Lawsuit Claims Dahn Yoga Is A Cult And A Con

CBS News/June 17, 2009

You sign up for a yoga class and then find yourself trapped in a cult. That's what 24 people say happened to them. They are now suing Dahn Yoga. This nationwide group makes millions and has 12 centers in the Chicago area that often target college students. As CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports ex-members are charging that Dahn Yoga is a cult and a con.

"I think that Dahn Yoga is an extremely deceptive and very dangerous cult," said former Dahn Yoga member Amy Shipley.

Amy Shipley was first exposed to Dahn Yoga's so-called Body and Brain Club at the University of Illinois, Chicago campus. She enjoyed the blend of yoga, exercise and dancing offered to all Dahn Yoga students.

"I felt so good, after that I was hooked," Shipley said.

And hooked on Ilchi Lee, the leader of the Dahn organization and his espoused humanitarian vision of world peace.

"The main thrust of Dahn Yoga's work is healing the world through individual healing," said Dahn Yoga spokesperson Joseph Alexander.

But in a lawsuit, Shipley and 23 other former members charge they were victims of "psychological manipulation" and "thought reform techniques" that included sleep deprivation and excessive exercise.

For example, Shipley had to perform 3,000 bows over a period of nine hours and she attended bizarre workshops.

"Everyone around me was screaming really loudly, people were slamming the floor with their fists, people were bawling, someone that I know even collapsed," Shipley said.

Shipley took Dahn's martial arts training, became a Dahn master and appeared happy.

"I was a brainwashed, very confused young woman," Shipley said.

And it all required "money training" which meant giving the group money.

"I took out student loans, I used all of the money I had in the bank, I took out three credit cards," Shipley said. "I spent over $47,000."

Attorney Ryan Kent filed the lawsuit charging the Dahn organization with fraud.

"They pay for the privilege of being brainwashed," Kent said. "They're lying to these kids, they're concealing from them the true nature of the organization."

In reality, the suit charges that money collected from students at Dahn centers supports Lee's extravagant lifestyle.

"He's making $1 million net a month from his U.S. operations," Kent said.

Ex-members say they were pressured to sign up new members and open new centers to help Lee achieve his goal of recruiting 100 million followers.

"I was expected to recruit 20 people every month and make the organization about $20,000 to $30,000 every month," Shipley said.

Jessica Harrelson says she was singled out for much more. The lawsuit charges that Lee sexually assaulted her.

"After I had very vocally stated that this was not OK with me, people were trying to tell me, 'he is enlightened' and then it turned into 'well, this is an honor,'" Harrelson said. "It was so difficult for me to get across that this was a reprehensible act."

"Like all the other claims in the lawsuit, this is a false claim," Dahn spokesperson Alexander said. "This is completely a lie. No one was forced to do anything."

Alexander describes the lawsuit as a frivolous action by a small group of disgruntled former employees. He also says that millions have benefited from Dahn Yoga as can be seen in testimonials on their website.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.