It was one of the biggest and most inspirational stories of 2012. And the video of Arthur Boorman’s amazing transformation from partially disabled, depressed and overweight Gulf War vet who could hardly walk to a fit and fiercely optimistic yoga teacher who lost 140 lbs and gained his life back went viral more than once and became a phenomenon on the internets. (If you haven’t seen it, scroll down for the video.)
This is our interview with Arthur, a special ed teacher by profession, a practicing Buddhist and a hell of a nice guy. He tells us about his introduction to yoga (in the army of all places), how he found DDP Yoga and his thoughts on his inspiring transformation and what being a yogi means.
Arthur, you’ve been through a crazy inspiring transformation that brought tears to people’s eyes and motivated many others. What was it like to have your video go so viral? What does yoga mean to you now?
I’ll be honest.
Yoga is a joy and a love and it’s not just an exercise for me, it’s a huge part of my life. But at the same time it’s a lot of work. Just to remain aware, to remain focused while you’re doing…even something as simple as a Sun Salutation.
Even at a simple level yoga is a lot of work. A lot of people, they want something like that thing on TV where you strap the belt on your waist and you turn it on and you don’t have to work. That’s what a lot of people want. People write me or call me and they think I’ve got some magic pill or something, a yoga pill, that they can take and suddenly BAM they’ve got it all. And there’s no such thing. But that’s part of what makes it neat.
Did you know much about yoga before your experience with DDP?
A little bit, but not the way you would think. A very long time ago, before I met the lovely Mrs. Boorman, I was a young single man in the army at a military base in Germany. There was a young girl that I was interested in and she was going to the yoga classes that they had at the rec center. So I went along with her. I really enjoyed the classes after a while. At first, I’ll be honest, I went with impure motivations, but after awhile I started to feel really good. I enjoyed going to the class.
Yoga in the army, how did that go for you?
I took a lot of ribbing from my friends in the barracks, cause it’s like ‘OK you’re the only guy in the class with 20 some odd skinny little yoga girls. Target rich environment.’ They all thought I was a big horn dog about it, but the reality was, I was enjoying the class. Then the teacher moved away. She was married to a guy and the guy got transferred and there was no more yoga class.
That was about 2 months of going to class twice a week. That was my previous yoga experience.
As a paratrooper you sustained injuries that left you unable to walk without braces and canes. Did you look into yoga after the army?
I looked at some of the DVDs and videos out there and they just weren’t doing it for me. They assumed that you could do certain things like stand or move on your own. I actually went to a couple of places and was turned away because they didn’t have anybody who knew how to work with me.
How did you come across DDP Yoga?
I was on the internet searching, typing different things. You know how it is you type something in and when you don’t quite get what you want you start throwing in different combinations of words into the search engine.
I threw in ‘yoga’ and ‘broken back’ and up popped Diamond Dallas Page. I recognized the name and clicked on it out of curiosity. Next thing I know I’m looking at his YouTubes. I’m sitting on the edge of my bed and thinking ‘hey I can do this!’
One thing led to another and I bought the DVDs (back then they were called YRG) and I was working with them and I started getting emails back and forth with Dallas and everything just started to happen.
What was it that really kept you going?
Combination of everything. [See the YD interview with DDP]
The first couple of weeks I noticed that I was losing weight. He [DDP] told me don’t weigh in the first month, weigh in the end of the first month. Weigh in monthly. So I didn’t weight myself but I could see. I had pants that were no longer fitting. I was losing serious inches and I was feeling better.
How did the idea arise for posting videos online?
That was my uber technical number one son, Warren. I wanted to put it out on the net because I was afraid of losing it. I’d had progress before that I’d lost and I didn’t want to lose it. So I figured I’m going to put myself out there and let the internet be my cheering section or my hey you’re screwing up section. I figured if you put it out there and start screwing off, people will tell you. People are not always subtle. I was counting on that. I needed that.
Someone put a comment on YouTube and said ‘so he obviously expected to lose.’ No I didn’t. If you know anything about yoga, yoga is a place where there are no expectations.
The asanas are there. Were you moved to look into the other limbs?
If you’re a decent person to some degree you’re already following the Yamas and Niyamas. Asana comes next. Now, Dallas mixes Asana and Pranayama. If you stop and think about it, that’s four out of eight limbs right there.
You sound like you’ve done some deeper research.
I’m a RYT 500hr. I’m also certified as a prenatal yoga teacher and certified to teach Yin. That all happened in the last 5 years.
When was the moment you decided you wanted to learn more?
Around the time I began to feel my toes again, seven or eight months in. I love teaching.
Do you teach yoga now?
Yes I do. Four classes a week.
Do you think DDP Yoga appeals to people who may not have approached yoga another way?
This, I think, is a big problem that Dallas is trying to address in his own way. Every now and then I see these articles, “Why Don’t Men Do Yoga?” Look at who does yoga in the economic middle class; you have women but you don’t have men. It’s because yoga has built this thing around it, and I mean the capital ‘Y’ studio yoga, has built this thing around itself where it’s…people want lettuce, not arugula you know what I mean? It’s built this mystique about itself where it’s this deep philosophical blah blah blah. And yeah on a certain level it is. But that’s like saying every Christian in the world needs to quote Saint Augustine by verse. You don’t.
You can be a yogi if your heart is in the right place if you’ve never even heard the word yoga. Or you can have your 500 hrs and be able to spell your name backwards in Sanskrit, but if you go out and something happens wrong and you blow up, all you are is a type A heart attack waiting to happen. It’s can you respond to what’s going on out there with some humor, some grace and pardon the pun, some flexibility. That’s what makes you a yogi. Not can I recite the Yamas and the Niyamas, not who’s yoga book have I read, not do I have Erich Schiffmann’s autograph. It’s not like that. It’s what’s in your heart.
I always tell my students, it’s something I learned from Dallas, and I think he got it from Bryan Kest, is the position is irrelevant. The position is a tool. Asana is a tool. We put ourselves on the mat and twist ourselves into all these uncomfortable positions. Why? So we can practice being uncomfortable. So we can learn to deal with that discomfort, with some grace and some compassion. And it’s hard. We all screw up sooner or later. But it’s about being observant and catching yourself and saying ‘Hold it! Back the truck up. Deal with it.’ It’s not about having a giant Om tattooed on your back.
Do you see Diamond Dallas Page as a Yogi?
I think sometimes he doesn’t see just how much of a pure yoga message he puts out. I see Dallas Page as a yogi. He doesn’t necessarily come off that way, but if you hang around with him long enough you will start seeing some of those things.
We say change has to come from within. Dallas always says what happens to you is 10%, what you do about it is 90%. How different is that, really? He’s making it accessible to people.
There he is yet again. Dallas going and being a yogi.