Physical exercise

IMG_6583

Haydn Walden: The Body from Britain

Haydn was the first DDP Yoga community member I met in person, and is also one of my favourite people in the world!

IMG_6583

When I first met Haydn, we were both toward the end of the DDP Yoga instructor certification process at a time when there were only a handful of people in the certification program. We had been friends on Facebook for a while when I noticed he listed Bognor Regis as his hometown. I live in America, but my mother not only lives in the UK; she lives less than 5 miles from Bognor Regis!! The two towns are so close that I have run from her house to Bognor Regis on reasonably short training runs when visiting her. I sent a pm to Haydn asking if he actually lived there; I couldn’t believe what a crazy coincidence this was!10302106_10101288038632107_3137774677428002408_n

Before I knew it, we had arranged to meet while I was home for the holidays. That quickly evolved into us both filming our video submissions for the certification process together, and spending as much free time as I had while in the UK going out to coffee together.  By the end of the trip, Haydn, his wife Laura and I were friends for life.

Three-way Diamond Cutter

Since meeting Haydn in the UK, I have been able to enjoy two vacations with him at the DDP Yoga retreats in 2014 and 2015. Possibly my favourite of the retreat is our annual tradition of doing a freestyle, instructor-only workout together. This year, Haydn and I, together with Steve Doyle, took turns in kicking each others’ butts in a workout without any push-ups or supine poses.

I’m not the only Haydn fan in my family. My mother takes his class, and is such a huge fan of Haydn’s, that when she and I were driving to a DDP Yoga workshop in Illinois, she spent the entire car ride planning how she would praise Haydn when she met DDP. I had to gently remind her that she may want to mention another DDP Yoga instructor to him (rhymes with Schmirstborn!).

Aside from being a genuinely wonderful person, Haydn is also a true beacon of inspiration for the DDP Yoga community. Not only has he lost weight, healed physical injuries and improved his health with DDP Yoga, he has overcome massive obstacles. Haydn’s humility and grace really model how we should all tailor our expectations to our own situations, practice not comparing ourselves to others, and allow ourselves celebrate our victories even though they may not be big achievements to others.

I’m thrilled to share Haydn’s story, and to share a challenge Haydn and I are undertaking together.

THE INTERVIEW

What was your background with physical fitness and exercise?

In school I had a major dislike for any physical exercise. My P.E. teachers didn’t accept my dyspraxia as an issue to work with, and would force me to do humiliating activities, such as sticking me in the goal for class football because I couldn’t catch, kick, or run, so I was used as target practise for the others.

I started general gym workouts age 20, lifting weights and using the elliptical, to improve my physique. At 25, I was looking for a new path, I had lost a very close friend to smoking and alcohol (I was on the same route). I discovered a personal trainer who was a Muay Thai specialist as well as a general PT. Each week I would rock up to the gym and get my ass kicked all over the room for 90 minutes. Bit by the fighting bug, I wanted to turn semi professional and try my hand at in ring competition. Unfortunately, injury (a torn ACL) stopped that.

Taken at the time of Haydn’s injury. Smile courtesy of a concussion.

What exactly is Dyspraxia, and how does it affect DDP Yoga?

Dyspraxia affects the fine and/or gross motor coordination, things like handwriting, balance, hand eye coordination etc. For me it was always balance and hand eye coordination. I found lunges and single leg balance positions killer. DDP Yoga has improved my balance, my posture -dyspraxics have notoriously bad posture- and my mind focus. There is a video on YouTube of me holding the Roundhouse Kick position for a 70 count. That would never have happened before DDP Yoga.

How did you discover DDP Yoga?

In January 2013 Chris Jericho returned to the Royal Rumble after touring with his band Fozzy for six to eight months. This dude came back to the WWE in incredible shape and wrestled for over 40 minutes on his first night back. The next day people were tweeting him asking how he stayed in shape on tour, his answer……DDP Yoga! A few days later a friend of mine showed me this video of a veteran called Arthur*, I put the two together and ordered the package.

Haydn getting to meet his idol at this year’s DDP Yoga retreat in Mexico

What was your physical status when you started DDP Yoga?

When I ordered DDP Yoga, I was close to 235lbs and injured. In 2010 at age 30, I tore my right ACL while training Muay Thai. I tried to keep up some kind of training regime, but since my cardio dropped and the intensity of workouts lessened my body started to break down. I had been harbouring a neck injury (bulging discs at C7 and T4), a bicep injury and my left leg started to deteriorate through compensation. I eventually stopped training, but kept up eating….a lot! By 2013, I was 235lbs, walking badly (some days with a stick), in pain and not well.

What were your original goals with DDP Yoga?

I wanted to see if this really worked…..if Arthur could do this, could I? All I wanted to do was to lose a little weight and not be in pain when walking and driving. The goals were realistic to me because I didn’t believe in myself at the start, so it was a day-by-day approach.

HaydnBAfront

How long did it take you to meet your goals?

My initial goals were met and blown out of the water; three weeks in I was down 20 lbs. I started the Phase II eating plan, which was a total game changer. Did I fail to meet any goals? Not at first, as I said it was a day-by-day approach. I was happy if I survived Energy and didn’t modify, or if I got through Below the Belt without a balance aid.

Are you still working on any goals?

……hahaha……I have a huge block with inversions. For two years, this dyspraxic boy has been trying to get upside down. I nailed Black Crow after 12 months, which is why I have it tattooed on my arm, but forearm balance or Psycho Push-ups are still not happening. It’s easy to get negative over this, as you know. But taking it day-by-day, and realising the little improvements is how I control it. I recently got some awesome help with the inversion positions from you (Liz) and Canada’s own Steve Doyle, while we were on the retreat together. I will be putting the advice into practise over the next few weeks.

#BlackCrowInAnUnusualPlace

What role did the Team DDP Yoga community play for you?

Well, as I said above, I received help on inversions from you and Steve. The whole team is an incredible family. I read stories that motivate me every single day, from seasoned DDP Yoga people and complete newbies. When you see someone like Nathan Munsell posting his videos each day, it makes you work harder. This family is built on respect and inspiration.

11774727_10155763205685411_1332730410_n

Who has been your biggest supporter?

So so many to mention! Laura, my wife, has pushed me harder than anyone. She knew my goal was to walk down the aisle at a comfortable weight and not limping. Laura will attend almost all of my classes, she was my guinea pig while learning my Level 1 certification and she is my rock when I struggle with food or inversions.

11539768_10155733162305411_6473485698453699722_n

My parents need a mention here too, they have always shown pride in all I have achieved due to the interesting start to life I had with dyspraxia. I will never forget my parents telling me that “it’s great you are doing the DDP Yoga thing, but remember it might just be a phase….” When they saw the difference it made to my posture and my walking, it’s not just a phase it’s a way of life.

What hurdles have you encountered along the way?

Physical hurdles came from the balance aspect of the workouts. I was not able to get deep in lunges for a long time. Punching while in a lunge would throw me off the mat. Further down the line Wrap and Burn and Black Crow became huge obstacles that I would spend time working through. I would do Fat Burner then put ten minutes of Wrap and Burn and Black Crow at the end. Also, Can Opener was a real git to get into; my hips were so messed up through a lifetime of bad posture and hypermobility that it used to hurt!

Flexibility by DDP Yoga

Food wise, I struggle with sugar! Gluten and dairy were easy to give up, but sugar will not go away. In fact I’m working on a new plan with you right now, so people can look forward to some insightful blogs from us both in the near future [see below].

How did you decide to pursue certification?

Within 3 months of DDP Yoga I had fallen in love with workout and the way of life. In June 2013, we attended a DDP Yoga workshop in the UK. Meeting Dallas was a huge honour and I asked then if there would be any way of teaching this program, he explained the plan for the certification and told me to keep looking for the launch date. The certification launched on August 1st 2013 and I signed up that very day. My original plan was to be able to teach DDP Yoga to my friends; just to pass the certification was a goal beyond my wildest dreams.

Small Class

How long did the certification process take for you?

I passed the certification on 16th December 2013. I found the whole process a pleasant challenge, nothing was easy, but also nothing was unobtainable. I enjoyed pushing through my 100 hours of practise, most of which was taken up with learning the Level 1 workout. Becoming an instructor increased my fitness level, calling a workout and doing the workout at the same time can be challenging… especially if you don’t keep track of your heart rate throughout.

What has being an instructor done for you?

This has pushed me to a whole new place in life and in physical fitness. I have recently moved away from my old job in government music education to become a self-employed drum tutor and DDP Yoga instructor. For the first time in 12 years I am my own boss. I have met so many incredible students, and helped people achieve their goals no matter how small they may seem. This is very humbling.

DDP_BRENDA

How did you build your classes?

I started with one class at a local boxing gym. Through self motivation and social media, by September I had fourteen classes in five days. Due to a venue closing, I’m currently running eight classes and three one-on-one sessions each week. Classes sizes vary from six to fifteen people per class. The best part about teaching DDP Yoga for me is watching people take control of their lives, if I have a client that wants to gain flexibility so they can improve their running speed, or a 60+ year old who wants to be able play with her grandchild on the floor again, if they achieve that then I am over the moon. Not everybody wants to be able to hold a 60 count Black Crow, some people just want to feel good about themselves! That’s why I do what I do.

My mother will kill me if I don’t ask: who is your favourite student?

Hahahaha…..I have so many favourites…..all of them! It’s a real pleasure teaching my Over 60’s class (which includes your mother, Mary). These are ladies who want to regain flexibility and they are lovely to teach**. But I genuinely couldn’t pick a favourite from all of my classes! They all Rock!

Haydn's favourite is in the pink top!

Haydn’s favourite student is in the pink top!

What advice would you give to someone considering the certification process?

Do it! Own it! Listen to the advice your mentor gives you, listen to Yoga Doc, be open-minded and most of all take any information on board and store it!

What is next for you and DDP Yoga?

I want to build my classes and increase the knowledge of DDP Yoga in the UK. I’m keen to progress through the next Certification Levels as they are released.

Class Large (3)

Is there anything you continue to struggle with?

As I mentioned above, forearm balance is an ongoing struggle. I will overcome this with practise and using the advice given to me by you and Steve Doyle. It’s mind over matter! Sugar is my other struggle, again I touched on this earlier too, a change of work/life balance and staying focused will help with this, along with staying accountable to you.

HaydnSIDE

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

Teaching at the 2014 and 2015 retreats are easily my proudest moments. I feel privileged and honoured to have taught in Mexico in front of Diamond Dallas Page and other fellow instructors.

IMG_6244 copy

Toughest class of the retreat! Trust me!

What would you tell anyone considering DDP Yoga?

Don’t consider it any longer, just do it! Whatever you want to achieve DDP Yoga will help you get there.

Hayn_Garden

Where can we find you?

Facebook: Haydn Walden and Hi-energy Wellness
Twitter: @DDPYogaGB
Website: Hi-energy Wellness

THE CHALLENGE

As Haydn touched upon, both he and I struggle with sugar addiction. This year at the retreat, we discussed this issue and realized that we had the same pattern of cycling on and off the wagon. We decided to become accountability partners, and came up with a challenge whereby the second we stepped foot onto our respective countries of residence, we would abstain from all sugars and artificial sweeteners.

sugar

We have laid out the rules of our sugar free challenge, our personal motivations for quitting sugar, and a diary of our progress on this page. Check in to see how we’re doing… You may even catch us live-blogging!

We are going to do this challenge for at least 60 days (the length of time it takes to rewire your brain), but hopefully longer.

*The Arthur:

** He can’t possibly be referring to the same woman I taught to knit! 

Run, Fat Girl, Run!

It’s Marathon time again! My training program for the 2015 Prairie State Marathon started today and I am so excited.

I ran my first full marathon in May last year. See, I have a tattoo to prove it:

tatt

A little prideful, perhaps?

And a sticker on my car:

photo

Okay, I’ll admit that’s pretty obnoxious…

I started out the training at about 145 lbs and finished the marathon tipping the scales at 162 lbs. Despite (erroneous) claims that I lost weight running, I managed to gain just under 20 lbs while running an estimated 422 miles (plus the actual 26.2 of the race). What the….???

It turns out, this isn’t an isolated incident. The phenomenon of packing on the old el-bees while preparing for a long distance race is well-documented. Like many others, I had no clue about this while developing a love of distance running, and promptly fell into many of the pitfalls. I have since done my reading and learned a lot about the physiology of exercise and hunger. This Run Haven article sums up some of the reasons.

I have a friend who disproves this rule, but it’s very true for me and my bulky quads!

While it is true that I was building more muscle and that my body was storing more glycogen, for people like me who battle a food addiction, reason #3, eating too many calories, was definitely the main culprit. During the marathon training, I allowed myself to “carb-up” the night before long runs. Then, after each long run I would experience intense hunger, and I would allow myself to indulge on the grounds that I had burned a tonne of calories. Yes, I had burned a tonne of calories, but probably not as many as those two massive, carby meals (heaping orders of pilau rice from my favourite restaurant) flanking the long runs were providing.

Compounding the issue was the fact that this training program land smack in the middle of my ill-fated departure from using MyFitnessPal to track calories. So those calculations about how much I could eat versus how many calories I was burning involved a lot of very generous “eye-balling.” Translation: more calories were going in than were coming out.

Another issue is heart rate and hormones. As I mentioned above, people close to me seem confused when I try to explain that DDP Yoga was responsible for my weight loss, and running wasn’t. In DDP Yoga, we are told early and often to use a heart rate monitor, and to back off if we go above our fat-burning zone. This keeps us efficiently burning fat and calories, and more importantly, doing so at a rate that goes under the radar of our appetite control centers in our brains.

Running, on the other hand, blasts your heart rate into your high aerobic zone, and (if you are not athletic as was the case when I was training for my first marathon), right into your anaerobic zone. Your brain detects this activity and responds with a massive appetite surge causing you to eat way more than you burned. To make matters even worse, as I learned recently, long periods of moderate or intense cardio cause a huge dump of the stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone causes every calorie you take to be absorbed and stored at maximum efficiency (i.e. guess who’s gaining some weight!).

Don't even get me started on leptin!

Don’t even get me started on leptin!

That’s why cardio exercises like DDP Yoga, walking or light/short jogging that keep you in your fat-burning zone, and strength-building workouts (such as DDP yoga) that help you gain lots of metabolism-boosting muscle are great for weight loss. They don’t trigger huge hunger bouts and leave you with metabolisms geared toward fat storage. That’s not to say running is bad for you. It isn’t. It has a lot of benefits, but you need to know what you’re dealing with, and prepare accordingly.

This has been alarmingly accurate on occasion!

And that’s what I plan to do this time around. First, I am back on the MyFitnessPal wagon, so my calories are going to be carefully monitored. Second, I won’t allow my training program to minimize other programs that are beneficial to weight management such as DDP Yoga and other strength-building workouts. And third, I will be focusing on eating healthy, whole, plant-based foods (no large orders of refined white rice from the Indian restaurant*!). But most importantly, I’ll be having fun. There’s no greater feeling than accomplishing something as huge as a marathon, and putting on 20 lbs didn’t detract from that feeling in the slightest last time. It’s important to care about your body, but it’s more important to remember the number on the scale isn’t everything.

*except maybe the day of the actual race!

P.S. It’s not okay to call anyone “fat,” the title of this article is a play on the only okay movie, “Run, Fat Boy, Run!” 

My Inspirations: Kristin Pasquill, Certified DDP Yoga Instructor

Update: Kristin was the subject of the first interview of people who inspire me that I published. Since then, she has gone on to become a certified DDP Yoga instructor, only adding to her overall awesomeness. I caught up with her to find out what she’s doing now that she’s an instructor and updated the interview: 

Kristin_RIpped!

I set up this blog to help others be inspired the way I have been inspired. Part of that is sharing my story, which I have done over, and over, and over…. You guys must be getting sick of hearing about me now; I know I am getting sick of typing about me! Other ways to inspire include sharing motivational posts about DDP Yoga, nutritional information, and the occasional bit of yoga humor.

But one inspiration I somehow overlooked sharing until now is the stories of people around me in the TeamDDP community who inspire me. Seeing their success, their grit, their motivation continues to motivate me everyday. After all, it was a the achievements of a certain Team DDP member that prompted me to give DDP Yoga a try in the first place. There have been numerous times when I just lack the energy to get on the mat, but then I hop onto teamddpyoga.com or one of the DDP Yoga Facebook groups, and when I see members of Team DDP overcoming obstacles, achieving a goal they’ve struggling with for a long time, or even posting about the workout they did that evening,  I find the inspiration I need.

I want to promote the people who inspire me most so that they can inspire others too.

I am kicking off this series with a BANG! I have chosen to present an awesome success story, and coupled it with a challenge for the month of October.

Kristin came to my attention recently when her transformation story appeared at TeamDDP, and she became more active in various groups. In particular, I noticed that Kristin has the most amazing biceps I have ever seen so I reached out to her to ask how she got them. It turns out that in addition to packing some pretty impressive guns, she’s also a really nice person.

LP06

The Interview

You look like someone who has been lean and athletic all their lives. Has that been the case?

Thanks but not at all! I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I’ve fluctuated between chubby and down right hefty, but lean and athletic were never words to describe me until I discovered DDP Yoga.

How did you discover DDP Yoga?

A friend of mine introduced me to the program. He came over for a visit after not seeing him for months and looked so good! I asked him what miracle diet he was on and he replied with DDP Yoga. He left that night and I immediately started my research. Found Arthur’s video, cried for a while, and started my journey just a few days later.

What shape were you in when you first started the program?

Unhealthy, sad, over weight… just about every negative adjective you can think of. I had my daughter 10 months before starting the program and in those 10 months of her life I managed to gain 70+ pounds. I struggled with depression and had poor eating habits. I was a mess to say the least!KP01

What was your first few weeks with DDP like?

I have to admit, my first few weeks were rough and honestly thought about quitting. I did nothing but The Diamond Dozen for a couple of months. It took me a while to learn the moves, using my yoga blocks and getting into safety zone more than I was actually doing the moves. It was hard. But I kept at it and the more I practiced, the easier it got. And here I am now with my yoga blocks collecting dust on the shelf!

How have you changed since starting DDP Yoga?

I have said this before many times and to Mr. Page himself: this program literally saved my life. I’ve struggled with my health and weight related issues my entire life. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and arthritis as a teenager, spending a lot of time in physical therapy and taking medication for pain. My doctors always told me if I got my weight under control, the pain wouldn’t be as severe, I just could never get it under control until starting this program. And at one point my weight was so severe my doctors were talking Diabetes.Today I am medication free and the healthiest I’ve ever been. So when I say DDP Yoga saved my life, I truly mean it!

KP02

You’re a huge success story. What parts of the program worked best for you?

Thank you kindly! It is still crazy to hear that and to see my story on the website as a success. It’s hard to decide what’s worked best for me because it has all worked so well! I will say, I love Strength Builder and Stand Up. Two things I never thought I would have- strength and balance. And those two workouts in particular have really helped me out a lot.

What is your proudest achievement with DDP Yoga?

In the beginning I thought it would be to lose the weight. And while that’s something I am very proud of, getting my health under control has been my proudest achievement. I have always been unhealthy, even as a child. I love food and always will, but growing up I made poor choices with food. Lots of processed junk and fast food. DDP Yoga and the eating program have taught me so much. I can still eat plenty and stay healthy! And my body is thanking me for it. I no longer have to worry about weight related issues with my fibromyalgia and arthritis. Diabetes scares are a thing in the past. And that’s a beautiful thing!

KP05

Is there anything you still struggle with?

I would like to think I’m pretty alright with most of the moves, but to this day I struggle with Wrap and Burn. I actually used to skip that move a lot of times. But luckily there’s a great group of people on our Facebook group that had the brilliant suggestion of using a towel so that’s what I do now! Hopefully I’ll get rid of the towel one day… baby steps :)

You’re a Mom; how does that impact doing DDP Yoga? 

I am! A proud mother of 2. My son started kindergarten this year but before that, both of my kids were at home with me the majority of the day. And even when both of them were home, doing my DDP Yoga was still very doable. I either waited until their nap time so I could have complete “me time” or just do it when they’re awake! They crawl under me like a bridge in Down Dog from time to time, but that doesn’t stop me. :)

KP04

At one point after having my son, I spent a lot of time at the gym. And while I had success with it, I was hurting constantly and not getting near the results I’ve got with DDP Yoga. Not to mention I would have to find someone to watch my son so I could drive all the way across town to get to the gym. It just wasn’t doable for me. I’ve also tried other at home workouts that required a lot of room moving around and that’s a bit difficult with kids. I love that I can get an amazing workout even in a small space. All I need is my yoga mat!

What advice would you give to someone considering the program or starting out?

DO IT. Just do it!  Coming from someone that’s pretty much tried it all, just try it. Try it and stick with it. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

How have people around you, either online or in person, taken your transformation?

It’s been pretty crazy! A positive crazy I mean. I get the majority of support from the wonderful people I’ve “met” online through teamddpyoga.com and the awesome Facebook groups. Without them I’m not sure if I would have as much success as I’ve had. In person from friends and family, I’ve got a lot of positive feedback. The best has been my parents and relatives telling me how proud they are of me. Gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling inside!

How have you taken to the role of inspiring others? I am in awe sometimes. Never in a million years did I think I would ever inspire anyone. I have received countless messages and emails from people I don’t even know telling me I’ve inspired them to start the program or stick with it. It’s an amazing, hard to believe feeling that I am truly grateful for.

You have the most amazing biceps any of us have ever seen… Tell us your secrets!

Haha thank you so much! No secrets really. I typically do some kind of DDP workout 5-6 days a week. The slow burn pushups have really helped tone my arms up. I also have started what I’ve dubbed Bathtub Pushups, although you honestly could do them just about anywhere. I started the habit of every time I went into my bathroom of doing a rep of 10 pushups. And by the time the day is over, a lot of times I’ve done 100+ pushups! Clearly I spend a lot of time in the bathroom lol. But they have really helped a lot I think. I have never been a fan of push ups, but the strength I’ve gained with DDP Yoga and only doing 10 at a time have really made them doable and fun!

KP03

What made you decide to pursue DDP Yoga certification?

I feel like becoming certified was the best way for me to give back. DDP Yoga truly helped change and save my life. The least I could do is share the wealth! When I joined the groups online, I started to realize there are not too many people involved with DDP Yoga in the South and really felt with certification, I could help spread the word. I want to show others they can change their lives exactly how I did!

How did you find the certification process? 

I found out about certification by browsing through the website. I saw powerful women like you and Christina that have been such an inspiration to me and it got me thinking about getting certified myself. In the beginning, it seemed like such an unreachable goal. I have had issues with social anxiety and public speaking since I was a kid, so the thought of teaching a class was downright terrifying! But if there’s anything DDP Yoga has taught me, it’s you can do whatever you set your mind to (with lots and lots of baby steps!) So I started small. I taught myself classes just looking in the mirror and speaking out loud (as funny as that sounds it actually helped a LOT!). From there, I slowly worked my way to teaching online classes. It took a while to get comfortable, but the more I worked at it the better I got! And towards the end of my certification, I started to teach a small group in person and finally proved to myself that I could do it. It took me 6 months and a lot of hard work but it’s been one of the most rewarding goals I have ever made  for myself!

What has being certified done for you?

Certification has been yet another life changer for me through this amazing program. It has shown me that even the ridiculously far away goals are reachable and has given me confidence in myself I have never had. I am now teaching classes. In fact, I just had my very first class a few days ago! It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait for my next class!

KristinTEACH

What is next for you?

It’s funny, when I initially started the program my goal was to lose 30 pounds. I met that goal and then another. And another, and another, until here I am now 100 pounds lighter and the healthiest I’ve ever been. DDP Yoga has taught me the sky is the limit. To believe in myself and anything is possible. I definitely want to continue teaching and eventually add some more classes to my schedule!

Where can people find you?

I’m always on Facebook! You can find me through my direct page or Southern Style Yoga for updates/class schedules.

I teach every Wednesday evening at 6:30 at the Semmes Community Center in Semmes, AL and will hopefully be serving the Mobile area soon!

The Challenge

And now the challenge. We all want arms like Kristin’s, right? So let’s do what she does. For the month of October June (let’s do it again!!!), anytime you are in the bathroom, do 10 inclined pushups. I’ve been doing it for a couple of weeks now and I am definitely seeing a change! I have added my own rule in: if for whatever reason I can’t do the push-ups (running late, not wanting my HR up at 3am), I do 10 full push-ups later. Here’s Kristin to show how it’s done!

BANG!

KP07

My Inspirations: Christina Russell, Certified DDP Yoga Instructor

Around TeamDDPYoga, Christina barely needs an introduction. She started DDP Yoga around the same time I did, and after meeting in a TeamDDPYoga.com group, we realized we had numerous things in common. Other members of Team DDP Yoga came to the same realization and, after making a few videos together, we became known as the Hardcore sisters. This was our first real collaboration, and still my favourite (Christina’s husband totally steals the show, “Am I in a Lamaze class?” love it!)

Since then, Christina has gone on to work for DDP Yoga and can be seen at workshops, online and at the new performance center in her role as a certified DDP Yoga instructor and nutritionist. I can’t wait to see Christina in Mexico, but until then this interview will give me my much needed HCS fix!

 

2 Years Before After copy (1)

How did you discover DDP Yoga?

After losing my baby in utero at 20 weeks, I fell into a state of depression, loss, and anxiety. After months of unhappiness my 2 year old little boy looked up at me and told me to, “Smile Mommy”. It was that exact moment that I knew I had to get back my life. I had gained 50 pounds the sadness that I felt wasn’t just affecting me – it was affecting my entire family!

Thankfully my husband is a die-hard wrestling fan. He was surfing wrestling promo videos on YouTube and he came across Arthur Boorman’s video. He practically forced me to watch it, as I was sure he was going to show me yet another wrestling clip, but instead, it was the most moving and inspirational video I have ever seen! That video instantly gave me hope and within 5 minutes, I had already placed my order for the DDP YOGA Max Pack.

What were your original goals with DDP Yoga?

When I started DDP YOGA, I had put on 50 pounds and was making horrible food choices. My goal was to lose the weight to improve my health and my body image and get back to eating healthier.

Did you achieve those goals?

In 4 months I lost 50 pounds by doing DDP YOGA 3-5 times/week and by cutting out processed foods, soda, and sugar. It was incredible and I felt amazing. It was then that I found out I had a severe intolerance to gluten and dropped both gluten and most cow-dairy from my diet which resulted in a total weight loss of 60 pounds by the end of month 5! Not only did I started at a size 18 and end up at a size 6, I also became happy again and regained my confidence.

Are there any other ways DDP Yoga has helped your life?

I feel like DDP YOGA has been a catalyst for so many changes in my life. The biggest change is that it helped me find my real passion – and that is helping other people take back their health! During my transformation, I really fell in love with healthy food and decided to go back to school and get certified in nutrition. This knowledge coupled with the DDP YOGA workout program helped me take people’s health to the next level (including my own).

Did you experience any obstacles along the way?

I have had a few minor hurdles throughout my journey, but I didn’t let any of it stand in the way of owning my life. My biggest help through it all was the support of my family and the team DDP YOGA community.

IMG_0518 (1)

What are your current goals with DDP Yoga?

I am always trying to better my practice for myself and for my students.

What made you decide to pursue DDP Yoga certification?

I decided to become a DDP YOGA instructor because I felt it was the next step in my journey. I saw what it could do for me and I knew that if I could do it, so many others could too.

Getting certified in DDP YOGA is no joke! It’s not a weekend workshop certification course – it’s a 120+ hour program that is designed to teach you the who, what and why’s behind the workouts. You don’t just learn one workout – you learn a solid foundation of 13 moves, why breathing is so important, modifications for all fitness levels and what muscle groups are being used. The best word I can use to describe it is ‘THOROUGH’.

I had been doing the workouts for 7 months when I enrolled and it took me another 3 months to complete it. I worked day and night on the program sometimes doing 2 workouts each day because I really wanted this. It was challenging, but this was the start of my new life and I wanted to kick it off with a bang!

What has being certified done for you?

I’ve been teaching classes for over a year now and I love it! My students challenge me just as much as I challenge them and it’s an amazing feeling to be a positive change in their lives. In October 2014, I officially started working for DDP YOGA and ever since our relocation to Atlanta I alternate teaching daily to gear up for our grand opening of the DDP YOGA Performance Center where I’ll not only be running the center, but I’ll also be a lead instructor.

IMG_3864 (1)

You’re also an employee of DDP Yoga now! How did that come about?

Working for the company that helped change your life is nothing short of INCREDIBLE! If you would have told me just over 2 years ago that I would lose 60+ pounds, become an instructor and start working for DDP YOGA I would have thought you were crazy. It really is a dream come true and all the work we are putting into the Performance Center is just going to take that dream to new heights beyond my imagination!

What’s next for you and DDP Yoga?

My current goal is to get the DDP YOGA Performance Center ready to go for our Grand Opening. I want the PC to be a place of inspiration and a place where we can change lives every single day.

On a personal level, my mom and I are getting ready to launch our next cookbook,’The Gluten-Free Mom-to-Be Cookbook’, and my ‘30 Days to a New You’ ebook should be coming out very soon!

Where can people find you?

If you’re looking for gluten-free recipes, food product reviews and healthy living ideas you can find me at BodyRebooted.com. I’m also very accessible on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter: @BodyRebooted or you can send me an email at christina@bodyrebooted.com

 

Teaching 4 (1)

My Inspirations: Mary Callicoat, Certified DDP Yoga Instructor

I am concerned that if I start talking about the things I love and respect Mary, I’ll never stop.

I met Mary for the first time in person at a DDP Yoga workshop but we had been working together on the Hardship Fund prior to that. Mary is one of the most selfless people I have ever met, and is always the first person to volunteer for tasks we need to get done for the fund. On top of all the extra work she does for the Hardship fund, she also runs her own charity that grew out of her own story of triumph over terrible adversity. She took that drive and determination to the DDP Yoga instructor certification process, and blasted through the program at a record pace.

Mary has as amazing story to share and is a wonderful person. I am honored to call her a fellow DDP Yoga instructor, and lucky to call her a friend.

20140927_153210

How did you discover with DDP Yoga?

I think I have to back up to way before that point.  I was bullied nearly all of my life in school, and then married an abusive man. For the near entirety of my life, I was made to feel I was a nobody, not important enough to be cared about, and I was extremely shy.  I have never had good balance or coordination, had many back problems my entire life and just never found my niche so to speak. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome while in college, not long after my daughter was born. After my son was born, I went into a deep depression.  I would go in and out of that dark hole many times after that.  In 2009 I woke up with my ear stuck on my shoulder, unable to move my head at all.  In 2010, after seeing 3 neurologists, 2 chiropractors, a massage therapist and spending countless hours in physical therapy, I had a surgery to remove a badly herniated disc and fuse c3 and c4 in my neck together.  Afterwards, I could move my neck and arms, but still struggled with radiating pain down my arms, sharp pains in my neck and of course the low back pain was still there as always.  I had nearly no muscle tone in my arms, and would drop things all the time. Forget the little kids needing plasticware and sippy cups, mom dropped more than they did! There were no glass dishes in my house, because I broke them all!  In 2013, things took a much darker turn for the worse.  I was divorced and struggling to emotionally free myself from an abusive ex husband that was still in control of my life, even though he didn’t live with me anymore, I herniated 2 more discs in my neck, and began being plagued by some sort of painful, blistering rash that doctors still haven’t figured out.

Between the neurotin to block the radiating nerve pain down my arms and up my face, the antidepressants, the painkillers, the muscle relaxers and the extremely high doses of prednisone, I gained over 30 pounds that year, and I was already overweight.  My doctor looked at me in October and told me my cholesterol levels were through the roof and she would be waiting for a call telling her I had had a stroke or heart attack.

In December, 2013, I went to New Year Eve’s services at my church, and as we prayed the old year out and the new year in, I prayed for God to kill me or heal me.  I told Him if I were hit by a drunk driver on the way home and never woke up, that would be ok with me.  The night of either January 1 or 2, I sat down on the couch to go through my nightly ritual.  Eat until I fell asleep.  As some point, the TV woke me up, with a wrestler’s voice screaming (the TV was up loud!).

I saw DDP on there and watched what was left of the documercial.  I was too lazy to get up to find the remote to change the channel.  I tried really hard to forget about it the next day, but I couldn’t.  The next day, it was on again in the afternoon.  I sat and watched the whole thing.  Then I went online and tried to find every problem I could with the program.  And I found more of Arthur’s story, and Stacey’s story, and tons of blogs and vlogs and nothing negative.

I began to feel like maybe I could do this.  I didn’t want to stand on my head, didn’t want to be part of the ‘crazy’ people that I kept seeing online, but I did want to feel better.  I felt like this program might let me do that.  I have to add here that those people I once thought of as crazy are now closer to me than some of my actual family.  They are the support system that holds me together on my worst days and celebrates with me on my best.  And I think I have become one of the ‘crazy’ people I promised myself I would not become….

What were your original goals with DDP Yoga? 

My original goal was to just feel better.  I told myself I was not giving up my Pepsi, I was not going on some diet.  I was not giving up sugar or dairy.  I was already gluten free, I wasn’t doing anymore than that!  I told myself I was just doing this to help my back, nothing more, nothing less.  I was so unhealthy!  No gluten, so I considered myself to be healthier than most, in fact, when I had first gone gluten free due to an allergy, I had lost a bit of weight. But then, I found all the gluten free goodies and frozen foods and junk and gained it all back.  Due to my back and neck issues and no balance and coordination, I had no fitness levels either.  I was so clumsy when I first started!  I fell so often I would hide and lock the door when I did it so my teens wouldn’t see me and make fun of me.

PhotoGrid_1415662731302
Did you achieve those goals? 

Almost immediately I began seeing differences in the pain levels in my back and neck.  It got to the point I was doing energy every day just to ease the pain.  I started in January, and by March, I had cut out the Neurotin completely, and the muscle relaxers and pain killers were only as needed.  By April, the painkillers, muscle relaxers, cholesterol meds, and antidepressants were all gone.

Are there any other ways DDP Yoga has helped your life?

DDP Yoga has changed me in so many ways.  Like I said, I was so unhealthy.  As I began to feel better physically and started participating in the online world, I started changing the way I ate and started losing weight.  As I was able to do things I had never done before in my life, like touching my toes, have balance and coordination, I started to realize my mental state was changing as well.  When I first started, I hid in my bedroom with a locked door to keep the teens out.  I absolutely forbid them from telling their dad what I was doing.  Even though we were divorced, he was still a big loud voice in my head.  The last thing I needed was him making fun of me for trying DDP Yoga.  By November, I had gained so much confidence that I didn’t care anymore if he found out, and even set it up to make sure he would find out.  DDP Yoga gave me a confidence I have never had in my entire life.  The confidence to stand up for myself and for what I want out of life.

Did you experience any obstacles along the way?

I have dealt with little to no support from my teens, lots of jokes at mom’s expense were made when I first started.  I also have had some minor drama situations from my church family and have come to realize that not everyone ‘gets’ it. I have come to realize that everyone has their own battles to fight, and if, when and how they choose to fight that battle is their choice, not mine.  All I can do is be available to help when they ask for it.  I still struggle with a very bad, tight piriformis muscles that cause low back and hip pain. I sit for a living, and it shows!  Thankfully, I have an arsenal of moves from DDP Yoga that I know will help me feel better, I have a really great chiropractor and an amazing support system of DDP Yoga family members that keep me going on the days I don’t feel like hitting the mat.

What are your current goals with DDP Yoga? 

My biggest goal is the one I said I would never want to do…I want to stand on my head.  I want to do inversions so badly!   I still struggle with Black Crow, but someday, I want to be able to go from Black Crow to plank and I want to get a forearm stand.


What made you decide to pursue DDP Yoga certification? 

In the beginning, I never wanted to be an instructor.  Then in August, 2014, my best friend Annie and I went to Hammer’s Fitness for our first ever DDP YOGA workshop.  Afterwards, she made me say not YET to becoming an instructor, instead of never.  Even though I said not yet, I really wasn’t thinking about it, but she planted a seed.  In October, as I was finally standing up to the demons in my head and in my life that had bullied me for so long, I realized I needed to give back.  I felt called to give back.  To take DDP YOGA to those that needed it, to those that felt broken due to abuse.

20150105_191530

How did you find the certification process?

I loved the process.  It was hard, but I enjoyed the challenge.  I signed up the end of November, and planned on being done in April or May. I went back and started counting hours from August, but didn’t have all of them documented. I knew my job was going to keep my very busy for the month of March, so that was out for me.  Things lined up in ways I never expected them to, and I finished and was certified in February.

I loved the mentoring process, of course, I had some great ones!  Having those people I once thought of as ‘crazy’ now being so supportive and helping me through the process was extremely helpful.

What has being a certified instructor done for you?

My goal was to take DDP Yoga to those that felt broken due to abuse. When I started certification process, I began going to the local domestic violence shelter that helped counsel me and get me through the roughest parts of life after my divorce. I also started working with a residential therapeutic foster home for teenage girls.  I love it.  Seeing those people overcome adversities and seeing them achieve new things, the light in their eyes when they ‘get’ a move is extremely rewarding.

I have also begun teaching at a local Community Center, working with those that are broken not so much from abuse, but just from environmental and financial circumstances. I am a full time special education teacher for an online school.  I am currently still trying to find balance to be honest.  Some days, I finish teaching and run out the door to go teach DDP Yoga.

Balance is something I look forward to finding someday.

What’s next for you and DDP Yoga?

I am currently working with another agency to take DDP Yoga there, and I continue to look for other opportunities.   This summer, the goal is to gain a certification in nutrition, to be able to take even more into the those agencies where I teach DDP Yoga.

You’re a member of the Hardship Fund. How did you get involved with that?

I happened to be part of the initial conversation that started the Fund and was invited to be a part of the Fund by Liz Collins.  The experience has been so rewarding.  Especially to those that stick with it and keep in touch.  To see how much they have changed their lives is truly incredible.

You have since started your own charity! Please tell us how that came about:

As I said, I really didn’t want to become an instructor in the beginning of my journey.  It was never a thought that entered my head.  It was only after Annie planted that first seed, and then when I began to really see how much I had changed in my own life that I realized how important DDP Yoga could be for someone that had a shattered spirit.

I was so broken in so many ways when I when I started this journey that I didn’t even know which way to turn.  I have used DDP Yoga and good nutrition to build my life into something new, and I wanted to help others do the same, thus, Building the Broken was born.  I donate my time, mats, heart rate monitors, blocks, yoga straps, and whatever else is needed to the agencies that serve those that have been in some way broken, either through abuse, bullying or other life circumstances.

Building the Broken is not yet a charity or nonprofit, as that takes time and money that I currently don’t have yet. (On a side note, if anyone out there wants to help out with this process, please contact me!) I am finally an official business, which is the first step in the process of becoming a non profit.

In the beginning, I fully planned on contacting agencies and having them tell me to contact them once I was done getting certified. However, it didn’t happen like that at all!  I contacted the first agency in early/mid December and they wanted me there the first of January.  I had no time to save money to buy mats as I originally planned.  I (not so bravely, but with encouragement of a few friends) sent out a Facebook post asking people for used mats.  I could not believe the response that I received.  Within just 15 minutes or so of posting, I had over 45 mats promised to be shipped to me.  I am so thankful for the DDP Yoga family that have generously supported me and Building the Broken by either shipping me mats, buying t-shirts from me, or donating financially.  Diamond Dallas Page even donated mats and 2 combo packs!

Where can people find you?

All of my class times, blogs, the few recipes I have and other information is at Building The Broken You can also follow me on Facebook!

Email Mary

3

Wish I Hadn’t Reddit

Oh internet, how you vex me! I just stumbled onto a “review” of DDP Yoga on Reddit, and as has been the case before, I can’t let this one go without a rebuttal.

I don’t even know where to start with this one. The reviewer, EtherBoo, complains that DDP Yoga is simultaneously not challenging enough and also too challenging (?!?).

2000px-Schrodingers_cat.svg

Schrödinger’s yoga? Oh, c’mon, that’s funny dammit!

1. Too Easy?

Let’s take the “not challenging enough” claim first. The reviewer’s background is as follows: he was 300+ lbs, before losing the weight (seriously, congrats!!!) via diet and cardio (Insanity followed by P90X), and found DDP Yoga after P90X left his body needing “a rest”. I could take the chance to detour into one of my rants about how Beach Body systems are universally high impact and injurious -the reviewer had to cut his Insanity attempts short on 3 occasions for injury- but I will try to stay on topic.

The reviewer writes that he jumped right into the Advanced schedule. However, he also claims that the program guide doesn’t advise going to the Diamond Dozen until Week 3, when it is in fact the very first workout on Day 1 of the Advanced Schedule.

Found it!

Found it!

That’s a major flaw in the reviewer’s argument, because going into DDP Yoga workouts without following this tutorial will rob you of the information needed to get the very most out of this workout program, regardless of your background in fitness. The reviewer said he was at an intermediate/advanced level but that doesn’t apply to DDP Yoga. The positions you need to learn and methods of holding poses in DDP Yoga are so unique, that anyone, whether it’s their first time working out, whether they can bench 300, run marathons every weekend, or have a decade of classical yoga under their belt, is at the beginner level when they start DDP Yoga. That’s why the phrase “check your ego” is one of the most commonly uttered in the DDPY community.

We’re all absolute beginners!

In particular Dynamic Resistance is not something you’re going to pick up on the fly. Despite the reviewer’s claim that he was not adequately informed that it was critical to get the Diamond Dozen down pat, you are told about this in multiple places throughout the email you receive when you buy the DVDs, on the new members page of TeamDDPYoga.com, in the program guide, and within the community.

Dynamic resistance replaces high impact movements to create a high cardio workout. Without perfecting that skill, someone at an intermediate/advanced level may not get a into their cardio zone in the shorter workouts (the Double Black Diamond will kick anyone’s ass, Dynamic Resistance or not). In contrast, when you have Dynamic Resistance down, even short workouts like Fat Burner can get you straight into your cardio zone. In fact, I can get into my cardio zone within a minute doing DDP Yoga moves.*

Let’s be clear. Dynamic Resistance is hard! I struggle with it to this day. As humans, we are built to expend as little energy as possible, so it takes a lot of practice to force yourself into the habit of turning that on its head. Dynamic Resistance is not something you will get down after a couple of workouts, which is why reviews like this one, and Adam Bluestein’s poorly researched piece are never going to fully describe the benefits of DDP Yoga. Like classical yoga, DDP Yoga will always be a “practice.”

2. Too Hard?

On to the “too challenging” complaint. The author figured that a couple of weeks of the advanced schedule would be all he needed to jump straight into the Extreme Psycho Workout. It didn’t work out so well, and so he complained that nothing in the Combo Pack workouts prepared him for the advanced moves in the Extreme Psycho. If only there were some sort of resource that would help you out in that respect:

DDP-Yoga-Extreme-Disc-1

I’ll be up all night trying to figure this one out…

Aside from the tutorial specifically intended for the Extreme Psycho, the preceding workouts do in fact prepare you for it. The increased flexibility will help you with the banana splits, Red Hot Core will help you prepare for forearm balance, the progression of 3, 5, and 10 count push-ups will help you build to Psycho Push-ups.

And you are not going to get everything first go… you’re not meant to! In contrast to Mr. Boo’s claim that DDP Yoga is not ideal for someone looking to build their yoga DVD library, DDP Yoga is something that will keep advanced yogis busy for a long time. As we say in DDP Yoga, “There’s always some place to go!”

3. Now For My Nitpicks!

a) The reviewer makes the claim that the Extreme workouts were clearly an after-thought. I love when people declare something to be true merely on the grounds that they thought it. Having studied DDP Yoga for quite a long time, I can now see the progression, and it appears to me that the Extreme Workouts are aimed at the certain percentage of the DDP Yoga community who are advanced in their DDP Yoga skills, looking to kick it up a notch, and want to get down and dirty. It’s filmed with a more gritty feel, and with more advanced students to incorporate that sense. This is a nitpick, because even if EtherBoo is correct, they are fantastic workouts, and continue to challenge me to this day.

b) The author speaks of swan dives and reverse swan dives as if they were the second coming of spinal rehab. They’re not. They are certainly good for lower back strength, but his assertion that doing more of them would replace the Diamond Cutter is ridiculous. It would make it more like traditional yoga, but as we will discuss below that is not what DDP wants to do! Also, it shows a profound lack of understanding of the anatomy of yoga. The Diamond Cutter works to stretch and lengthen the spine. Reverse swan dives strengthen lower back muscles. Not interchangeable. Also, reverse swan dives aren’t absent from DDP Yoga! I can actually hear DDP saying “back flat, arms stretched out like wings” in my head. This highlights the gripe I have with Messers Boo and Bluestein: you need more than a fleeting familiarity with a program to write an informed review!

c) The author totally confuses the point of DDP Yoga and who its target audience is. He is definitely under the impression that DDP Yoga is aimed at the practitioners of classical yoga, and that DDP is trying to compete with more established names in that genre such as Iyengar or home DVD names as Yee, Kest or (ugh) Tony Horton. The fact that he (repetitively) throws P90X in as evidence of his familiarity with classical yoga, and therefore proof of his ability to compare DDP Yoga to classical yoga makes me hang my head in shame.

P90X Yoga is trying to compete in the classical yoga field. Tony Horton takes regular yoga and teaches it badly (in Yoga-X he has you go straight into a deep hamstring stretch with zero warm up, and Yoga-X3 is just a mess with zero flow, modifications or focus on form). The author throws down his trump card by saying “P90X2 Yoga has a yogi who’s been practicing for 15 years!” Fascinating. DDP Yoga has a two main yogis, one (DDP) that has been practicing for 16 years and another (Yoga-Doc Craig Aaron) that has been practicing for 27 years, and they have both been developing the program together from Day 1, not just breezing in for the second set of DVDs (such as P90X2)! Q.E.D.

You like risking unnecessary injury….?

The reviewer makes the assumption -and therefore delivers as fact- that DDP is “a small fish in a very large pond,” and has renamed all the yoga moves funny things like Touchdown, Catcher, Deadman and Woman, Showstoppers, and (my favourite) HPS as a gimmick to stand out from the crowd. I get it, after immersing yourself in Beach Body products for a number of years, all you see is gimmicks! But that’s not what’s happening here.

DDP isn’t interested in selling DDP Yoga to classical yoga practitioners. Attend any of his workshops and you will hear him tell the history of DDP Yoga. He talks about how he wanted to bring DDP Yoga to the people who “wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga.” He has done amazing work both with the troops, and with professional wrestlers to that end. DDP isn’t trying to stand out in the crowd… he’s in a different building! The funny names are just one part of an overall approach to make DDP Yoga accessible to those who are put off by the inaccessible elements of classical yoga.

That being said, DDP Yoga is universally beneficial, even to those who have practiced classical yoga. From the sounds of things, I have a much stronger background in classical yoga than EtherBoo. However, because DDP Yoga incorporates Dynamic Resistance, sports rehab and old school strength building, I was able to get a lot more out of it than I ever did in classical yoga classes: rehabbing the joints Beach Body et al. bust up, building strength (can you hold a plank for 30 minutes, EtherBoo??) and in calories burned. As DDP always says, “It Ain’t Your Mama’s Yoga!” And it’s not trying to be!

I love memes!

d) A similar “this isn’t classical yoga” point can be made about breathing. Yes, in certain moves in classical yoga nose breathing is appropriate (as pointed out by the author). However, in power moves, a more Pilates-like mouth breathing is more suitable. The author again confuses DDP Yoga as classical yoga and criticizes the lack of focus on nasal breathing. This isn’t classical yoga. We don’t just hold static poses for long periods of time and slowly move from one pose to the next. This is a high cardio workout. Learning to perfect diaphragm breathing, which DDP hammers home in a separate tutorial and in the intro of every workout is going to help the body efficiently utilize oxygen to get through each position and build strength and cardio endurance for this type of workout.

Don’t get me wrong, my hat is off to EtherBoo. I tried to lose weight with the Beach Body catalogue, but just couldn’t. I couldn’t stay on the wagon with the repetitive injuries and ended up gaining weight. EtherBoo, on the other hand, plowed through, although ultimately found those programs unsustainable. I was luckier; I found DDP Yoga at the start of what ended up being my successful weight loss journey, and found it to be accessible as a beginner, sustainable** throughout and beyond my weight loss journey, and challenging now that I am at an advanced level of fitness.

*I consider myself to be at an advanced level of cardio fitness (full marathon and multiple half-marathons completed, workout 1 – 2 hours a day, multiple fitness certifications, active DDP Yoga instructor, etc. etc.) 

**No injuries!

Note: after publishing, a Team DDP Yoga member pointed out the irony of taking issue with DDP’s renaming of standard moves when Tony Horton does the exact same thing!  (Thanks Lyn M.)

What a Shame!

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend on social media recently, namely the public shaming of people who don’t seem to know what they’re doing at the gym.

This was the first clip of this I saw:

And then I saw this Vine that follows the same format:

I am currently employed as a group fitness instructor, and have access to a full gym. While I frequently use the cardio room and free-weights, I rarely if ever venture into the weight room. Everyone in there is built like Craig Funk* clearly knows what they are doing, and despite being a fitness professional, I still have the same fear of looking like an idiot that I had the first time I entered a gym.

Gyms are fantastic places to get strong, healthy and lean, but if you have never been in one before they are also truly terrifying places. I have been the overweight, frumpy girl who clearly doesn’t belong in the gym. I have tried to make it look like I know what I am doing to all the lean, toned gym-bodies while I secretly have no idea what body part any of the equipment is meant to work. I have tried to avoid eye-contact and push through the embarrassment and fear of judgement as I try to lose weight and get healthy. I have spent entire visits to the gym worrying if everyone around me is laughing at me, judging me, or simply wishing I’d take my doesn’t-belong-here overweight self off the stair-climber and back to drive-thru fast food restaurant where it clearly belongs. And I have let those fears keep me from coming back.

I doubt I’m alone. I am sure most people entering the gym for the first time are worried everyone around them is laughing at them and judging them.

These YouTube and Vine clips prove them right.

Yes, it’s definitely funny when we see someone doing something wrong, but it’s also mean-spirited. While we may have the impulse to laugh, it may behoove us to take a second to remember that none of us walked into a gym the first time knowing how all the equipment worked. We either had a friend show us, the benefit of solid self-esteem to get past the initial hiccups and gym fails, and most importantly the good fortune to have started our fitness journeys before this new trend of online gym-shaming began.

While we may not be able to control the impulse to chuckle internally, we can definitely rise above the impulse to publicly humiliate someone online.

I could have finished that last sentence as follows: “…. someone online, especially someone who is trying to improve themselves.” That brings me to the flip-side of the mean-spirited gym-shaming, which is its positive discrimination counterpart. You’ve probably seen a lot of these sorts of posts online:

While I have massive respect for anyone who is trying to improve their lives with good health, especially when they face the level of disrespect overweight people suffer in this society, I am at odds with the overall messaging here.

Yes, if we see this person on a bicycle we should support and encourage them. But does that mean if we see them sitting on a couch with a box of cookies, we’re entitled to mock and denigrate them at will?

Maybe they aren’t trying to better themselves in the specific way we want them to (i.e. by losing weight and exercising), but maybe that person is bettering themselves by studying hard to finish a college degree. Maybe they are supporting their family. Maybe they foster children, or spend every free minute volunteering at a soup kitchen or a no-kill cat shelter. Maybe they are looking after a dying relative, or maybe they take care of an elderly neighbor they barely know. We should support and encourage people we meet whether or not they are focused on they self-improvements we think they should be prioritizing, and whether or not they are at the weight or health level we expect them to be.

In fact who are we to deem someone worthy of basic respect? Maybe they are making no improvements to themselves or meaningful contributions to society at all. That person is still a human being, which means they are worthy of respect and kindness regardless of any other consideration. It also means we are all equal, and no one person has the authority to judge the worth of another human being else based on their health, weight or activity level.

Respect isn’t something that should have to be earned. It should be the default.

And this brings me to Team DDP Yoga. Having been deterred from previous fitness and weight loss efforts by the ridicule of others, whether perceived or actual, I finally found an amazing community of people who truly support and care about one another. Team DDP is unique in that everyone wants the best for one another. People are allowed to fall off the wagon, make bad choices or hit the various hurdles we all encounter during a self-improvement project without fear of judgement or mockery, and when they’re ready to get back on the wagon, everyone is ready to give them a hand up. It’s the only place on earth where you can share your successes without any fear of cattiness or jealousy. It’s the only fitness community where you can ask for help without feeling stupid or embarrassed. Everyone is on your team, willing to help you out with anything you’re struggling with, and rooting for you every step of the way.

I can say without reservation that I never would have met with my goals without the support of all the friends and teammates I met at Team DDP. I never would have stuck with fitness for longer than a month (my previous personal best) without Team DDP. I never would have improved as a person without Team DDP.

If you’re looking for a healthy and supportive environment to get healthy, Team DDP is the most supportive and encouraging community you’re ever going to find. After all, it’s the “Best Support System on the Planet!”

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 11.54.49 PM

* While Craig Funk has the most amazing physique, he is also an amazing, caring person too. He’s a true ambassador of TeamDDPyoga!