Is New Yoga Group Really a Cult?

WFSB TV3 (CT)/May 16, 2006

It's a group that promises inner peace and healing. It's called Dahn Yoga and they have set up shop in Connecticut and are recruiting new members.

But this new Yoga brings controversy. One of the group's members is dead, some say because the group is really a cult.

Channel 3 Eyewitness News reporter Diana Rocco went undercover for a month and has an exclusive investigation.

ROCCO: Yoga promises a road of peace and physical well being. So how is it that 41-year-old college professor Julia Siverls died while practicing "Dahn Hak" Yoga.

"The last time I saw Julia she was at my sisters's wedding she said she's going to Arizona," said her sister, Veronica Siverls Dunham.

Julia was in Sedona, Arizona for master training, learning to be a healer. She died of dehydration while hiking.

It was a journey made with only three bottles of water for five people.

"She was like 'I'm scared, I'm going on this hike tomorrow and I'm scared,'" said her brother Allen Siverls

The death of Julia Silverls has shined the spotlight on Dahn Yoga. Their teachings and one of their newest centers is in Avon. It is here where we experienced the inner-workings of Dahn Hak Yoga during our month-long undercover investigation.

During our first session we received a text book with the teachings of Dr. Ilchi Kee, the founder of the Korean art form. Dr. Lee claims to be a spiritual healer with super natural powers.

And if you follow him, you can achieve the same.

Members of Dahn Hak are encouraged to attend at least three sessions a week.

When the I-Team attended class we observed "exercises" like hitting oneself to "stimulate" blood flow.

Then followed by Yoga movements where a vibrating brain was placed on our stomachs. Movements were used to channel energy.

During the session some people started dancing around the room, claiming to be moved by the energy.

Members chanted while hitting themselves: "Happy body, healthy heart, power brain."

The session concluded with a special tea and recalling your spiritual experience.

We were often encouraged to stop thinking and subscribe to the Dahn Hak method of spirituality.

Cult expert Steve Hassan [Warning: Steve Hassan is not recommended by this Web site. Read the detailed disclaimer to understand why.] is counseling 14 former members and says it's an authoritarian Korean cult.

"People that I'm counseling in this group show all the symptoms of other mind control groups," Hassan said.

We asked the instructors at the Avon center about these accusations

how would you respond to people who say this is a cult...

"I don't think this is a must talk to corporate."

Critics charge that people get too involved, give away all of their possessions and families have seen loved ones change, withdraw.

Charles Liguidara's son gave up everything to teach Dahn Hak. When he came home for the holiday's the family had an intervention.

"It was horrible," Charles Liguidara said. "I saw in my mind what I thought was a cult."

Several members here in Avon have been to that Dahn healer school in Sedona, where Julia died. The trip costs up to $11,000.

"In my opinion this group is one I'd warn your viewers about," Hassan said.

Representatives from Dahn Yoga say they don't believe Julia's death was a result of their teachings, and as for a cult?

"People who might say something like that don't have any direct experience with Dahn Yoga," said Charlotte Connors.

Before our story aired, lawyers for Dahn Yoga contacted us further denying claims that this organization is a cult. They e-mailed us this statement:

"Dahn Yoga empowers individuals to manage their own bodies well in order to become more healthy, happy and peaceful. It is a simple and easy practice based on a variety of Eastern traditions including yoga, martial arts, breathing techniques and energy training. It uses stretching, breathing and meditation to improve flexibility, circulation and overall mind-body balance."

The Siverls family has filed a lawsuit against Dahn Hak saying Julia was drugged and brainwashed.

Meanwhile, the Avon center is actively recruiting new members. They insist they're not a cult, but cult or not their promising your experience will be life changing.

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