(CBS) CHICAGO — Dahn Hak is a controversial and expensive exercise program sold at centers all over the world, including Chicago.
The CBS 2 Investigators report on questions being raised about whether Dahn Hak should more aptly be called the “Dahn Con.”
As Pam Zekman reports, one woman died trying to follow the teachings of its leader.
Dahn Hak Yoga is a blend of exercise, meditation and so-called brain respiration created by Grand Master Ilchi Lee.
In books and videotapes, Lee describes how it can channel your energy for healing and spiritual enlightenment.
“It was like a miracle, seriously,” said Dahn member Amy Dobberfuhl.
She says Dahn Hak Yoga healed her serious digestive problems.
Another woman, Deborah Gaten, M.D., says Dahn Hak reduced her migraine headaches “from two to three a week to two to three a year.”
Dahn Hak is practiced at 14 Dahn Yoga centers in the Chicago area, with three in the city and 11 in the suburbs.
But former followers say that when you walk into a Dahn Hak center, you may be lured into a cult.
In a California lawsuit, the former operator of Dahn centers says the program “indoctrinated and brainwashed members for profit.”
A New York lawsuit calls it the “Dahn Hak Cult.”
They are charges that the Dahn organization denies.
“I think it’s the antithesis of that. It empowers individuals,” said spokesperson Charlotte Connors.
As advertised, the Dahn centers offer new clients an energy check, like the one our researcher got on Michigan Ave.
A Dahn master pushed her so-called energy centers and found blockages.
“She said that my energy was very weak. I was in danger of falling into a depression,” CBS 2 researcher Emily Withrow said.
A former Dahn instructor, who asked that his identity be concealed, says the energy check is a sales gimmick.
“Since everybody has aches and pains everyday, everybody technically has energy blockages,” he said.
Susan Yates went to a Dahn center in Libertyville.
“It’s definitely a con,” she said.
She realized that after signing contracts for classes and private healing sessions, even buying Dahn gimmicks like vibrating power brains to help healing.
“Eight thousand dollars I spent in a month. I’m embarrassed to say that I did,” Susan said.
She says it happened after intense private healing sessions with the school master.
“They get you to share personal information about yourself and they’ll use that to basically get you to sign up for more classes,” the former employee said.
Yates quit after they wanted her to attend Dahn healer school for another $10,000 “and become healers and give our lives to Dahn.”
Steve Hassan has worked with cult victims for 30 years and says Ilchi Lee has all the characteristics of a cult leader.
“He’s basically taking the position that he wants to wash people’s brains,” Hassan said.
In books, Lee claims to have performed “miraculous feats” like “communing with spirits” and “curing incurable diseases.”
“And he wants to create new humans who are enlightened masters,” Hassan said.
Julia Siverls, a 41-year-old New York college professor, wanted to become a Dahn Yoga master. She went to Lee’s Sedona, Ariz., headquarters for one last endurance test.
Julia was assigned to carry 25 lbs. of rocks in her backpack while on a 20-mile hike up Tiger Mountain.
Five hikers were given just three bottles of water for the group.
Julia collapsed a third of the way up and died of dehydration.
Now, her family has filed a wrongful death suit against Lee and the Dahn organization.
“To expose someone to the degree that they ultimately die is madness,” said Julia’s brother, Allen Siverls.
A Dahn spokeswoman says the organization was terribly saddened by Julia Siverls’ death but declined to comment further because of the pending lawsuit.
She says there are hundreds of thousands of satisfied members practicing Dahn Hak in seven countries.
After Susan Yates filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the attorney general’s office, she was given a refund of $6,000.
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