Former employees have filed a suit against Dahn Yoga, an Arizona-based chain of yoga centers. According to CNN, the suit charges that the chain is a “a totalistic, high-demand cult group” and that employees are submitted to “psychological manipulation, indoctrination and various techniques of coercive thought reform designed to induce them to become [founder] Ilchi Lee’s disciples and devote themselves to serving him and his ‘vision.'”
The chain has 137 branches in the U.S., and Forbes puts its 2009 profits at $34 million. According to CNN, “Dahn Yoga teaches that what it calls brain wave vibration can ease some of the debilitating symptoms of illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis.”
In the lawsuit, the former employees say instructors pressured them to take out student loans and hand over the money to the company.A Dahn Yoga spokesman denies that and says that the plaintiffs “are after one thing — they are after money.”
Among other charges, the ex-employees claim that Dahn Yoga forced them to undergo extreme physical training:
One of the exercises, known as “bow training,” involved deep knee bends to the floor to a prone position and back up again, with hands raised high over their heads. [Liza] Miller, who has joined the lawsuit, says once she had to do 3,000 of the exercises — “Which took about 10 hours, and we didn’t eat or drink during that time.”
“People were screaming, people were throwing up, people were running away,” Miller said. “People were rolling around, moaning, crying, wailing — there was a lot of emotional distress. We were taught that because of this bow training, we were cleaning what was blocking us, to connect to our soul.”
A spokesman insists that they didn’t make employees do 2,000 exercises, and that “these are meditation practices” and “are common throughout Asia, especially in Korea.” We assume he’s not talking about the throwing up or crying.