Dahn yoga

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Dahn Yoga & Health Centers, Inc.
Privately held
Industry Health and Wellness
Founded June 18, 1996 (1996-06-18)
Founder Ilchi Lee
Headquarters Gilbert, AZ, USA
Number of locations
69 Corporate owned locations,
35 Franchises
Area served
Key people
Helen Kim (CEO and President)
Hee Nam Kim (Executive Director)
Temani Aldine (VP and Gen. Counsel)
Products Yoga and Self-Healing Books, Music and Video
Services Yoga Classes, Tai Chi Classes, Ki Gong Classes
Number of employees
Website www.dahnyoga.com

Dahn yoga (also known as Dahn Hak or Dahnhak) is a Korean physical exercise system and business founded in 1985 by Ilchi Lee. In Korean, dahn means "primal, vital energy," and hak means "study of a particular theory or philosophy."[1] News sources have described its exercises as "a blend of yoga, tai chi, and martial arts exercises." Dahn Yoga is taught through for-profit and non-profit studios as well as community centers.[2]

Training methods[edit]

People practicing Dahn yoga in a Dahn Center.

According to Dahn Yoga Basics, a book published by Dahn Yoga Education, Dahn Yoga has "three unique characteristics": "the mastery and use of energy", "enhancing the body-brain connection", and "self-managed, holistic health care".[3] The practice draws upon traditional notions of ki, also known as chi or qi.[4] A typical class begins with what is called "Meridian Stretching" exercise, which is believed to stimulate the energy in the body.[5] After these stretching exercises, practitioners normally follow a sequence of postures. Classes often include elements of meditation, as well.[1]

An article by three physicians from Weill Cornell Medical College published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine reported the conclusions of a 3-month study of community-based mind-body training methods. The study surveyed 171 adults enrolled at various Dahn Yoga Centers in the New York City area. All of the participants had taken ten or fewer classes at the beginning of the study. The article concludes that participants reported "moderate improvements after 3 months of practice" with increased scores "in all [of the surveyed] domains of health-related quality of life, fewer depressive symptoms, less trait anxiety, and greater self-efficacy".[6] The design and objectivity of the study has been called into question by Dr. William Briggs, PhD, statistician and professor at Weill Cornell, who critiqued the study on his blog and described why he believes the positive results were likely due to regression to the mean.

Brain Wave Vibration[edit]

Brain Wave Vibration is promoted as a mental and physical health enhancement technique developed by Ilchi Lee. According to Lee, brain waves are a type of vibration that has a significant effect on a person’s health and outlook on life.[7] A form of moving meditation (head-shaking), the technique was described by one Dahn instructor: "By shaking your head and vibrating your body, you bring healing energy. You just need to close your eyes and turn your head right and left, right and left, focusing on the center of your brain and keeping a rhythm. Afterwards, you feel very rejuvenated!"[8] As part of CNN's three-part investigation into controversy and lawsuits surrounding Dahn Yoga, Neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta was asked about testimonials that Brain Wave Vibration "lowered blood pressure, corrected lazy eyes, [and] even reduced symptoms of multiple sclerosis." Gupta stated that the notion of vibrating the brain or other parts of the body to turn parts of the brain on and off is not grounded in science and that anecdotes are not empirically verifiable.[9]

Brain Education[edit]

The tradenames Brain Education, and Brain Education Systems Training (or BEST), refer to a set of exercises developed and promoted by Ilchi Lee subsequent to his "Brain Respiration" and "Dahnhak." According to Dahn Yoga's Web site, after more than 27 years of practice, Lee had developed a system of exercises, breathing, and stretches “to activate the natural healing rhythms of the brain and body.”[10] Brain Education is described as consisting of five separate steps: brain sensitizing, brain versatilizing, brain refreshing, brain integrating, and brain mastering.[10] Dr. Ben Goldacre of the U.K. lambasted Ilchi Lee's brain education claims as pseudoscience in his Guardian column "Bad Science" in 2004.[11]


In 1985 the first Dahn Yoga Center opened in downtown Seoul. By 1990, fifty locations were teaching Dahn Yoga in South Korea.[12] In 1991, the first U.S. Dahn Yoga Center was opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1997 the Sedona Ilchi Meditation Center (SIMC) was established, hosting specialized programs open to Dahn yoga members for a fee. Over the next ten years Dahn yoga focused on expanding its operations globally.

The Dahn Yoga Foundation was created in 2006, offering classes for free or at reduced rates in senior centers,[13] community centers,[14] churches, public parks, offices, schools and hospitals.[15] In addition to the outreach classes, Dahn Yoga Foundation volunteers participate in community service projects.[16]


There have been accusations that the organization operates a manipulative "cult" that uses coercive persuasion and thought reform methods to create deeply devoted Dahn masters (teachers) who persuade others to devote all their time, energy, and money to Dahn programs, events, and ceremonies, and to become loyal Dahn masters themselves.[17][18][19][20]

In 2002, a former Dahn employee filed a civil lawsuit in Alameda County, California, for Unfair Business Practices and Undue Influence against Seung Heun Lee, et al.[21][22] The case was reportedly settled out of court with no admission of guilt.[23]

Several popular media outlets reported on the plaintiffs' allegations, including Glamour Magazine, WE tv, and CNN; WBZ Channel 4 News in Boston interviewed two of the claimants on June 11, 2009.[24]

On January 5, 2010, CNN broadcast a critical report about the organization with interviews of former Dahn Yoga members alleging severe physical, mental and financial abuse by Dahn Yoga personnel and staff, including one former member stating she was coerced into donating funds to the organization by taking out student loans totalling over $40,000 USD.[25] Allegations were dismissed in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona August 25, 2010.[26]

Rolling Stone Magazine published an article in March 2010 entitled "The Yoga Cult" alleging that "Dahn's calling itself "yoga" is just a marketing ploy to enhance its appeal to Americans;" that instead it is a mind control cult designed to part people from their money. According to the article, the group brought in $30 million in the U.S. in 2009 and charges as much as $100,000 for a seminar.[27]

An article in Forbes magazine in July 2009 contained similar allegations against Dahn Yoga. It reported allegations by former members that they were pressured to train to become paid “Dahn Masters,” paying up to $10,000 each for workshops that lasted as long as three weeks.[28] If students could not afford the training, the article states, they were encouraged to take out loans and carry credit card debt.[28] Plaintiffs in a suit against the group claim that once they became "Dahn Masters" they were then given recruitment and revenue quotas that had them working up to 120 hours per week. [28]

Wrongful Death Suit[edit]

Among other media reports, a 2006 CBS news report and the Village Voice described a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Dahn Yoga's founder and related entities. According to the lawsuit, Julia Siverls, 41, died in 2003 from heat stroke and dehydration during a master training hike at the Ilchi Meditation Center in Sedona.[17][29] The lawsuit also accuses the Lee of "breaking wage and immigration laws, evading taxes and sexually abusing female disciples."[27] According to a document filed by the Southern District of New York of the United States District Court, the case was dismissed on August 1, 2008.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dahn Yoga Education (2006). Dahn Yoga Basics. Healing Society. ISBN 1-932843-17-5. 
  2. ^ "Lake Braddock Students Learn How To Give Back". Connectionnewspapers.com. 2010-11-10. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  3. ^ Dahn Yoga Education (2006). Dahn Yoga Basics. Healing Society. pp. 15–16. ISBN 1-932843-17-5. 
  4. ^ Dahn Yoga Education (2006). Dahn Yoga Basics. Healing Society. pp. 21–29. ISBN 1-932843-17-5. 
  5. ^ Dahn Yoga Education (2006). Dahn Yoga Basics. Healing Society. p. 45. ISBN 1-932843-17-5. 
  6. ^ Lee SW, Mancuso CA, Charlson ME (July 2004). "Prospective study of new participants in a community-based mind-body training program". J Gen Intern Med 19 (7): 760–5. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2004.30011.x. PMC 1492489. PMID 15209590. 
  7. ^ "Learn The Method « Brain Wave Vibration". Brainwavevibration.com. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  8. ^ "Aging Gracefully with Yoga, Humor, and Joy". Neighbor Newspapers. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  9. ^ "CNN.com - Transcripts". Transcripts.cnn.com. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  10. ^ a b "Classes combining Yoga, Tai chi, Meditation". Dahn Yoga. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  11. ^ Goldacre, Ben (October 28, 2004). "brain sensitising" Bad Science column, Guardian.
  12. ^ "Dahn Yoga Video Introduces History and Growth of Dahn Yoga Founded by Ilchi Lee" (Press release). PR Web, Dahn Yoga. 2011-03-12. Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  13. ^ Fremont's Holy Family sisters enjoy yoga class. Inside Bay Area. April 20, 2011;. Accessed December 21, 2011.
  14. ^ "Burien woman teaches yoga for the blind". Highlinetimes.com. 2011-05-02. Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  15. ^ "Bethesda woman uses yoga to heal". gazette.net. 2011-10-20. Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  16. ^ "UCM Reaches Help The Homeless Walkathon Goal". alexandrianews.org. 2011-11-14. Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  17. ^ a b Zekman, Pam (2006). "Dahn Hak: Yoga Program Or Dangerous Con?", CBS2 Chicago. Accessed at ReligionNewsBlog.
  18. ^ http://www.ex-cult.org/General/lifton-criteria
  19. ^ "Lawsuit calls yoga chain a cult - CNN.com". CNN. January 7, 2010. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  20. ^ Investigative report on Dahn Yoga, SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System), Korea, March 2010. Video accessible at DailyMotion.com.
  21. ^ DomainWeb: Access to General Civil, Family Law, and Probate Cases Superior Court of California, County of Alameda; Case Summary # 2002068156; See Register of Actions. Accessed January 23, 2008.
  22. ^ Elton, Catherine "The Other Side of Enlightenment," BostonMagazine.com, August, 2007. Accessed January 29, 2008.
  23. ^ Bergantino, Joe [1] WBZTV, February 3, 2006. Accessed January 28, 2008.
  24. ^ Germano, Beth "Yoga Group Accused of Coercion, Sex Assault," WBZTV, June 11, 2009. Accessed June 16, 2009.
  25. ^ Kyra Phillips and David Fitzpatrick, CNN (2010-01-07). "CNN Justice: Lawsuit calls yoga chain a cult". Cnn.com. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  26. ^ "Dahn Yoga Wins Key Victories in Court". news.yahoo.com. 2010-09-29. 
  27. ^ a b http://rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-yoga-cult-20100328
  28. ^ a b c Falkenberg, Kai. Forbes http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/0803/fraud-dahn-yoga-centers-body-brain-and-wallet.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. ^ Kathryn Belgiorno (2006-07-04). "The Village Voice July 11th, 2006". Villagevoice.com. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  30. ^ Stipulation of Dismissal, Case 1:05-cv-07518-PKC, Document 144, August 1, 2008

External links[edit]