by Sally Boon
(Los Angeles, California, USA)
Unlike most forms of yoga, Dahn yoga did not develop in India but in South Korea and is modern. Known in Korea as Dahnak or Dahn Hak, the first Dahn yoga center was opened in Seoul in the 1980s by the originator of Dahn yoga, Il-chi Lee, although it is reported to be based on a much older tradition. It soon spread to the USA.
Like Hatha yoga, which is much better known in the west, Dahn yoga unites physical postures and breathing exercises and focuses on aligning the body and mind in order to expand the mind and allow better circulation of energy within the body.
It also proposes some physical benefits, lowering stress levels, improving general health and fitness and promoting both longer life and improved vitality and quality of life.
Dahn yoga also claims to help the body learn to heal itself naturally, by improving the circulation of life energy and its connection with the mind and consciousness. This is done physically by exercises which are said to remove blockages in its path.
Spiritual healing is also promoted through meditation along with improved relaxation. Mental health and physical tensions are released through the yoga practice, and like other forms of yoga it is a holistic practice whose benefits reverberate into daily life.
Dahn Hak philosophy includes certain principles of the action and movement of life energy (ki, also spelled chi or qi) that students are taught during the classes. There tends to be more teaching of the ideas behind the practice than you would find in a Hatha yoga class in the West.
This, together with the high prices that are often charged in comparison with other yoga classes, has resulted in some accusations of cult status.
However, there does not seem to be any evidence of the human rights issues that are associated with dangerous cults. Nobody will stop you from leaving a Dahn yoga class, and making large profits is not by itself evidence of a cult, or many businesses would fall into that definition!
These accusations may simply be caused by differences between north east Asian culture and Western culture which lead many mainstream Korean and Japanese martial arts and religious groups to be viewed as cults by some Americans.
A typical Dahn yoga class will begin with meridian stretching exercises to stimulate the ki to pass freely through all the meridians of the body.
These are followed by a series of postures and often a period of meditation or breathing exercises that focuses on releasing stagnant ki and storing fresh ki in the body’s center, the dan jeong or 2nd chakra, located in the abdomen just below the navel.
Some Dahn classes teach a non-combative form of martial art called Dahn Mu Do that is more like tai chi than yoga.
As with other forms of yoga, students report many health benefits, including resolution of many problems that are frequently stress-related such as back pain, shoulder and neck tension, sleeping problems, migraine and digestive disorders, from their practice of Dahn yoga.