A controversial practice blending physical exercises and spirituality, with allegations of cult-like behavior.
Dahn Yoga, also known as Body & Brain or Dahn Hak, is a system founded by Ilchi Lee in 1985. It incorporates a Korean style of physical exercise system called Brain Education, which includes exercises, breathing techniques, and stretches aimed at activating the body’s natural healing rhythms.
History and Development
The first Dahn Yoga center opened in Seoul, South Korea, in 1985, and rapidly expanded, with multiple centers established globally. In 1991, the first U.S. center was opened in Philadelphia. Dahn Hak later underwent a rebranding to Body & Brain.
Brain Education, developed by Ilchi Lee, consists of exercises designed to enhance brain function and overall well-being. However, these claims have been criticized as pseudoscientific by some experts.
Controversies and Legal Issues
Dahn Yoga has faced several controversies, including accusations of operating like a cult. Allegations include the use of coercive persuasion and thought reform methods to create devoted followers who are encouraged to devote significant time, energy, and financial resources to the organization.
- In 2002, a former employee filed a lawsuit in Alameda County, California, for Unfair Business Practices and Undue Influence. This case was reportedly settled out of court.
- A 2010 CNN report included interviews with former members alleging physical, mental, and financial abuse within the organization.
- Rolling Stone Magazine and Forbes have also published critical articles about Dahn Hak, alleging that it operates more like a business scheme focused on financial gain than a spiritual or health practice.
- A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the organization after the death of Julia Siverls, who died of heat stroke and dehydration during a training hike.
Public Perception and Response
The organization has faced public scrutiny and media attention due to these controversies. Claims against Dahn Yoga range from fraud to more severe allegations like sexual assault and wrongful death. Critics argue that Dahn Yoga’s claims of providing a harmonious life and healing are overshadowed by these allegations and the organization’s focus on financial gain.
Despite the controversies, Dahn Hak continues to operate under the name Body & Brain, with centers offering classes and programs based on its exercise and meditation system. The organization’s approach to spirituality and physical well-being, however, remains a subject of debate and skepticism.