invited him to post his story on the “Team DDP Yoga Members Under Construction” page.

He initially declined, but then a friend in the Facebook group told him he had been invited to the DDP Yoga Transformation Summit at the performance center in Smyrna, Georgia, after posting his own story.  

“He told me that the first step to go to the summit was getting an email invitation to post your story on the website,” Johnston said. “I was like, ‘Oh crap, I already got that email,’ and he said, ‘Well then, you should reply.’”

Johnston remembers the exact moment Diamond Dallas Page called him and invited him to the summit.

“It was January 4, 2018, and I was sitting on the couch with my 2-year-old and on my phone the number came up as ‘unknown caller,’ so I almost didn’t answer. But then I did answer and the person said, ‘Hey bro, what’s up?’ I just said, ‘OK, who’s messing with me?’” Johnston said. “He said, ‘It’s Dallas. I’ve followed your progress and I want to invite you to the 2018 Transformation Summit.’”

Johnston recently returned from the summit, which was held from Thursday, March 1, through Saturday, March 3. He and around 75 DDP Yoga devotees participated in workouts and shared their personal success stories.

One thing that amazed Johnston was how invested the former wrestler was in everyone’s stories and how much time he took to get to know them through their progress posts.

“He walked up to me and asked how I was doing and after he left I told the person next to me that he only remembered us because we had nametags,” Johnston said. “Then that person looked at me and told me that my nametag was backwards. He actually did remember us and wanted to know how we were doing.”

Loren Johnston, of Presque Isle, poses during a photo shoot at the DDP Yoga Transformation Summit at the DDP Yoga Performance Center in Smyrna, Georgia.
(Courtesy of Steve Yu, DDP Yoga)

At the summit Johnston met people who overcame incredible odds to lose weight and regain their health, such as an 84-year-old man named Ted who has used DDP Yoga for 14 years and Arthur Boorman, a veteran who lost 100 pounds in just over a year and transformed himself from someone whom doctors said would never walk unassisted again to a physically fit person who could walk and run without issues.

“I was amazed at how many people have been able to transform their lives and how easy the workouts are for anyone to follow. There’s no equipment. All you need is a mat, towel and water bottle,” Johnston said.

Johnston started with the yoga DVDs, but now uses the cellphone app, which tracks his heart rate while he works out. Every day when he gets home from a 12-hour work shift at 1 a.m. he commits to a workout and has no plans to stop now.

“Dallas said once during the conference, ‘Imagine you’re on your deathbed and someone hands you a button that you could press to go back to when you were 35. Would you go back?’ I said, ‘Absolutely’ and Dallas told me, ‘You’ve hit the button,’” Johnston said.

“The results aren’t immediate. I’ve had friends who’ve tried and then given up, but if you stick with it you’ll see the change. If I can do it, anyone can.”

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