Another yoga franchise is under scrutiny by the public for its cult-like influence on its students. Dahn yoga was founded by Ilchi Lee in 1985 and said to place equal emphasis on physical, emotional and spiritual well- being using components of yoga, tai chi and martial arts to do so. However, many have stepped forward to disagree.
Brain wave vibration
A typical Dahn yoga class begins with ‘meridian stretching’ to stimulate the body into a sequence of postures and ultimately into head shaking, also known as ‘Brain Wave Vibration’.
Teachers of Dahn Yoga believe that by shaking the head you bring healing energy to the body and that it can correct an assortment of ailments including lazy eyes, and high blood pressure and even reduce symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.
Where is the controversy?
While the classes appear to be very similar to a typical yoga practice, the controversy surrounds the promises made by teachers of Dahn yoga to their students – and the costs associated with those promises, both physically and financially.
Students paid thousands of dollars to attend retreats where their devotion to finding enlightenment was tested through demanding exercises such as holding their breath underwater as long as possible and ejecting to the surface shouting devotional songs to the ‘Grand Master’. Thought to be saving their souls and rescuing the world from annihilation, students would spend all their savings.
A wrongful death suit was brought forward by the family of a young devotee who died during a training hike in 2003. This was not the only suit filed against Dahn yoga. In 2009, twenty-seven former members and employees sued the the organization for fraud, undue influence, unfair and deceptive business practice, emotional distress, wage and hour law violation and civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act).
The wrongful death suit of 2003 was dismissed with no fault found. Of the 27 suits filed in May of 2009, 10 were dismissed and the other 17 were withdrawn due to fear of counterclaims and difficulty anticipated in meeting the requirements of discovery.
Although no monies was paid to any of the defendants regarding this case, approximately $11,000 was awarded to the defendants for litigation costs. Some of the plaintiffs admitted that the lawsuit allegations were not what they had intended and directly contradicted their experience with Dahn yoga, where others stand by their opinion that the franchise is a ‘cult’.
What do you think?
Do you think the practitioners of Dahn yoga are participating in a cult, or do you feel the onus is to be placed on the individual teachers for acting irresponsibly with their students?
Always remember, whether it’s a posture or a gut feeling, if something doesn’t feel right for you, stop. Contact us if you have any questions or concerns.
Editor: Sarah Head