Lawsuit calls Dahn Yoga chain a cult

CNN’s Campbell Brown broadcast a special report on a lawsuit against Dahn Yoga:

[Part 3 to follow]

[Ilchee] Lee, a South Korean businessman, is the founder of a national chain of yoga and wellness centers called Dahn Yoga. The company teaches that its physical exercises “can restore the vibrations of the body and brain to their original, healthy frequencies,” according to a video introduction on its Web site.

But Dahn Yoga is now defending itself from allegations by former employees that it is “a totalistic, high-demand cult group” that demands large sums of money from its followers and enshrines Lee as an “absolute spiritual and temporal leader.”

A lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Arizona, says that recruits “are unknowingly subjected to an intensive program of psychological manipulation, indoctrination and various techniques of coercive thought reform designed to induce them to become Ilchi Lee’s disciples and devote themselves to serving him and his ‘vision.’ ”

Jade Harrelson, one of more than two dozen plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said Dahn leaders “prey upon people like me who are ignorant about the way money works.”
– Source / Full Story: Lawsuit calls yoga chain a cult, Kyra Phillips and David Fitzpatrick, CNN, Jan. 5, 2010

On Campbell Brown’s blog David Fitzpatrick, of the CNN Special Investigations Unit, wrote:

Dahn Yoga’s public relations representatives say around half a million people currently are members. According to an article in Forbes Magazine last summer, a little more than 5,000 people work for it. The magazine also estimates the yoga business and other affiliated companies stood to make about $34 million in 2009. Over the years, the company says, nearly 2 million people have practiced Dahn yoga. Its website claims celebrity endorsements from some prominent figures.

All very impressive facts.

So what to make of the accusations by 27 former employees, most of whom reached the level of so-called “Dahn Master”, or “leader”, inside the organization? The federal civil lawsuit they filed last spring in Arizona and amended only a month or so ago is replete with claims that, to even make it to that stage within the organization, these people felt coerced to spend money they didn’t have.

Not unexpectedly, the company denies everything. Its lawyers say Dahn is definitely not a cult and that the claims brought forth in the lawsuit are hogwash and highly exaggerated for a single purpose: to squeeze money from the company they once admired. Many of those who work today for Dahn Yoga say the accusations are pure nonsense.

Perhaps if the lawsuit ever gets to trial, the testimony and evidence presented will lead to a definitive conclusion. Most likely, however, it won’t.
– Source: Korean yoga centers a booming business

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This post was last updated: Jan. 7, 2010