Jun 11, 2009
BOSTON (WBZ) ?Dahn Yoga and its founder, Ilchi Lee, are named in a lawsuit.
Dahn Yoga claims it can give you physical and spiritual enlightenment.
Across the United States it operates 130 healing centers, 600 globally boasting more than a million followers.
But now a class action suit has been filed against the organization by 26 former members who claim they were subjected to "psychological manipulation."
Nine of the plaintiffs are from Massachusetts where eight centers are run.
Jade Harrelson and Liza Miller are attractive, young women who say they were also idealistic enough to join Dahn.
"I feel I have some sort of mission to help people on this earth," Miller told WBZ-TV.
WOMEN 'COERCED' INTO ISOLATION, SPENDING THOUSANDS
But soon she and Harrelson say they were coerced into devoting their lives to Dahn, isolated from family and friends.
They claim the mission to heal the earth quickly turned into something else, bringing more money into Dahn.
Workshops and retreats began to cost tens of thousands of dollars as they say they felt pressure to delve deeper into the organization and become Dahn masters themselves.
"If you didn't take a workshop then your spirit would somehow suffer," said Harrelson.
Liza Miller says she was even asked by an instructor to withdraw a 25,000 loan after attending a retreat in Arizona.
"She said to me do you want to grow a lot or grow a little? I'm thinking a lot."
They admit it was all to live up to the Korean founder and spiritual leader Ilchi Lee, who claims he can teach humans to increase their brain power.
Harrelson says they couldn't work hard enough to train and recruit.
"We were tired all the time, but we kept going. We have to work harder, we have to complete the vision," she said.
The lawsuit claims the members were subjected to "thought reform, coercive persuasion and undue influence."
Asked whether she believes this is a cult, Harrelson told WBZ-TV, "I think cult is a subjective word. I'd say with one hundred percent certainty this was a very destructive group."
WOMAN ALLEGES SEX ASSAULT
In fact, Harrelson has another story to tell. She believes she was being groomed for Lee, summoned to Korea to work alongside him, and claiming she was forced to have sex with the leader. That was the turning point for her after four years.
"I think he is very arrogant and protected by a lot of people. That's why I can't be quiet about this," she said.
It's a healing movement they claim left them with nothing but pain.
"It was more for an unsavory man's pocket," said Miller.
The women say they are deeply in debt, a now daily reminder of what they call the power of persuasion. A hearing on the suit has not yet been set.