Dahn Yoga’s hardsell is a turnoff

For Christmas, I bought Erin a pass for 10 visits to Dahn Yoga, an international chain of yoga schools founded in Korea in the 1970s that has several locations in the Denver area. One is close by, and Erin was interested in taking yoga, so I walked in. I left with the gift certificate for Erin, and a slightly sour aftertaste about the place, because of the high-pressure way I was urged to spend more money for a higher package of classes.

I warned Erin that there was a little of “cult-like” feel about Dahn Yoga, but one of our good friends has been taking classes there for years at another location with the same instructor, so we figured it would be OK. Erin finally attended her first class last week, and also signed both of us up for a free class about brain health (Erin’s an expert on the brain, and loves to learn anything about it).

The brain class was this morning and I enjoyed it a lot. The instructor, Gloria, an effusive Korean woman who wears a beaming smile almost all the time, remembered me immediately and gave me a hug when I came in. The 1 1/2 hour class included lots of cool and I’m sure effective stretching exercises, as well as some exercises designed to help increase brain-body coordination and wake up the brain. I believe a lot of the class was both good for me and that the techniques we did were effective.

The group of students in the class were mostly veterans; one woman and I were the newcomers, and Erin had only attended one class. One woman had been with Dahn Yoga for three years; one man two years. The age of students ranged from the early 20s to 76. Everyone was nice, and every one smiled — Gloria kept urging everyone to smile even during the toughest stretches.

But afterwards, my good feelings for the class were forgotten. Gloria made a point of asking Erin and I to stay because she wanted to talk to us. She spoke of our friend who was her student, and how we were part of our friend’s “family.” She took us in a private room and I wondered if we were going to get a bonus training session. She had us do a couple of stretches, for which we were woefully out of shape, and I was sure she was going to give us some great one-on-one lessons.

That’s when it all changed. Although perfectly pleasant and still smiling, Gloria switched on the hardsell. She brought out a price sheet and a calculator and urged us to spend lots of money — up to $999 for a one-year membership, or $4,500 for a lifetime. I was taken aback because this didn’t match at all the expectation that had been set. She pointed out numbers, how much we’d save by buying a three- six- or one-year pass instead of the one-month or 10 visit pass that I had bought for Erin. She tossed out discounts, and told Erin she should upgrade her membership and that she’s credit er her current pass to the more expensive memberships.

It was the same pitch she had made to me before Christmas, only this time it came without warning after acting like she was our close friend. In fact, the feeling was comparable, I’m sure to being sold an expensive used car by someone you thought was a friend. I almost asked if she had to go and ask her supervisor to give us the discounted price, like the cliched script that’s always used at sleazy car dealerships.

The sad thing is, I liked the class and figured I should sign up because it would be good for me. But the sales pitch completely turned me off. I was uncomfortable and felt cornered and pressured. When I hesitated, Gloria pounced and said I was letting my left brain dictate my decision, and asked if I want to be healthy or not.

At one point I expressed my discomfort and Gloria immediately

I finally caved in and ended up buying the 10-visit deal so I could attend classes with Erin. But afterwards, I felt so scummy I think we’ll drop Dahn Yoga after the visits are used up. If I feel that yoga is a good thing to follow, we’ll find another (and probably less expensive) yoga class.

When I got home, I did what I should have done in the first place — research Dahn Yoga online.

I found a plethora of information and opinions, including ones that rave about the company and their practices, but also many sources online that claim, among other things, that:

– Dahn Yoga isn’t really teaching yoga (something Erin pointed out after her first visit) but a variant of qigong and tai chi.
– Dahn Yoga is often accused of being a cult.
– Dahn Yoga is being sued by the family of a woman who died while attending a training class for instructors.
– I’m not the first person to gripe about the high-pressure sales tactics. One yoga discussion board has a long thread of users who express their concerns about Dahn Yoga.

A site called RickRoss.com has a ton of links to articles, reports and legal documents about Dahn Yoga ad related companies.

It’s worth noting that even detractors say the basic classes at the many Dahn Yoga centers across the country do teach exercises that are good for people and help promote health and relieve stress. It’s when members rise to the next level and are urged to attend classes at the company’s Sedona, Arizona headquarters and training center that the charges of cultism really rise.

I don’t think Gloria is insincere or phony — and I think she’s a terrific instructor and I admire her passion for Dahn Yoga. But there is something of the feel of cultism around even the strip-mall classroom. For me, the high-pressure sales pitch at the local level is enough to turn me off and keep me away after my 10 visits are up.

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9 Responses to Dahn Yoga’s hardsell is a turnoff

  1. kenny song says:

    Dahn Yoga is an underground multimillion dollar business disguised as Yoga. The instructors are all programed to achieve one goal while working as slaves for their programmer, “DR” Ilchi Lee. At first, you might not see what is hidden behind this evil organization since the first stage is about enticing you with unlimited love. But, higher ups in the organization are corrupted and does not practice what they preached. In fact, “Dr”. Ilchie Lee is convicted felon in South Korea and served time in jail for selling unlicensed health food products. I lost my sister to this organization and I don’t want you guys to go through the same thing that my family is going through. Please, do some googling on this evil empire before considering a lesson from them. -khs

  2. fer says:

    Trust your gut, that is the first rule to avoid getting entangled in a cult.

  3. Connie says:

    I add my voice to those who have been duped by the Dahn Yoga company. I came close myself to jumping in whole hog. My experience in brief is that I discovered the “Center” when they participated in a fund raising event for a charity I support. A free class for a contribution to the worthy cause, nice bargain. That was the last bargain. Within six months I had spent upward of $one thousand dollars and I was away for two of those months!! But, the classes were very challenging and I felt strong and fit. So I kept on with it and advocated it to others. Then, after much consideration I took a weekend class. All of my better instincts finally clicked in the weekend of the Shin Sung training. What promises to be a transformational experience is nothing more than an amalagam of bits and piecies from other similar programs that have been around since the 60’s. The very things I have railed about and been opposed to for decades I was accepting in this new and “Eastern “packaging. They are insidious in their hard sell. I pity the young people who so innocently have devoted themselves to this undeserving, selfserving guru.

  4. Leland says:

    My friend has been sucked into this organization. I attend the regular classes but I will not renew because the organization as a whole disgusts me. She has started working at their centers. She left a good paying job for a job that pays her minimum wage with a lot of extra hours. She has to “volunteer” at weekend workshops because they don’t want to pay her overtime (most likely breaking State and Federal labor laws). She has been completely changed. She spends 80-90% of her time with Dahn or Dahn related gropus like YEHA. She went from a woman who put her family first to someone who has pushed them aside time and time again for Dahn. She has financial problems that Dahn is aware of any yet they continue to push her to take more classes and spend money that she doesn’t have. I do what I can to keep her from getting deeper into the organization but she is told that I am trying to control her and she needs to pull away from me. Dahn has a way of finding people with issues and taking advantage of that to get what they want out of them, devotion and money. It saddens me to see what they have done to such an incredible woman but I will not give up on her.

  5. Bron says:

    I was turned off by the hard sell approach as well. I wish I had done some research before spending like $300 on some class. The best part is as soon as you do one class, they pull you aside and tell all about this next class you just HAVE to take. Don’t forget to pick up some vibrating brains and some books on the way out! lol

  6. Jon says:

    My wife has been doing Dahn Yoga for about 6 months now. There are defintiely some aspects of it that are troubling to both of us, including the hard-sell for high-cost memberships and programs. It’s definitely a business.

    On the other hand, the training/practices have real benefit for mind-body development and healing. My wife was on prescription anti-depressants and pain medication (for athritis) for years and is now off them completely. She is also happier and not in a cultish way either.

    BTW, both my wife and I have practiced various kinds of eastern spritual disciplines/martial arts over the last 35 years, including Aikido, Zen and Tai Chi, so we can tell the goods when we it (as well as the BS).

    IMHO, if you go into Dahn Yoga (or any spirtual group) looking for a savior to your unhappy life, it’s going to end up badly. But if you go in with your eyes open and keep your balance, you can find value; whether it’s worth the cost and the hard-sell tactics is up to you.

  7. Ashley says:

    I am one of the original Dahn enthusiasts in my region. I first walked into a new Dahn center opening in my old neighborhood almost a decade ago. And now, after all these years, I am leaving. I feel like Neo in the Matrix when he takes the red pill and wakes up and really SEES for the first time, with open eyes. Once you take the red pill, you can’t go back. And I wouldn’t want to. I am eternally, blissfully grateful for having the courage to take that red pill. In answer to your question: Oh yes, indeedy, Dahn Yoga most certainly is a destructive cult. Pretty much the worst things you have heard are true. It’s been about six weeks or so since I first started to wake up from the Dahn belief system, and the universe just keeps bringing more and more info to me. It just keeps coming.

    If you are in Dahn now, either as an enthusiastic member with mostly/only super postive experiences thus far, or if you are one of the members who are being groomed to become a master, or if you are actually an instructor (instructors used to be called “masters” but the organization recently changed that practice), and you are reading this, I say to you:

    I know you are probably going to dismiss what I am saying as nonsense from someone who is “unenlightened” or just “not getting it,” even though I’ve probably been involved much longer than you have. You have been conditioned to think this way by the group leaders. Your critical thinking process has been systematically disengaged, in such a masterful way, that you (an intelligent, thoughtful person) aren’t even aware of it. But I do know this. In the back of your brain, there is still some small voice that is questioning and wondering if this is all true, if Dahn is for real…

    Only a very small handful of members don’t have that questioning voice in their brains, and these people are truly the victims in all of this. That small group are called by those who have left “the lifers.” The lifers may never get out. And I pray for them, I do. But you. YOU know that you have that small critical voice still inside. It’s been supressed and buried as much as possible. You’ve been taught to regard it as “resistance” and laziness and “negative information” and any number of blocks your ego is throwing up to keep your soul from growing. What you don’t know now is that that small critical voice in your head is what is going to save you in the end. It is a blessing, and later you will be very grateful for it.

    You see, you have taken all of these classes and trainings thru Dahn, thru your center and Sedona, and maybe you’ve even gone to Korea, and as a result, it’s like a voice (another voice) has been implanted in your brain that constantly filters and analyzes everything you see and hear thru the Dahn belief system. So I already know in advance how your brain is going to immediately dismiss what I am saying. If you can’t find an explanation for my assertions, then you will just shut your mind down entirely and will refuse to think about it at all. And you’ll go on your merry way.

    But I know you.

    I WAS you.

    For many, many years. And I know that behind that voice implanted by the Dahn belief system, is the real you, that critical voice you’ve been taught to disregard. That voice will read what I am saying here and will wonder if it’s actually true. You will wonder. You will probably dismiss, for now. But you WILL wonder.

    And weeks or months or even years from now, when you, too, decide to leave Dahn (because almost everyone does, eventually), you may remember this post. And if you remember nothing else that I have said here, there is one thing you SHOULD remember, because it will help you so much: it’s called “mind control.” When you are ready, and you are leaving Dahn, and you are connecting with a whole network of supportive, loving individuals who have also left and who are willing to talk to and listen and share with you, then you will be searching for answers, and this concept will be enormously helpful to you. There is a book that really helped me to make sense of my experience and the Dahn belief system: it’s called “Combatting Cult Mind Control.” It’s a bestseller than you can order thru Amazon. It was written before Dahn existed, but you will be absolutely stunned, as I was, by the parallels between Dahn and other cults that came before it.

    I have come to understand that people walking in the door are usually groomed in one of two ways: either you’re an enthusiastic member repeatedly pushed to pay lots of money for healing sessions and workshops, including repeated trips to Sedona. This is the group that is solely being used for money. These people are usually middle-aged or older and out of shape when they join. They will end up giving THOUSANDS of dollars to Dahn.

    The other group is smaller. These are the young, bright, vibrant people who are recruited to be instructors. They usually don’t have much money (although they will be pushed to open multiple credit card accounts and to ask their families for money). They are wanted for their ENERGY. One of the most interesting things I learned about cults is that they specifically target strong, vibrant people (not weaklings) because they know these will make the most enthusiastic, charismatic leaders who can convince others to join.

    So you might be reading this post and a member of either group 1 or group 2. If you’re in group 1, you’re only going to be shown the most positive aspects of the group. Your experiences will be controlled in such a way by the group leaders that they are only positive, and that is because they want you to keep shelling out that money. It is amazing to behold the number of wealthy, middle-aged members of Dahn. It is common knowledge now that Dahn only opens centers in wealthy, white-bread neighborhoods. However, if you’re in this group, observe the way that Dahn has completely engulfed your life. The instructors push you to do all kinds of trainings, and to spend most of your time at the center. Sure, the exercises make you feel quite good, but notice how doing them has begun to take up such large amounts of your time. Also notice that if you are hesistant to do the next in a long line of expensive trainings, you will be made to understand by the instructor that your reasons for hesitating are not valid. Ever. You are told that it’s “your choice,” but take note of the way they react when you say no. Watch and observe carefully.

    Group 2 members are the true victims of mind control, and that is what people must understand who are criticizing Dahn. The young instructors running these centers are victims themselves. They are to be pitied, not attacked. Imagine the trauma their families feel at having lost a son/daughter/wife/husband/sister/brother to this organization.

    Another classic hallmark of cults is the belief of the most involved members & leaders that they are part of a special, “chosen,” elite, a group of spiritual revolutionaries who are going to heal the world. Did you know that this is the view of pretty much all cults? Did you know that this is what members of the Moonies also believed? When you are eventually coming out of the Dahn belief system, and you are reading everything about this subject that you can get your hands on, you will be flabbergasted to learn the number of parallels between Dahn and the Moonies. I now believe that, historically speaking, Dahn is a more sophisticated, modern-day version of the Moonies.

    Here are some of the things I have learned in the last 6 weeks:

    The business model for the American Dahn system is a Ponzi scheme. This is similar to a pyramid scheme. This is what Madoff was recently jailed for. A Ponzi scheme operates with a central figurehead at the top (Ilchi Lee). The next 2 or 3 levels of the pyramid (his closest associates – most of whom are shadow figures who you will never meet) are the only ones making money. And they are making MILLIONS, buying real estate left and right, creating many new “front groups” (another classic cult hallmark) and enterprises. Going down and down the pyramid, you get to levels, say, 8 and 9. These are the people who are MAKING the money for those at the top. These are the people who are in charge of the grunt work, the sweat, the labor, and most importantly, bringing new recruits into the scheme. The level 8 and 9 people are the Dahn instructors running the centers. These people work 100 hours a week for little money. They sleep 3 to 5 hours a night. They live in communal housing. Almost every moment of their time is given to inventing ways to make more $$$ for their center and for Dahn. In Dahn language, they are working for their “vision.”

    In this context, the way to convince a level 8 and 9 person on the pyramid to work like this, constantly and endlessly, to maximize profits and bring in new members, is to impose an elaborate belief system, something they can passionately and fervently believe in, a religion (if you will), that they will defend to the end. Also necessary is to utilize techniques of mind control in order to disengage their critical thinking processes. Again, I point anyone interested in this subject to the book “Combatting Cult Mind Control,” which can be ordered off Amazon.

    Forty percent of the income at Dahn centers is given to Ilchi Lee, and the center instructors assume it’s for opening new centers and other programmatic expenses. What is kept from them is that much of this money is for the personal enrichment of Lee and the people on the next 2 or 3 levels of the pyramid. Evidence of this is everywhere, and devoted members don’t want to see it.

    Many of you may have been in Sedona and seen Ilchi Lee’s Hummer and his entourage of personal attendants who travel with him (usually anonymous, interchangeable Korean men in business suits). If you went so far as to inquire why Lee drives this expensive, environmentally-unfriendly vehicle, you were probably told that he needs it for the difficult terrain around Sedona, or that he needs it for “protection.” Right? But if you really take some space and sit and think about this situation, you will see that your first impulse was correct, after all: there IS something not right about Lee’s being driven around in a Hummer. In the context of the Dahn belief system, it doesn’t fit. And your rational brain immediately sensed this. But the group leaders are experts at convincing you to distrust your own intuition and to conclude that there are things going on at higher levels in the group that you don’t need to understand or question.

    I can look back now in amazement at the way I “turned off my brain” in these sorts of situations and meekly accepted the explanations given me by the group leaders. And how ironic that Dahn is all about “waking up your brain”! The cognitive dissonance and groupthink are rampant.

    The imposing of a spiritual belief system over a Ponzi scheme business model in order to rake in millions is really, truly genius. Lee and his associates should be congratulating themselves. They’ve done a great job, haven’t they? Let’s have a round of applause for them. Bravo, boys!

    The most troubling aspect of what I have recently learned is definitely painful to write and to think about, but I believe it’s important to air it out and let it see the light of day. I have become aware of an entire network of women who have been sexually abused by Ilchi Lee.

    For those who are reading this and are still heavily involved with Dahn, I know your brain is going to try to filter out and dismiss what I am saying as untrue. I know this because for years my brain did the same thing when I was presented with similar info (being rumors on the Internet). But for the first time, this info was presented to me in a way that I could not dismiss, because it was coming from people that I personally know and trust, not just strangers on the Internet.

    Yes, it is true. I personally know a young American woman who claims to have been raped by Ilchi Lee. And I believe her. She is one of the last peope in the world I could imagine fabricating such a story. Through her, and through other connections, I have become aware that there are many such woman who assert that they were coerced into sex by Lee. Let’s just take some space for a moment and sit and really think about this.

    I will say it again: There are many such woman who assert that they were coerced into sex by Lee. How truly powerful is that statement? Now, if you are still heavily involved in Dahn, your brain is going to be busily at work right now, filtering what I am saying thru the Dahn belief system so that you will dismiss my words or tune them out. I don’t need you to be convinced, because I am confident that down the road, when you yourself are ready to walk, you will be ready for this information, and it will come to you. You will be ready for that red pill. All that you really need to remember right now is that there is such a concept as mind control, and this: that when you do leave Dahn, even though you REALLY don’t believe it now, your life is going to improve so much. You can’t see it now, but Dahn has taken the world AWAY from you, and by leaving, you will get it back. You will get back a resolute faith in yourself and your own strength.

    Try to go back and remember, if you can, when you first walked into a Dahn center. Try to remember the way that you felt (physically, emotionally, etc.) and who you were at that time. Now, no doubt, Dahn (the exercise practice) has made many improvements in your life. I read many accounts by people with disease and illness and Dahn exercise classes have really helped them to feel better and to build physical strength. The fact that the exercise program is so beneficial is Ilchi Lee’s biggest ally, because when members hear cult accusations about Dahn, their brains immediately bombard them with memories of how crappy they felt before they started doing the practice, and how good they feel when they leave class, and they conclude the accusations must be false. More advanced members think about how fabulous they feel after workshops, or the loving, Buddha-like qualities of the group leaders.

    What members don’t understand is that, within the classic cult hierarchy, the group leaders are ALWAYS described as these loving, compassionate, kind, Buddha-like creatures. This is exactly how members of the Moonies described the leaders of THEIR group, and the Hare Krishnas, and so on. I now believe that radiating that Buddha-like state is a practiced and cultivated habit that anyone can become good at. The instructors interact with dozens of members a day and thus become very, VERY good at this. What is important is how they are behind closed doors, when paying members aren’t around, and I know that they are as human as you or me, and no more “enlightened” than anyone else.

    Now, in the beginning, terms such as “dahn jon” were unfamiliar to you and sounded silly, and you may have dismissed as hooey their pushing you to try this or that. Eventually, though, you gave in, and you found that – hey! boy oh boy! – they were right! You feel so much better!

    And in this way, your resistance to the group’s doctrine begins to be worn down. Remember, you are being led down a path, shown new things in incremental steps, and given info about the belief system in small doses at a time. After you allow them to lead you those first few steps, when you’re still a newbie and all that Korean terminology is new and strange, and you figure out that what they’re telling you, thus far, is actually quite true, and following their instructions results in positive changes in your health and state of mind, you start to doubt yourself. Let me repeat: This is when you start to doubt yourself and your own intuition. As you go farther down the path, more and more info they’re telling you is unproveable because it’s actually religious in nature. “Growing your soul” and helping others to grow their souls, these are unproveable concepts requiring a leap of faith on your part.

    But you are inclined to believe this because the first few steps of the path (doing intestine exercises, coming to class regularly, taking Shim Sung, etc.) turned out to be true. So you begin to suspend your disbelief, and let them lead you futher down the path. Once you’ve gotten to a certain point, once that “Dahn voice” is implanted in your brain, thus allowing you to see and perceive everything thru the Dahn belief system, you will be able to lead others.

    The instructors working in the American Dahn centers are working, working, working, making money money money. The ones who are good at it begin to see members as walking dollar signs. The mind control techniques which have disengaged their critical thought processes, don’t allow them to perceive that they are not “enlightened.” They are not on the path to spiritual enlightenment. The reality of running a Dahn center and making money has nothing to do with enlightenment. The workshops and endless trainings you are pushed into doing are designed to lead you down 1 of 2 paths:

    1) Extract as much money from you as possible, until you get fed up and leave (again, these are often the older, middle-aged, wealthier members who don’t have the physical strength to become full-fledged instructors)


    2) Convince you that becoming a Dahn instructor is what you were “meant” to do, at which point you will begin working in a Dahn center, which isn’t pushing you towards enlightenment, but only renders your life, for all practical purposes, that of an indentured servant who is hell-bent on making money for the vision.

    So you see, the only paths available are 1 or 2, and both are a dead end.

    I ask you now: What vision? How are the people on paths 1 or 2 in any way helping to heal the world? If anything, their spending all of their time in Dahn centers is keep them ISOLATED from their communities, all while nurturing a false sense of superiority and arrogance that Dahn is the “one true way” (by the way, yet another cult hallmark – every cult in existence believes that theirs is the one true way).

    The American Dahn movement is designed, I can see now, purely for the purpose of generating more money. I’ve been around long enough now to say with confidence that I have yet to meet a single person who has joined Dahn and who I believe has achieved “enlightenment.”

    I now can see that noone (not even Ilchi Lee) has the power to grant someone else spiritual enlightenment. Note that, historically, humans who are commonly regarded as being “enlightened beings” (Jesus, Buddha, etc.) pursued their own path to enlightenment. They did not get there as part of a military-like group. They followed their own, unique, individual voice.

    Giving their lives for Ilchi Lee’s vision to heal the world is what being a Dahn master is all about. They are told, during their master training, that doing this will enable them to get out of the cycle of death and rebirth (reincarnation). They believe that this is their last lifetime as a human, and that when they die, Ilchi Lee will meet their soul at the top of Bell Rock (a sacred Dahn spot in Sedona) and he will personally usher them into the next level. They believe they are moving on, after this life, to the next evolutionary level. When you really think about this, you can see that this concept allows Lee unlimited control of masters’ lives. Masters give their lives (now, in this body, this lifetime), to him, and “after death,” they’ll get their reward. This also helps to nullify any possible detractor pointing out that the masters are certainly not achieving enlightenment in this lifetime, because then they can tell themselves that their reward will come when they die and their soul meets Lee on the top of Bell Rock.

    I know that the enticement of regarding oneself as part of a special, elite group, who are actually being given the opportunity to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime (if, of course, they are very good and work very hard for “the vision”), is a powerful draw. And giving that up, for Dahn instructors who leave, can be traumatic. But they almost all do leave. Of the hundreds of American members/instructors whom I have met over the last decade in my region, less than 5 are still standing. Everyone else is gone, and has been replaced by naive new members who have no idea of the vast numbers of people who came before them, and left. And now, so am I.

  8. Alan Gordon says:

    I especially appreciate Jon’s thoughtful comment. I’ve been practicing Dahn Yoga (now called BodyNBrain) and have like many others received a lot of benefit. I like the way classes are taught with each individual treated according to their own needs. I don’t like the hard sell — nobody does, but on the other hand the decision is always up to you. There is no coercion that infringes on your legal rights. It’s true one woman died and that was many years ago, but it was adjudicated in court and found to be accidental. That can happened in many situations (for example, school sports). I like the instructors, but at the same time it is important to me to preserve my independence. Ilchi Lee is definitely an extraordinary spiritual teacher and strong leader–such people always elicit controversy. If some woman felt she was taken advantage of sexually, she could press charges–but remember gossip and hearsay are widespread and can create many problems. Why give up something helpful and valuable because of what some irresponsible gossiper says?

  9. dumps check says:

    Thanks for finally talking about >Dahn Yoga?s hardsell is a turnoff – NIKKEI VIEW: The Asian American Blog
    <Loved it!

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