Yoga with attitude

After battling obesity and other health issues for years, Arthur Boorman finally bottomed out. Literally.

Boorman, a Brooklyn resident and special education teacher at Severna Park High School, was working with a student at the youngster's home about two years ago, when the chair that he was sitting on collapsed under his 5-foot-6, 340-pound frame.

Unable to walk without the use of canes because of problems with his legs and back, the Gulf War veteran and former Army paratrooper realized after the humiliating experience that he needed to reverse his downward spiral. He decided to give yoga a try, and one day, while doing an Internet search on the subject, Boorman stumbled across something called YRG.

Created by former world champion professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, YRG - "Yoga for Regular Guys" - is a workout program that combines traditional yoga poses with calisthenics and isometric exercises.

Severely overweight and disabled, Boorman purchased the YRG DVD. He started doing the exercises while leaning on chairs and sitting on his bed because he couldn't stand on his own.

Following an eating plan designed for him by Page, in addition to doing the workout, Boorman lost 130 pounds and 17 inches on his waist in nine months. Not only was he walking again minus the canes, he was running.

Today, he weighs 156 pounds, bringing his total weight loss to 184 pounds.

Boorman, 48, now teaches YRG classes five times a week, in Fells Point, Arnold and Pasadena.

"I said to my wife one night, 'I'm not a person anymore. I'm becoming furniture. People have to move me around,'" said Boorman, recalling a conversation from when he was at his heaviest. "I couldn't drive because of my legs. My wife had to drive me to work, and then pick me up and drive me home. Every day, my wife had to wrap me and strap me and assemble me so I could hobble out with 30 pounds of braces and 20 pounds of canes. [Page] gave me my life back."

A visit to Page's Web site, diamonddallaspage.com, reveals testimonials from others who also lost significant amounts of weight doing YRG.

So what makes YRG so effective, and how is it different from regular yoga?

The key, says Page, is that YRG elevates the heart rate and gets people into their fat-burning zone. He urges those who do YRG to train wearing a heart monitor.

"Yoga doesn't pay enough attention to upper body," Page said over the phone from Los Angeles. "I do. YRG is that engaging of the muscles that creates isometric pause. That jacks the heart rate right up. What I love about YRG is that you can see the results by looking at your wrist and getting a true heart rate.

"With YRG, you never have to do any other cardio. YRG will not only keep you in that cardio zone, but it will give you energy, flexibility and stability."

Another distinction between YRG and yoga is that YRG is more physically based than spiritually based.

"There is no spiritual mumbo-jumbo in my class. There is no humming or chanting," said Page, who nonetheless says he wants to be referred to as a fitness guru. "Not that it's bad, but it's just not me. I start my class by saying, 'If you're new and you came for the yoga where you reach your arms to the heavens and the universe smiles back at you, you might be in the wrong class.'"

While women also do YRG - "Yoga for Regular Gals" - his target audience is men who, in Page's words, "wouldn't be caught dead doing yoga."

He can relate. "I was one of them for the first 42 years of my life," said Page, who has led U.S. troops through YRG workouts during visits to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Page, 52, who didn't become a wrestler until he was 35, was one of wrestling's top stars during the industry's boom in the late '90s. When he was 42, he ruptured two vertebrae in his lower back and was told by doctors that he would never wrestle again.

It was at that time that he was introduced to yoga by his then-wife Kimberly Page, a former wrestling personality. Yoga helped heal his body and became part of his daily routine, he said, and before long he was adding new features to his regimen. That was the genesis of YRG.

At 43, Page returned from his injury and had the most successful year of his wrestling career.

Page is also a motivational speaker and incorporates elements of that endeavor into YRG. He includes his audio book, Own Your Life, with the DVDs. "The concept is that 10 percent of life is what happens to you, and 90 percent is how you react to it," he said.

Page also sends an e-mail to everyone who buys a DVD online. After Boorman responded with an e-mail about his condition and two photos of himself, Page asked for his phone number.

"He basically read me the riot act," said Boorman, recalling his first of numerous conversations with Page. "He said, 'Are you going to leave your wife a widow and your [three] kids without a father?' Obviously I knew that, but nobody said that to me until he did.

"He also told me that I could walk again. All I had been thinking was that I might lose some weight and might even get rid of the back pain. Walking again was his idea. The idea that I could walk again gave me great motivation to move forward."

Boorman said he had gained well over 100 pounds over the years after getting out of the Army in 1991. He also had suffered damage to his legs, back and hip because of the wear and tear from making more than 200 jumps out of airplanes.

"The pain in my back subsided to a dull throb, but it has never gone away," he said. "Some days it's worse than others. At one point I went in for surgery on my leg, but I got a postoperative infection and ended up worse off than I was before [the surgery]."

Before finding YRG, Boorman had gone to a local yoga studio to inquire about joining a class, but was turned away.

"They looked at me and said that I couldn't come into the class," he said. "They said, 'We have all these liability issues. And second, we don't have anyone that can help you. You can't do yoga if you can't walk.' YRG works because it meets people where they're at."

After the straight talk and words of encouragement from Page, Boorman was on his way to a new life. He did YRG every day and followed Page's eating plan. "Organic juicing is a big part of it, and I had to really cut back on the breads and cheeses," Boorman said.

Boorman lost 30 pounds in the first month, gradually advancing from the beginner workout all the way up to the hard-core one.

Beyond all the exercises, YRG has more of a spiritual aspect than Page realizes, Boorman said.

"No, he doesn't chant and we don't contemplate our navels or anything," said Boorman, who appears with Page in a documentary about weight loss titled Inspired: The Movie, "but regular yoga and YRG both have a constant goal of self-improvement. ... Where other people talk about spirituality, Dallas talks about having an attitude.

Added Page: "I talk about the power of positive energy - that you can and you will get better if you keep working. Anything's possible. Arthur is the best example of that."